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The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Penguin Press Science) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 5. Juni 2003

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  • The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Penguin Press Science)
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  • The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (P.S.)
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  • The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature
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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 -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.


'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

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Format: Taschenbuch
Steven Pinker wird von manchen Leuten, vor allem in Deutschland, als "Schreiberling" oder "Popularisator" abqualifiziert. Dieses Urteil ist sehr, sehr deutsch und es wird ihm überhaupt nicht gerecht. Pinker ist nämlich ein sehr kluger Mann, der sehr viel weiß und sehr viel kann: Er kann lesen, er kann denken, er kann schreiben. Die Harvard University wird schon gewusst haben, warum sie ihn (wahrscheinlích nicht nur mit Geld!) vom MIT abgeworben hat.

Manche Kapitel dieses Buches habe ich zwei oder gar drei mal gelesen. Die Materie ist nicht simpel, sie erfordert schon Gründlichkeit bei der Lektüre.

Das Buch räumt sehr gründlich, aber ohne Fanatismus mit einer Ideologie auf, die schon sehr viel Schaden angerichtet hat, nämlich mit der Ideologie, dass der Mensch eine tabula rasa ist, die beliebig beschrieben werden kann.

Wenn der Mensch eine solche tabula rasa wäre, könnte es kein Unrecht sein, auf ihr nach Belieben herumzukratzen. Dementsprechend haben Diktatoren und Massenmörder wie Lenin, Stalin, Mao und Pol Pot keinerlei Skrupel gehabt, Menschen terroristisch umzuerziehen und sie bei Erziehungsresistenz verhungern zu lassen oder sie direkt abzuschlachten. Die Ideologie der tabula rasa, des unbeschriebenen Blattes, lädt geradezu dazu ein. Kommt der Mensch dagegen als kleines Buch auf die Welt, mit seiner eigenen Würde, seiner eigenen Story, seiner eigenen Epik, wäre es ein Sakrileg, zumindest aber eine grobe Fälschung, den Text umzuschreiben.

Das ist eine der wichtigen moralischen und ideologiekritischen Botschaften dieses Buches.
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With these touchy subjects the credibility and scientific plausibility is very important. This book does a good job with that, citing plenty of sources and explaining the basic methods of the experiments.

It is also informative, talking about gender, children, violence, thinking etc. It does not cover race, however, but explains why the effects of race on personnality and intellect are not trivial to study and debunks some previous findings about race. For example, blacks in america aren't inherently more violent, it is the environment in a ghetto that promotes violence.

