In The Blank Slate, the bestselling author Steven Pinker produces his most polemical and convincing attack upon the nurture side of the nature versus nurture debate. Pinker's previous books The Language Instinctand How the Mind Works have already attracted huge praise and controversy in arguing that language and cognition are natural rather than cultural. In The Blank Slate he refines and extends his arguments.
The book is aimed at "people who wonder where the taboo against human nature came from", and promises to explain "the moral, emotional and political colorings of the concept of human nature in modern life". For Pinker, the belief that we are all born as "blank slates" upon which culture places its decisive imprint is not only wrong but dangerous. He persuasively argues that "the conviction that humanity could be reshaped by massive social engineering projects led to some of the greatest atrocities in history". This is all very well, but at over 500 pages it can also be daunting for the general reader, as Pinker takes on all-comers, from biologists and sociologists to a dizzying array of classical thinkers from Calvin and Hobbes to Marx and Dawkins. The sections on gender will undoubtedly inflame many feminist writers (the most persuasive of which Pinker sadly neglects to discuss), and the criticisms of modern art are flimsy, but The Blank Slate is an impressive and sustained broadside that cannot be ignored. -Jerry Brotton
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'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