Steven Pinker

The Modern Denial of Human Nature Publication date : February 20, 2005

Our conceptions of human nature affect every aspect of our lives, from the way we raise our children to the political movements we embrace. Yet just as science is leading us to an understanding of human nature, many people are hostile to this very idea. They fear that discoveries about innate patterns of thinking and feeling may be used to justify social inequality, to impede progress, and even to destroy the notions of freedom and responsibility.
Drawing on recent scientific findings, Steven Pinker denounces the ideological dogmas that cloud our vision of who we are. Despite its popularity among intellectuals during much of the twentieth century, the doctrine of the Blank Slate (which says that the mind has no innate traits and everything is the product of nurture or culture) may have done more harm than good. It denies our common humanity and distorts our understanding of education and politics. And he argues that the idea of human nature is not intrinsically dangerous.
This is a clearly and sharply argued book on an important contemporary issue, written by an internationally renowned expert on cognition and the mind. It is also a powerful defence of humanity against culturalism.

Steven Pinker is a professor of psychology at Harvard University. His work on cognition and the psychology of language has won him many awards, including one from the American National Academy of Sciences. He is the associate editor of the prestigious magazine Cognition and the author of The Language Instinct (French translation: L'Instinct du langage, Editions Odile Jacob, 1999) and How the Mind Works (French translation: Comment fonctionne l'esprit, Editions Odile Jacob, 2000).