Saturday, March 17, 2012

Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of our Nature

This is a nice video of Steven Pinker talking about his most recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. I don't often agree with Pinker (I tend to disagree with most evolutionary psychologists), but in this case there is some solid support for his thesis. People like Franz de Waal, Dacher Keltner, Jeremy Rifkin, and Brené Brown have all explored either the evolution of empathy and compassion or the ways our nature tends to be founded in these interpersonal skills.

I have also included a more recent video at the bottom from Harvard, featuring Pinker and fellow author Joshua Goldstein with professors Monica Toft and Stephen Walt - moderated by Professor Joseph Nye.

Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of our Nature

Are we moving increasingly closer towards a benevolent society?

With images of global conflict and atrocity broadcast around the clock, it seems obscene to speculate if violence is actually on the decline.

In this Ri talk to accompany his new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker shows that violence within and between societies – for both murder and warfare – has actually declined from prehistory to today.

Moving between subjects as diverse as art and religion, trade and table manners, Pinker shows how life has changed across the centuries and around the world - not simply through the huge benefits of organized government, but also because of the extraordinary power of progressive ideas.

Why has this come about? And what does it tell us about ourselves? Pinker brings his huge breadth of knowledge to reveal a new historical perspective and, ultimately, our true natures.

Is War on the Way Out?
Joshua Goldstein, author of "Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide," and Steven Pinker, author of "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined," discuss the meaning and implications of their latest releases with HKS professors Monica Toft (author of "God's Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics") and Stephen Walt. Both Goldstein and Pinker, from distinct vantage points, argue for the counter-intuitive notion that violence, among both individuals and states, is on a downward trajectory. Both the supporting data and reasoning behind this positive shift is hotly debated. Professor Joseph Nye moderates the discussion.

Date: Jan 30, 2012

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