Steven Pinker – The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Pinker, Steven (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York: Viking Press. 2011. ISBN 9781101544648. Pagine 832. 25,29 $

The Better Angels of Our Nature

amazon.com

Di Steven Pinker su questo blog abbiamo parlato più d’una volta, sia recensendo una sua opera precedente (The Stuff of Thought), sia accennando di sguincio a The Blank Slate nella recensione di The Moral Animal di Robert Wright, sia – di recente – parlando dell’influenza che Robert Trivers ha avuto su di lui (The Folly of Fools).

Pinker, oltre che un autore controverso, è un autore che ama le controversie e – dopo avere conseguito una meritata notorietà come studioso del linguaggio e delle sue origini – ha voluto affrontare nelle sue opere destinate al pubblico non specialistico temi che sembravano fatti apposta per provocare reazioni anche emotive, non solo dalla destra repubblicana (Pinker è canadese ma insegna a Harvard) e dai credenti di qualunque religione, ma anche nella sinistra legata a quello che nel 1992 John Tooby e Leda Cosmides hanno definito “Standard Social Science Model” (The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture).

Come già The Blank Slate, anche questo The Better Angels of Our Nature conta detrattori e sostenitori, affratellati soltanto dalla vis polemica con cui sostengono tesi contrapposte. Pinker, per la verità, spiega il perché del suo interesse per il tema della violenza nella storia e nelle società umane come uno sbocco naturale dei suoi interessi:

Many people have asked me how I became involved in the analysis of violence. It should not be a mystery: violence is a natural concern for anyone who studies human nature. I first learned of the decline of violence from Martin Daly and Margo Wilson’s classic book in evolutionary psychology, Homicide, in which they examined the high rates of violent death in nonstate societies and the decline in homicide from the Middle Ages to the present. In several of my previous books I cited those downward trends, together with humane developments such as the abolition of slavery, despotism, and cruel punishments in the history of the West, in support of the idea that moral progress is compatible with a biological approach to the human mind and an acknowledgment of the dark side of human nature. [256: il riferimento è alla posizione sull’edizione Kindle]

Ma questo non spiega (mi pare) né la passione con cui l’autore affronta l’argomento (in un tour de force di oltre 800 pagine!) né la virulenza dei detrattori, che hanno accusato Pinker un po’ di tutto, e soprattutto di usare dati statistici di dubbia robustezza. Sospetto che le divisioni di campo siano da attribuire ad almeno due altre ragioni. La prima la individua lo stesso Pinker:

The question of whether the arithmetic sign of trends in violence is positive or negative also bears on our conception of human nature. Though theories of human nature rooted in biology are often associated with fatalism about violence, and the theory that the mind is a blank slate is associated with progress, in my view it is the other way around. [142: il corsivo è mio]

Sospetto che una seconda spiegazione sia più sgradevole per chi si professa di sinistra: la sinistra è storicamente e ideologicamente legata alla critica sociale, nel senso che fa leva sull’insoddisfazione sullo stato di cose presenti e sull’ipotesi che esse siano destinate a peggiorare (“o socialismo o barbarie”, per esprimersi con la Juniusbroschüre di Rosa Luxemburg), a meno di una vigorosa correzione di rotta apportata dal movimento di sinistra stesso. Questo, incidentalmente ma non troppo, mi sembra alla radice di un’altra frase-slogan molto citata – quella, attribuita ad Antonio Gramsci, su “pessimismo della ragione e ottimismo della volontà”. In realtà, anche se non sono né gramsciano né gramscista, a me risulta che abbia scritto, nella lettera dal carcere del 19 dicembre 1929:

Mi pare che in tali condizioni, prolungate per anni, con tali esperienze psicologiche, l’uomo dovrebbe aver raggiunto il grado massimo di serenità stoica, e aver acquistato una tale convinzione profonda che l’uomo ha in se stesso la sorgente delle proprie forze morali, che tutto dipende da lui, dalla sua energia, dalla sua volontà, dalla ferrea coerenza dei fini che si propone e dei mezzi che esplica per attuarli – da non disperare mai piú e non cadere piú in quegli stati d’animo volgari e banali che si chiamano pessimismo e ottimismo. Il mio stato d’animo sintetizza questi due sentimenti e li supera: sono pessimista con l’intelligenza, ma ottimista per la volontà. Penso, in ogni circostanza, alla ipotesi peggiore, per mettere in movimento tutte le riserve di volontà ed essere in grado di abbattere l’ostacolo. Non mi sono fatto mai illusioni e non ho avuto mai delusioni. Mi sono specialmente sempre armato di una pazienza illimitata, non passiva, inerte, ma animata di perseveranza. [i corsivi sono miei]

