From Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘

Reason post here, which has a link to challenge Pinker’s claim that violence actually declining (any other thoughts welcome).

Related On This Site:   What about a World Leviathan…instead of the humanist/liberal wishes for global governance no matter how ineffective?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

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

From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry On Eliminative Materialism

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5 Comments

I think Pinker has a point, even if his ultimate conclusion isn’t particularly true.

If there’s a decrease in the relative rate of violent deaths then that means whilst the overall number of dead might increase there is a smaller chance each one of us will die violently.

And that’s something I take solace in.

Point taken and well said.

On this view, we’re “progressing,” in a sense at least toward less likelihood of dying a violent death individually…but he also makes the claim elsewhere that we’re perhaps moving beyond the need for nationalism. That seems a little too far in my opinion.

I suspect it could have something to do with the humanist/secular ethics that often accompany cog sci and the evolutionary sciences, as I think it could be in the air in such departments and in many quarters in Boston…but this is pure speculation on my part.

Or I should say we’ve progressed and as individuals are less likely to die a violent death because we’ve ceded that responsibility to the State (a la Hobbes and the Leviathan).

Clearly we repress many tribal impulses that might have meant greater likelihood of individual death in the past on Pinker’s view (living in tribes), but Pinker also argues that the nationalistic impulses and nationalism that go into creating and maintaining the state are no longer necessary (or as necessary) on his view….

That strikes me as naive and I don’t find it too convincing…given my experience, but I could see how someone moving around in evo-psy, empirical psychology and someone grounded in the epistemology of the cognitive sciences…could be more likely to think it were so, and think it so for everyone.

    Well I’ve heard some of his arguments on that subject and they’re fairly convincing provided one grants his premise that people will act upon information about cruelty in the world simply because the know that cruelty is unjustifiable.

    Whether that’s something one is willing to grant is up for debate.

Got it. Thanks very much.

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