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The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes by [Pinker, Steven]
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The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 152 customer reviews

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Length: 791 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Review

."..an extraordinary range of research ... a masterly effort."

" ..."Better Angels" is a monumental achievement. His book should make it much harder for pessimists to cling to their gloomy vision of the future. Whether war is an ancient adaptation or a pernicious cultural infection, we are learning how to overcome it."

"For anyone interested in human nature, the material is engrossing, and when the going gets heavy, Pinker knows how to lighten it with ironic comments and a touch of humor. . . . A supremely important book. To have command of so much research, spread across so many different fields, is a masterly achievement."--The New York Times Book Review

"An extraordinary range of research . . . a masterly effort."--The Wall Street Journal

""Better Angels" is a monumental achievement. His book should make it much harder for pessimists to cling to their gloomy vision of the future. Whether war is an ancient adaptation or a pernicious cultural infection, we are learning how to overcome it."
--Slate

"Packed with information, clear, witty, attractively written ..."
--The New York Review of Books

"Engaging and witty ...Everyone with an interest in language and how it gets to be how it is--that is, everyone interested in how we get to be human and do our human business--should read THE STUFF OF THOUGHT."
--Science

Praise for THE BLANK SLATE

"An extremely good book--clear, well argued, fair, learned, tough, witty, humane, stimulating."
--Colin McGinn, The Washington Post

"Sweeping, erudite, sharply argued, and fun to read...also highly persuasive."
--Time

"My favorite book of the last decade is [Steven] Pinker's "Better Angels of Our Nature." It is a long but profound look at the reduction in violence and discrimination over time."--Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

Praise for THE STUFF OF THOUGHT
"The majesty of Pinker's theories is only one side of the story. The other side is the modesty of how he built them. It all makes sense, when you look at it the right way."
--The New York Times Book Review

Praise for THE BLANK SLATE
"An extremely good book--clear, well argued, fair, learned, tough, witty, humane, stimulating."
--Colin McGinn, The Washington Post

A Mark Zuckerberg "Year of Books" Pick
"My favorite book of the last decade is [Steven] Pinker's "Better Angels of Our Nature." It is a long but profound look at the reduction in violence and discrimination over time."--Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

A Mark Zuckerberg "Year of Books" Pick
"My favorite book of the last decade is [Steven] Pinker's "Better Angels of Our Nature." It is a long but profound look at the reductionin violence and discrimination over time."--Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft
"For anyone interested in human nature, the material is engrossing, and when the going gets heavy, Pinker knows how to lighten it with ironic comments and a touch of humor. . . . A supremely important book. To have command of so much research, spread across so many different fields, is a masterly achievement." The New York Times Book Review
"An extraordinary range of research . . . a masterly effort." The Wall Street Journal
""Better Angels" is a monumental achievement. His book should make it much harder for pessimists to cling to their gloomy vision of the future. Whether war is an ancient adaptation or a pernicious cultural infection, we are learning how to overcome it."
Slate
Praise for THE STUFF OF THOUGHT

The majesty of Pinker s theories is only one side of the story. The other side is the modesty of how he built them. It all makes sense, when you look at it the right way.
The New York Times Book Review

Packed with information, clear, witty, attractively written The New York Review of Books

Engaging and witty Everyone with an interest in language and how it gets to be how it is that is, everyone interested in how we get to be human and do our human business should read THE STUFF OF THOUGHT. Science
Praise for THE BLANK SLATE
An extremely good book clear, well argued, fair, learned, tough, witty, humane, stimulating.
Colin McGinn, The Washington Post

Sweeping, erudite, sharply argued, and fun to read also highly persuasive. Time"