E purtroppo, qualche anno più tardi, a Gramsci l’ottimismo si era ormai esaurito:

Fino a qualche tempo fa io ero, per cosí dire, pessimista con l’intelligenza e ottimista con la volontà. Cioè, sebbene vedessi lucidamente tutte le condizioni sfavorevoli e fortemente sfavorevoli a ogni miglioramento nella mia situazione (tanto generale, per ciò che riguarda la mia posizione giuridica, come particolare, per ciò che riguarda la mia salute fisica immediata), tuttavia pensavo che con uno sforzo razionalmente condotto, condotto con pazienza e accortezza, senza trascurare nulla nell’organizzare i pochi elementi favorevoli e nel cercare di immunizzare i moltissimi elementi sfavorevoli, fosse stato possibile di ottenere un qualche risultato apprezzabile, di ottenere per lo meno di poter vivere fisicamente, di arrestare il terribile consumo di energie vitali che progressivamente mi sta prostrando. Oggi non penso piú cosí. Ciò non vuol dire che abbia deciso di arrendermi, per cosí dire. Ma significa che non vedo piú nessuna uscita concreta e non posso piú contare su nessuna riserva di forze da esplicare. [29 maggio 1933]

Insomma – scusate la lunga divagazione – ma sospetto che la sinistra abbia bisogno di poter dire che le cose vanno male e tendono al peggio (anche i doverosi riferimenti al “tanto peggio, tanto meglio” e alla “caduta tendenziale del saggio del profitto” meriterebbero lunghe digressioni, che però per il momento ci risparmiamo) per convincere cittadini ed elettori a sostenerla e, nei casi peggiori, per giustificare le proprie malefatte (“il fine giustifica i mezzi“).

Pinker si pone invece nella prospettiva che (recensendo Risk di Dan Gardner, il cui ultimo capitolo è intitolato There’s never been a better time to be alive) ho chiamato del neo-ottimismo quantitativamente fondato, il cui manifesto è The Rational Optimist di Matt Ridley. Rispetto a quest’ultimo, che è più liberista che liberal (Ridley si chiama in realtà Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley, figlio dell’omonimo 4th Viscount e di Lady Anne Katharine Gabrielle Lumley, nipote di un ministro conservatore, etoniano e oxfordiano, proprietario di un avito maniero in cui risiede, presidente della banca di famiglia Northern Rock fino al fallimento del 2007: insomma uno di quegli inglesi come non ne fanno più. Ha una rubrica fissa, Mind & Matter, sul Wall Street Journal. È rimasto famoso un intervento su Edge nel 2006 il cui titolo dice tutto: Government is the problem not the solution), Pinker è però su una linea più liberal (nel senso americano del termine), anche se – pur avendovi partecipato – considera la controcultura e i movimenti di protesta degli anni Sessanta un arretramento nel progresso storico verso una società meno violenta.

Nel complesso, è un libro da leggere e da raccomandare, sia perché le sue tesi, anche quando e qualora non le si condivida, sono uno stimolo importante alla riflessione liberata dai preconcetti che inevitabilmente abbiamo sull’argomento; sia perché le 800 pagine del libro sono talmente ricche di digressioni e di spunti intelligenti da meritare la lettura anche solo per incontrare idee e riflessioni inconsuete e territori poco battuti.

Per avere un’idea del libro e del suo autore vi presento qui sotto un suo intervento TED del 2007 (una lezione più recente ma molto più lunga a una master class di Edge la trovate qui).

***

Rinuncio a mettere le centinaia (letteralmente) di passi che mi sono annotato, per limitarmi a quelli che mi sembrano di interesse più generale. Il riferimento è come di consueto alle posizioni sul Kindle:

In the teeth of these preconceptions, I will have to persuade you with numbers, which I will glean from datasets and depict in graphs. In each case I’ll explain where the numbers came from and do my best to interpret the ways they fall into place. [161]

Honor is a bubble that can be inflated by some parts of human nature, such as the drive for prestige and the entrenchment of norms, and popped by others, such as a sense of humor. [782]

“Formerly we suffered from crimes; now we suffer from laws.” [1475: è una citazione di Tacito]

