Pinker boils his argument down to two ideals:
‘The first is that the world is intelligible. The phenomena we experience may be explained by principles that are more general than the phenomena themselves.’
‘The commitment to intelligibility is not a matter of brute faith, but gradually validates itself as more and more of the world becomes explicable in scientific terms.’
I wonder if this isn’t this a rather reductionist view of the sciences? Or as Hilary Putnam and Bryan Magee discuss below, the ‘treasure chest’ vision, where you just keep filling up the chest with more and more knowledge. It leaves a lot to be desired:
Pinker’s second ideal is as follows:
‘The second ideal is that the acquisition of knowledge is hard. The world does not go out of its way to reveal its workings, and even if it did, our minds are prone to illusions, fallacies, and super- stitions.’
One of the other debates here is about where meaning shall be found, in politics, in ethics, as a foundation for the humanities, and religion, and all manner of other ideas fill the void. As also discussed in the video above, the idea of science as providing the foundation for the Western worldview is quite ingrained.
There’s no shortage of people who want to use some concept of the sciences, and reason, to fill those voids and I think there are many reasons to remain skeptical of many of them.
Response by Leon Wieseltier At The New Republic: ‘No, Science Doesn’t Have All The Answers.‘
-Ross Douthat: ‘The Scientism Of Steve Pinker’
-Jerry Coyne responds to Douthat.
Steven Pinker somewhat focused on the idea of freedom from violence, which tends to be libertarian. Yet, he’s also skeptical of the more liberal human rights and also religious natural rights. What about a World Leviathan?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes…From Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘…Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department
Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’
Morality in the emotions? Jesse Prinz argues that neuroscience and the cognitive sciences should move back toward British empiricism and David Hume…yet…with a defense of multiculturalism and Nietzsche thrown in: Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”…From Bloggingheads: Tamar Szabo Gendler On Philosophy and Cognitive Science
Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’…