In the past century many people have assumed that we are shaped by our environment: a blank slate waiting to be inscribed by our upbringing and culture, with innate abilities playing little part.
Steven Pinker's profound and essential book shows that this view denies the heart of our being: human nature. We are prepared for sex, aggression and jealousy - and also love, compassion and reason. Violence is not just a product of society; male and female minds are different; the genes we give our children shape them more than our parenting practices.
To acknowledge our nature, Pinker shows, is not to condone inequality or callousness, but ultimately to understand the very foundations of humanity.
‘A magnificent and timely work’ Fay Weldon, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year
‘A passionate defence of the enduring power of human nature … both life-affirming and deeply satisfying’ Tim Lott, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year
‘Brilliant … enjoyable, informative, clear, humane’ New Scientist
‘If you think the nature–nurture debate has been resolved, you are wrong. It is about to be reignited with a vengeance … this book is required reading’ Literary Review
‘An original and vital contribution to science and also a rattling good read’ Matt Ridley, Sunday Telegraph
‘Startling … Pinker makes his main argument persuasively and with great verve … This is a breath of air for a topic that has been politicized for too long’ Economist
About the Author
Steven Pinker is one of the world's leading authorities on language and the mind. His popular and highly praised books include The Stuff of Thought, The Blank Slate, Words and Rules, How the Mind Works, and The Language Instinct. The recipient of several major awards for his teaching, books, and scientific research, Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He also writes frequently for The New York Times, Time, The New Republic, and other magazines.
'A magnificent and timely work' Fay Weldon, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year; 'A passionate defence of the enduring power of human nature... both life-affirming and deeply satisfying' Tim Lott, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year; "Reading Pinker is one of the biggest favours I've ever done my brain" Richard Dawkins
The blank slate, the noble savage and the ghost in the machine: the official theory; silly putty; the last wall to fall; culture vultures; the slate's last stand.
Fear and loathing: political scientists; the Holy Trinity.
Human nature with a human face: the fear of inequality; the fear of imperfectability; the fear of determinism; the fear of nihilism.
Know thyself: in touch with reality; out of our depths; the many roots of our suffering; the sanctimonious animal.
Hot buttons: politics; violence; gender; children; the arts.
The voice of the species.
Appendix: Donald E. Brown's list of human universals.