For as long as I have known how to eat with utensils, I have struggled with the rule of table manners that says that you may not guide food onto your fork with your knife. To be sure, I have the dexterity to capture chunks of food that have enough mass to stay put as I scoot my fork under them. But my feeble cerebellum is no match for finely diced cubes or slippery little spheres that ricochet and roll at the touch of the tines. I chase them around the plate, desperately seeking a ridge or a slope that will give me the needed purchase, hoping they will not reach escape velocity and come to rest on the tablecloth. On occasion I have seized the moment when my dining companion glances away and have placed my knife to block their getaway before she turns back to catch me in this faux pas. Anything to avoid the ignominy, the boorishness, the intolerable uncouthness of using a knife for some purpose other than cutting. Give me a lever long enough, said Archimedes, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world. But if he knew his table manners, he could not have moved some peas onto his fork with his knife! [1496]

Another historical change was that homicides in which one man kills another man who is unrelated to him declined far more rapidly than did the killing of children, parents, spouses, and siblings. This is a common pattern in homicide statistics, sometimes called Verkko’s Law: rates of male-on-male violence fluctuate more across different times and places than rates of domestic violence involving women or kin. [1572]

[…] we will look at a faculty of the mind that psychologists call self-control, delay of gratification, and shallow temporal discounting and that laypeople call counting to ten, holding your horses, biting your tongue, saving for a rainy day, and keeping your pecker in your pocket. We will also look at a faculty that psychologists call empathy, intuitive psychology, perspective-taking, and theory of mind and that lay people call getting into other people’s heads, seeing the world from their point of view, walking a mile in their moccasins, and feeling their pain. [1742]

A classic positive-sum game in economic life is the trading of surpluses. […] Of course, an exchange at a single moment in time only pays when there is a division of labor. […] A fundamental insight of modern economics is that the key to the creation of wealth is a division of labor, in which specialists learn to produce a commodity with increasing cost-effectiveness and have the means to exchange their specialized products efficiently. [1820-1823]

[…] with Homo sapiens a man’s position in the pecking order is secured by reputation, an investment with a lifelong payout that must be started early in adulthood. [2356]

[…] the fact that women show a lot of skin or that men curse in public is not a sign of cultural decay. On the contrary, it’s a sign that they live in a society that is so civilized that they don’t have to fear being harassed or assaulted in response. [2882]

«First, . . . set fire to their synagogues or schools and . . . bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them…. Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed…. Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them…. Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb…. Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews…. Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen. 3[:19]). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. Let us emulate the common sense of other nations . . . [and] eject them forever from the country». [3150: la citazione è da Martin Lutero]

«Some say that because the crime consists only of words there is no cause for such severe punishment. But we muzzle dogs; shall we leave men free to open their mouths and say what they please? . . . God makes it plain that the false prophet is to be stoned without mercy. We are to crush beneath our heels all natural affections when his honour is at stake. The father should not spare his child, nor the husband his wife, nor the friend that friend who is dearer to him than life». [3163: questo, per par condicio, è Calvino]

Beccaria began from first principles, namely that the goal of a system of justice is to attain “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” (a phrase later adopted by Jeremy Bentham as the motto of utilitarianism). [3293]

[…] democracies tend to avoid wars because the benefits of war go to a country’s leaders whereas the costs are paid by its citizens. [3670]

Reading is a technology for perspective-taking. When someone else’s thoughts are in your head, you are observing the world from that person’s vantage point. Not only are you taking in sights and sounds that you could not experience firsthand, but you have stepped inside that person’s mind and are temporarily sharing his or her attitudes and reactions. [3839]

Oppressive autocrats can remain in power even when their citizens despise them because of a conundrum that economists call the social dilemma or free-rider problem. In a dictatorship, the autocrat and his henchmen have a strong incentive to stay in power, but no individual citizen has an incentive to depose him, because the rebel would assume all the risks of the dictator’s reprisals while the benefits of democracy would flow diffusely to everyone in the country. [3940]

Science is thus a paradigm for how we ought to gain knowledge—not the particular methods or institutions of science but its value system, namely to seek to explain the world, to evaluate candidate explanations objectively, and to be cognizant of the tentativeness and uncertainty of our understanding at any time. [3978]

The universality of reason is a momentous realization, because it defines a place for morality. [3999]

Morality […] is a consequence of the interchangeability of perspectives and the opportunity the world provides for positive-sum games.[ 4010-4011]

[…] narratives without statistics are blind, statistics without narratives are empty. [4215]