About the Author

Steven Pinker is the Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. A two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and the winner of many awards for his research, teaching, and books, he has been named one of "Time's" 100 Most Influential People in the World Today and "Foreign Policy's" 100 Global Thinkers.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3863 KB
  • Print Length: 791 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1846140935
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 Oct. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005HHSYMW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 152 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #33,549 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I will not summarise the contents of this book, as by now you all know what it's about. Indeed, in view of the many excellent reviews that have already been written, I think that all I can really do is give some very personal impressions of it. Firstly, it is an impressive piece of scholarship. A whizz through the footnotes and references is exhausting. Particularly in the first half of the book, in which Pinker presents evidence that all forms of violence have declined over the course of human history, he makes no assertions that are not backed up by a plethora of facts and figures. The second half of the book, in which he theorises about why this decline might have taken place and gives some pointers as to how we can foster its continuation, is less susceptible to this kind of proof, but is nevertheless very well argued and draws on a wide variety of evidence from researchers in various disciplines. Pinker takes an optimistic view of the world, and one comes to the end of his book tired but happy. In spite of the book's undeniable erudition (and length!) is is very readable, occasionally funny (in spite of its gruesome subject matter), and clearly aimed at the general reader. As long as one is prepared to devote some attention to it, no background knowledge of history, biology or the social sciences is needed.

So why only four stars? I think that the book is too long and repetitive. Is there really a need to quote from the same Paul Simon song twice, or to repeat lists of excruciating mediaeval tortures at regular intervals? Like the old preacher, Pinker tells us what he's gonna tell us, then he tells us, then he tells us what he told us.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very big and dense book, and you'll need time and energy to get the most out of it, but it's well worth the effort. Don't believe the dismissive reviews by conservative romanticists and sectarian anthropologists; they've either not read it or are incapable of persuasion. In the first half, Pinker undertakes a monumental survey of the available evidence concerning the rates of violence (war, genocide, assault, murder, judicial killing, etc.) and exclusion (slavery, disenfranchisement, discrimination, etc.) from prehistory to the present, and across most parts of the globe. The tide of statistics tells a consistent, overwhelming and frankly uplifting story of progressive and accelerating improvement. As a tiny example, homicide rates in Europe have declined steadily by 100-fold over the last seven centuries, are continuing to decline rapidly, and are estimated to have been orders of magnitude higher in earlier millennia. World Wars, industrial genocide and regional famines notwithstanding, the trend that we are all likelier - much likelier - to live socially and economically engaged lives and die naturally in our beds than were each of the preceding generations. Clearly, as we individuals age, we tend to reminisce and view the present as a nastier world than the one we grew up in. But the data just as clearly show that this is a subjective error. In the second part of the book - and indeed, previewed repeatedly during the historical section - Pinker attempts to assemble an explanation of the processes that have driven this trend. He is at pains to point out that none of his explanations suggest that the process is irreversible, and that we cannot shirk our responsibility to hand on a better world to the next generation.Read more ›
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By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good news, folks. Violence has been declining. We are getting kinder and gentler as a species. That doesn't just go for us in the West. Critics who have accused Pinker of only focusing on advanced countries are mistaken. He shows the decline of violence is across the board: war, genocide, terrorism, riots, and homicide. The trend was and is led by Western Europe but wasn't and isn't confined there. It is not a uniform progress and regression has, can and will happen but just because journalists have missed it, that doesn't mean it isn't so.

Pinker has noticed it and others have, too. But for the first time we have a book that has compiled and interpreted the works of anthropologists, political scientists, historians, neuroscientists, psychologists and many others to tell a story that is as gripping as a murder-mystery, albeit one in which the mystery is why the bodies are not piling up.

It is impossible to do this book justice in a review. The argument is nuanced and works on many levels. A variety of factors account for this decline, but to summarise: humans living in a state of nature (i.e. before the state) were not necessarily brutish, but led lives that short, and led lives far likelier to be cut short by war or homicide. The rise of the state, Hobbes' Leviathan, begins a pacification process, which is achieved by imposing an impersonal system of justice on its subjects. The law of the state may be an ass, but it is a disinterested ass. It curbs vigilantism and imposes peace. Hence murder rates in England have dropped from 100 in 100,000 of the population in the 14th Century to 1 in 100,000 in the 20th. Similar drops extended to most of Western Europe and gradually to the United States.
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