?

Log in

Minding your own business - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

[ Website | Edifice Rex Online ]
[ Info | livejournal userinfo ]
[ Archive | journal archive ]

Links
[Links:| EdificeRex Online ]

Minding your own business [Sep. 2nd, 2011|10:51 pm]
Young Geoffrey
This sounds like something I want to read, no question. Originally posted by mind_hacks at Minding your own business

I’m just reading a review copy of Steven Pinker’s (excellent) new book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

This section, on how moral motivation is over-rated as a control on violence, just made me laugh out loud.

The human moral sense can excuse any atrocity in the minds of those who commit them, and it furnishes them with motives for acts of violence that bring them no tangible benefit. The torture of heretics and conversos, the burning of witches, the imprisonment of homosexuals, and the honor killing of unchaste sisters and daughters are just a few examples. The incalculable suffering that has been visited on the world by people motivated by a moral cause is enough to make one sympathize with the comedian George Carlin when he said “I think motivation is overrated. You show me some lazy prick who’s lying around all day watching game shows and stroking his penis and I’ll show you someone who’s not causing any fucking trouble!

 

Link to more information on the book.

linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2011-09-03 02:07 pm (UTC)
I'm not normally a fan of Pinker (actually, I tend to hate the guy) but this sounds really interesting.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-09-05 04:01 pm (UTC)

Why?

I've read only The Blank Slate, which I found excellent. What's your objection(s) to him?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2011-09-05 09:03 pm (UTC)

Re: Why?

He's an evolutionary psychologist. While I'm sure there are evolutionary psychologists who aren't misogynistic fuckwads with a perverse nostalgia for 1950s gender roles, he ain't one of them.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-09-05 09:26 pm (UTC)

Re: Why?

Proofs! I demand proofs!

I keep hearing that about him and evolutionary psy-and-bi-ologists, but no one (okay, I'm talking about two or three people I've actually had this out with over beers) has ever come through with specifics.

I've read The Blank Slate a couple of times now, found it fascinating, and found nothing in it whatsoever that even hints at any kind of nostalgia for 1950s gender roles.

Where should I be looking?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2011-09-05 09:42 pm (UTC)

Re: Why?

His defence of Larry Summers, for one. His defence of Christina Hoff Sommers, for another.

I confess I haven't read The Blank Slate, but I tend to look askance at anything that attempts to define "human nature."
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-09-05 09:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Why?

I tend to look askance at anything that attempts to define "human nature."

I think one should look askance at the definitions, but I also think it's just about self-evident that there is such a thing as "human nature".

We are, after all, animals evolved over several hundred million years. (Or 3.something billion, if you want to go back into the single-celled era.)

The alternative is to presume our essence is some sort of magic, non-physical ... thing. A "soul", if you will.

Which leads us back to the Big Tea Pot in the sky, doesn't it?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2011-09-05 09:57 pm (UTC)

Re: Why?

I'm neither a philosopher nor a scientist, but I find it impossible to look upon the diversity of civilizations, cultures, and individuals, not just in the present day but over the course of recorded history, and declare there to be a singular thing like "human nature." It has nothing to do with a belief in a soul—I certainly don't believe such a thing exists—and everything to do with an innate suspicion that we are somehow a fixed, singular point.

Pinker, to his credit, doesn't appear to believe that just because something is natural, it's good or right, but certainly many of his followers do. And there's a certain Just So element in all evolutionary psychology that I've seen, which doesn't actually make sense unless you're a determinist.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)