In the case of a war of attrition, one can imagine a leader who has a changing willingness to suffer a cost over time, increasing as the conflict proceeds and his resolve toughens. His motto would be: “We fight on so that our boys shall not have died in vain.” This mindset, known as loss aversion, the sunk-cost fallacy, and throwing good money after bad, is patently irrational, but it is surprisingly pervasive in human decision-making. [4725]

One of the dangers of “self-determination” is that there is really no such thing as a “nation” in the sense of an ethnocultural group that coincides with a patch of real estate. [5170]

“The greatness of the idea of European integration on democratic foundations is its capacity to overcome the old Herderian idea of the nation state as the highest expression of national life.” [5534: l’ha scritto Vaclav Havel]

Though it’s tempting to think of this stereotyping as a kind of mental defect, categorization is indispensable to intelligence. Categories allow us to make inferences from a few observed qualities to a larger number of unobserved ones. [6891]

The capital necessary to prosper in middlemen occupations consists mainly of expertise rather than land or factories, so it is easily shared among kin and friends, and it is highly portable. [7038]

For all the rigor that a logistic regression offers, it is essentially a meat grinder that takes a set of variables as input and extrudes a probability as output. What it hides is the vastly skewed distribution […] [7312]

Still, you might ask, isn’t it the essence of science to make falsifiable predictions? Shouldn’t any claim to understanding the past be evaluated by its ability to extrapolate into the future? Oh, all right. I predict that the chance that a major episode of violence will break out in the next decade—a conflict with 100,000 deaths in a year, or a million deaths overall—is 9.7 percent. How did I come up with that number? Well, it’s small enough to capture the intuition “probably not,” but not so small that if such an event did occur I would be shown to be flat-out wrong. My point, of course, is that the concept of scientific prediction is meaningless when it comes to a single event—in this case, the eruption of mass violence in the next decade. [7726]

Junk statistics from advocacy groups are slung around and become common knowledge, such as the incredible factoid that one in four university students has been raped. [8552]

Since the point of erotica is to offer the consumer sexual experiences without having to compromise with the demands of the other sex, it is a window into each sex’s unalloyed desires. Pornography for men is visual, anatomical, impulsive, floridly promiscuous, and devoid of context and character. Erotica for women is far more likely to be verbal, psychological, reflective, serially monogamous, and rich in context and character. Men fantasize about copulating with bodies; women fantasize about making love to people. [8616]

By the late 20th century, the idea that parents can harm their children by abusing and neglecting them (which is true) grew into the idea that parents can mold their children’s intelligence, personalities, social skills, and mental disorders (which is not). Why not? Consider the fact that children of immigrants end up with the accent, values, and norms of their peers, not of their parents. That tells us that children are socialized in their peer group rather than in their families: it takes a village to raise a child. And studies of adopted children have found that they end up with personalities and IQ scores that are correlated with those of their biological siblings but uncorrelated with those of their adopted siblings. That tells us that adult personality and intelligence are shaped by genes, and also by chance (since the correlations are far from perfect, even among identical twins), but are not shaped by parents, at least not by anything they do with all their children. Despite these refutations, the Nurture Assumption developed a stranglehold on professional opinion, and mothers have been advised to turn themselves into round-the-clock parenting machines, charged with stimulating, socializing, and developing the characters of the little blank slates in their care. [9395]

It would be an exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing explained the nature of logical and mathematical reasoning, invented the digital computer, solved the mind-body problem, and saved Western civilization. But it would not be much of an exaggeration. [9476]

In 1785 Jeremy Bentham took the next step. Using utilitarian reasoning, which equates morality with whatever brings the greatest good to the greatest number, Bentham argued that there is nothing immoral about homosexual acts because they make no one worse off. [9533]

The demographic sector with the largest proportion of vegetarians is teenage girls, and their principal motive may not be compassion for animals. Vegetarianism among teenage girls is highly correlated with eating disorders. [9978]

If I were to put my money on the single most important exogenous cause of the Rights Revolutions, it would be the technologies that made ideas and people increasingly mobile. The decades of the Rights Revolutions were the decades of the electronics revolutions: television, transistor radios, cable, satellite, long-distance telephones, photocopiers, fax machines, the Internet, cell phones, text messaging, Web video. They were the decades of the interstate highway, high-speed rail, and the jet airplane. They were the decades of the unprecedented growth in higher education and in the endless frontier of scientific research. Less well known is that they were also the decades of an explosion in book publishing. From 1960 to 2000, the annual number of books published in the United States increased almost fivefold. [10113]

