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Full title The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature [permalink]
Language English
Author Steven Pinker (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Category Psychology
Publication year 2002
ISBN 0-14-200334-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 509
Synopsis

A very good synthesis of and commentary on the nature-nurture debate from the point of view of an evolutionary psychologist. The book is divided into six parts named "The Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine" (in which Pinker outlines the debate and discusses the three doctrines in the title), "Fear and Loathing" (in which he describes the reactions from scientists and lay people to the discoveries of the modern sciences of human nature), "Human Nature with a Human Face" (in which he discusses four fears — inequality, imperfectibility, determinism, and nihilism — that seem to flow from the dismantling of the three doctrines outlined in the first chapter), "Know Thyself" (in which he attempts to allay fears by making human nature explicit), "Hot Buttons" (in which he deals with five topics — politics, violence, gender, children, and the arts — and explain how the sciences of human nature touch on these), and "The Voice of the Species" (which is a single chapter where Pinker draws examples from poetry and literature to illustrate his main points and bring the book to a natural end).

Review

A very good book about human nature, and why gut feelings and folk theories on psychology are often wrong (or not right enough). This is the first book on evolutionary psychology I've read, so I had a little trouble keeping up with the parts of the book that described its history and methods, but I think I got the gist of those parts. I especially enjoyed the last part of the book, titled "The Voice of the Species", where Pinker quotes various poets and authors (such as Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, and Kurt Vonnegut), in passages illuminating human nature. I can wholeheartedly recommend this book!

Images Back of The Blank Slate.Spine of The Blank Slate.Front of The Blank Slate.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • PART I The Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine
    • Chapter 1 The Official Theory
    • Chapter 2 Silly Putty
    • Chapter 3 The Last Wall to Fall
    • Chapter 4 Culture Vultures
    • Chapter 5 The Slate's Last Stand
  • PART II Fear and Loathing
    • Chapter 6 Political Scientists
    • Chapter 7 The Holy Trinity
  • PART III Human Nature with a Human Face
    • Chapter 8 The Fear of Inequality
    • Chapter 9 The Fear of Imperfectibility
    • Chapter 10 The Fear of Determinism
    • Chapter 11 The Fear of Nihilism
  • PART IV Know Thyself
    • Chapter 12 In Touch with Reality
    • Chapter 13 Out of Our Depths
    • Chapter 14 The Many Roots of Our Suffering
    • Chapter 15 The Sanctimonious Animal
  • PART V Hot Buttons
    • Chapter 16 Politics
    • Chapter 17 Violence
    • Chapter 18 Gender
    • Chapter 19 Children
    • Chapter 20 The Arts
  • PART VI The Voice of the Species
  • Appendix: Donald E. Brown's List of Human Universals
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

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