No one is smart enough to invent anything in isolation that anyone else would want to use. Successful innovators not only stand on the shoulders of giants; they engage in massive intellectual property theft, skimming ideas from a vast watershed of tributaries flowing their way. [10153]

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” [10243: è di Clarence Darrow]

Self-serving biases are part of the evolutionary price we pay for being social animals. People congregate in groups not because they are robots who are magnetically attracted to one another but because they have social and moral emotions. They feel warmth and sympathy, gratitude and trust, loneliness and guilt, jealousy and anger. The emotions are internal regulators that ensure that people reap the benefits of social life—reciprocal exchange and cooperative action—without suffering the costs, namely exploitation by cheaters and social parasites. We sympathize with, trust, and feel grateful to those who are likely to cooperate with us, rewarding them with our own cooperation. And we get angry at or ostracize those who are likely to cheat, withdrawing cooperation or meting out punishment. A person’s own level of virtue is a tradeoff between the esteem that comes from cultivating a reputation as a cooperator and the ill-gotten gains of stealthy cheating. A social group is a marketplace of cooperators of differing degrees of generosity and trustworthiness, and people advertise themselves as being as generous and trustworthy as they can get away with, which may be a bit more generous and trustworthy than they are. [10391]

[…] too much history per square mile. [10460: sui Balcani]

[…] the standpoint of the scientist resembles the standpoint of the perpetrator, while the standpoint of the moralizer resembles the standpoint of the victim […] [10528]

People exaggerate not just their moral rectitude but their power and prospects, a subtype of self-serving bias called positive illusions. Hundreds of studies have shown that people overrate their health, leadership ability, intelligence, professional competence, sporting prowess, and managerial skills. People also hold the nonsensical belief that they are inherently lucky. Most people think they are more likely than the average person to attain a good first job, to have gifted children, and to live to a ripe old age. They also think that they are less likely than the average person to be the victim of an accident, crime, disease, depression, unwanted pregnancy, or earthquake. […] The most plausible explanation is that positive illusions are a bargaining tactic, a credible bluff. In recruiting an ally to support you in a risky venture, in bargaining for the best deal, or in intimidating an adversary into backing down, you stand to gain if you credibly exaggerate your strengths. Believing your own exaggeration is better than cynically lying about it, because the arms race between lying and lie detection has equipped your audience with the means of seeing through barefaced lies. As long as your exaggerations are not laughable, your audience cannot afford to ignore your self-assessment altogether, because you have more information about yourself than anyone else does, and you have a built-in incentive not to distort your assessment too much or you would constantly blunder into disasters. [10840-10847]

As Winston Churchill noted, “Always remember, however sure you are that you can easily win, that there would not be a war if the other man did not think he also had a chance.” [10860]

The commodity that is immediately at stake in contests of dominance is information, and that feature differentiates dominance from predation in several ways. […] Reputation is a social construction that is built on what logicians call common knowledge. […] Common knowledge may be undermined by a contrary opinion, and so contests of dominance are fought in arenas of public information.[10928-10936]

Women’s competitive tactics consist in less physically perilous relational aggression such as gossip and ostracism. [10971]

Human cooperation has another twist. Because we have language, we don’t have to deal with people directly to learn whether they are cooperators or defectors. We can ask around, and find out through the grapevine how the person has behaved in the past. This indirect reciprocity, as game theorists call it, puts a tangible premium on reputation and gossip. [11378]

The law may be an ass, but it is a disinterested ass, and it can weigh harms without the self-serving distortions of the perpetrator or the victim. […] The fashion accessories of Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice, express the logic succinctly : (1) scales; (2) blindfold; (3) sword. [11440-11443]

[…] the psychological ingredients of a murderous ideology. The cognitive prerequisite is our ability to think through long chains of means-ends reasoning, which encourage us to carry out unpleasant means as a way to bring about desirable ends. After all, in some spheres of life the ends really do justify the means, such as the bitter drugs and painful procedures we undergo as part of a medical treatment. Means-ends reasoning becomes dangerous when the means to a glorious end include harming human beings. [11845]

Groups are apt to tell their leaders what they want to hear, to suppress dissent, to censor private doubts, and to filter out evidence that contradicts an emerging consensus. [11862: sul groupthink]

[…] coordination games, where individuals have no rational reason to choose a particular option other than the fact that everyone else has chosen it. Driving on the right or the left side of the road is a classic example: here is a case in which you really don’t want to march to the beat of a different drummer. Paper currency, Internet protocols, and the language of one’s community are other examples. [11930]

[…] empathy today is becoming what love was in the 1960s—a sentimental ideal, extolled in catchphrases (what makes the world go round, what the world needs now, all you need) but overrated as a reducer of violence. [12186]

The Old Testament tells us to love our neighbors, the New Testament to love our enemies. The moral rationale seems to be: Love your neighbors and enemies; that way you won’t kill them. But frankly, I don’t love my neighbors, to say nothing of my enemies. Better, then, is the following ideal: Don’t kill your neighbors or enemies, even if you don’t love them. [12612]

The neuroscientist Etienne Koechlin summarizes the functioning of the frontal lobe in the following way. The rearmost portions respond to the stimulus; the lateral frontal cortex responds to the context; and the frontal pole responds to the episode. Concretely, when the phone rings and we pick it up, we are responding to the stimulus. When we are at a friend’s house and let it ring, we are responding to the context. And when the friend hops into the shower and asks us to pick up the phone if it rings, we are responding to the episode. [12752]

So far all the evidence that violence is released by a lack of self-control is correlational. [12835]

[…] the movie dialogue in which Diane Keaton says, “I believe that sex without love is a meaningless experience” and Woody Allen replies, “Yes, but as meaningless experiences go, it’s one of the best.” [12901]

They [Daly and Wilson] propose that organisms are equipped with an internal variable, like an adjustable interest rate, that governs how steeply they discount the future.120 The setting of the variable is twiddled according to the stability or instability of their environment and an estimate of how long they will live. [12979]

Self-domestication and pedomorphy.
Richard Wrangham has noted that the domestication of animals usually tames them by slowing down components of the developmental timetable to retain juvenile traits into adulthood, a process called pedomorphy or neoteny. 146 Domesticated strains and species tend to have more childlike skulls and faces, to show fewer sex differences, to be more playful, and to be less aggressive. These changes can be seen in farm animals that have been deliberately domesticated, such as horses, cattle, goats, and foxes, and in one species of wolf that was self-domesticated after it started to hang around human campsites thousands of years ago scrounging leftover food and eventually evolved into dogs. [13171]

[…] disapproval of a moralized act is universalized. […] moralized beliefs are actionable. […] moralized infractions are punishable. [13330-13338]

Humor with a political or moral agenda can stealthily challenge a relational model that is second nature to an audience by forcing them to see that it leads to consequences that the rest of their minds recognize as absurd. [13544]

Haidt observes that when one zooms in on an electoral map of the United States, from the coarse division into red and blue states to a finer-grained division into red and blue counties, one finds that the blue counties, representing the regions that voted for the more liberal presidential candidate, cluster along the coasts and major waterways. […] The micro-geography of liberalism suggests that the moral trend away from community, authority, and purity is indeed an effect of mobility and cosmopolitanism. [13690-13695]

5 Risposte to “Steven Pinker – The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”

  1. Steven Pinker – The Better Angels of Our Nature [2] « Sbagliando s’impera Says:

    […] suo libro, che ho recensito qui, Pinker cita The Expanding Circle di Peter Singer come uno dei testi che hanno influenzato la sua […]

  2. Doctorow-Stross – The Rapture of the Nerds « Sbagliando s'impera Says:

    […] modo di pensare e di agire, come argomenta efficacemente Steven Pinker a proposito della violenza: The Better Angels of Our Nature), ma si porterà dietro tutti i guai di un American way of life da satira se non da barzelletta: un […]

  3. Zoltan Istvan – The Transhumanist Wager | Sbagliando s'impera Says:

    […] vedere che cosa ne scrive Steven Pinker nel 4° capitolo (The Humanitarian Revolution) del suo The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (ne ho parlato anche […]

  4. Berlusconi e l’asino di Mr Bumble | Sbagliando s'impera Says:

    […] il detto di Mr Bumble – fa Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature (che ho recensito qui e che è ora disponibile nella traduzione italiana di Massimo Parizzi, Il declino della violenza: […]

  5. I droni causeranno un cambiamento radicale nella nostra società | Sbagliando s'impera Says:

    […] geografiche, dei mercanti? Di Gutenberg, di Cristoforo Colombo, di Luca Pacioli? Speriamo di sì, come pensa Steven Pinker. Perché se invece – ammonisce Noah Smith – il merito fosse stato del fucile, allora […]


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