The book does a lot of backlash prevention, which the reader that is not anxious about evolutionary psychology might find a little annoying.
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Auch, wenn ich 10 Jahre gebraucht habe, es zu finden: danke für dieses Buch. Und schön zu wissen, dass immer noch Leute veröffentlichen dürfen, die selbst denken können.
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Pinker ist kein radikaler Biologist, obgleich ihm das häufig nachgesagt wird. Das Buch ist ein guter Einstieg in die Vorbedingtheit, mit der wir zu leben haben.
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HASH(0x90e664bc) von 5 Sternen Because we're all relatives, it's not all relative 20. Oktober 2002
Von Royce E. Buehler - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Cultural relativism, the intellectual underpinnings of which rest on a faith (whether acknowledged or not) in the supremacy of nurture over nature, has had a long run. But has its boiler run out of steam at last?
In his latest and by far his most ambitious work, Steven Pinker tells us, in a lively but dispassionate voice of sweet reason, that the answer is yes. His demolition of cultural relativism may well make him a lot of enemies. He's touched on many of these same ideas before, but now he is spelling out the consequences - and the incompatibility of those consequences with the received wisdom of most of the last century.
His fundamental message is: Yes, Virginia, there is a human nature. People of all cultures are born with a host of inborn predispositions - to acquire language and music, to favor kin over strangers, to desire sex and to be ashamed of it, to value even trades and to punish cheaters, and dozens more. Our common nature springs from our common biology; it is not very malleable, and it is not "socially constructed." Cultural diversity is marvelous, but it is all a variation on an immutable theme; and there have never been any human cultures free of war, of greed, or of prescribed gender roles. (Any more than there have ever been any free of conflict resolution techniques, altruism, and shared parenting.)
His secondary theme is that the differences between people, so much smaller than what we have in common, are also primarily biologically determined. A juggernaut of data has finally put the nature/nurture controversy to rest, at least from a scientific standpoint, and the final score is pretty much nature one, nurture zero. Fifty to seventy percent of the variation between individuals - in intelligence, in personality, in political leanings, or just about any other mental character you care to name - derives from the genes; zero to ten percent derives from the home environment; and the mysterious remainder is due to chance or to non-parental environment.
We have been conditioned in recent decades to think of both these contentions as shocking. They violate two precepts Pinker designates the "sacred doctrines in modern intellectual life." He calls them The Blank Slate (with a nod to Locke), and The Noble Savage (with a nod to Rousseau.) The first holds that ideas, likes, dislikes, and personalities are all the result of what Locke called "sense impressions", that is, they are all imprinted on us by our environments. The second is a little more modest, but forms the seductive core of the first, because we'd all like it to be true. It holds that all our unpleasant ideas, likes, dislikes, and neurotic tics are forced by a wicked society upon an infant slate which is, if not blank, devoid of all blemish.
Pinker spends the first hundred pages tracing the lineage of these sacred doctrines (and of a third, neither so carefully examined nor so carefully defined, which he calls The Ghost in the Machine. The philosophers who originated the phrase were trying to deny the reality of consciousness, but what Pinker is trying to deny turns out to be narrower - essentially, the doctrine that whatever biological nature we may have can be overriden by a soul or self with a free will independent of biology.) He explores what has made the three doctrines attractive to all of us, but especially to the academic left, and the deep fears which have made it taboo, as E.O. Wilson found to his cost, to contradict them.
He then explains, carefully and (at least with respect to the first two) convincingly, why the fears in question are groundless - and why we should rather fear the ill effects of suppressing this new knowledge about human nature.
Finally, he takes up in a series of individual chapters several of the hot-button political and social issues that are affected by the existence of an objective human nature, and by the largely genetic basis of most human differences: the source of the left/right divide in politics, the root causes of violence, what objective gender differences (and the biological influences bearing on rape) do and do not mean for public policy, the coming irrelevance of the child-rearing advice industry, and a rather curmudgeonly take on what he sees as the well-deserved unpopularity of avant-garde art.
The child-rearing chapter is particularly eye-opening, while the violence chapter offers some fairly fresh ideas, not so much on its origins, which are the same for us as for chimpanzees, but on the variables affecting its expression. Also notable is Pinker's calm, complete demolition, on strictly biological grounds, of the notion that an embryo is "ensouled" at the moment of conception. (Perhaps still more notable, and indicative of the book's even tenor for all its polemics, is his refusal to draw any pro-choice conclusion from that.)
It's a joy to see some of Pinker's more irrational targets, from die-hard Marxism to the rejection of science itself by "critical theory" to the bromide that rape isn't "about" sexual desire, skewered with such swift and classical neatness. The longer lasting pleasures will come from a leisurely unpacking and sifting of all his positive conjectures, conclusions, and insights. It's a book you can zip through in a couple of nights, or return to for thought-fodder for years.
52 von 58 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x90e69a74) von 5 Sternen Everyone, not just science junkies, should read this! 12. Oktober 2002
Von Kevin Currie-Knight - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Wow! About two years ago, I read Pinker's 'The Language Instinct.' Barely a year had passed before I read his 'How the Mind Works' and 'Words and Rules.' Each, of course, was amazing, erudite, well-researched and completely entertaining. I didn't think it possible but Pinker has gracefully outdone himself. Not only entertaining, this book is one that HAD to be written and I'm sure glad Steven Pinker thought the same!
The title, 'The Blank Slate' is one of three commonplace theories that Pinker sees as contributing to the misdirection of politics, society and science in general. In brief, the belief that we are all interchangeable tabula rasas (the blank slate), that we are born with only good instincts only to be corrupted by society (the noble savage) and the existence of 'higher' spirit or soul in each human body (the ghost in the machine.) It's not hard to see why the blank slate is a bogus theory. Humans, as products, of biology have innate urges and are in a sense, genetically INCLINED towrds certain behavior. Why is the blank slate dangerous? Belief that crime can be 'unlearned' through rehabilitation, that 'reality' is simply a synonym for 'conditioned belief' that can be reframed at will, and that there is no thing as measured intellegence- all of these beliefs lead to socially disasterous consequences.
It should be said that the authors goal is not shock us, stir up unnecessary contraversy or get off on offending his readers. This is not an anti-PC book; in fact, Pinker is admirably calm and well-reasoned. He discusses sciences relations to social policy, but doesn't preach about or disclose his political leanings. He talks about feminism but where he comes out against 'gender feminism,' he has nothing but praise for feminisms goals of parity and equality. To be sure, he lets us know that evolutionary science has tended to point towards the right by showing us that marxist and postmodernist interprestations of 'social reality' to be untrue. On the other hand, though, Pinker shows us that sciences insistence that while biology doesn't explain everything, it factors in to more than we think, alienates the right-wingers and backs certain left-leaning theories. In this way, science, and hence Pinker's book, is apolitical.
In close, I have to affirm an observation below. At first glance, a commentary on the problem in the arts and humanities by scientist, Pinker seems not only a far stretch, but snooty. After reading the book in full though, I can easily say that it is not only the best chapter of the book, it ranks amongst the best discourses on the 'humanities slump' that I've ever read, easily beating out most by humanities professors. This book deserves every piece of it's 5 stars and then some!!!
203 von 239 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x90e6903c) von 5 Sternen A Treatise On Human Nature for Our Times 5. Oktober 2002
Von john o. mcginnis - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Steven Pinker's book is a wonderful explication of what we now know about human nature. As such, it mounts a powerful attack on postmodernist attemps to argue that humans are completely malleable and socially constructed. The book reminds me most of David Hume's A Treatise on Human Nature. Like Hume, Pinker attacks the reigning orthodoxies and pieties of the politically and religiously correct. Because of such sacrilege, he will be attacked as an immoralist, just as Hume was. But like Hume, Pinker is in reality engaged in a deeply moral enterprise. By dispelling myths that are often propogated by ideologues to advance their agenda (such as the myth that the average man and woman differ only anatomically and not in their desires and interests), he makes it easier to understand the real costs and benefits of different social policies (such as quotas for women, whether in college athletics or on the job). By helping us understand the biologicaly wellsprings of our conflicts with others, be they parents, children, friends, or mates, he provides an important step to living with them more humanely and kindly. In perhaps its most completely original chapter, the book even uses his a theory of biologically shaped human nature to diagnose the discontents of much modern art, and if taken to heart, may show a way out of the cul de sac in which those who claim the mind is a blank slate have trapped many proud artistic traditions. The Blank Slate is a vaccination against the characteristic follies and errors of postmodernism and as such should be required reading for all students at our often diseased universities.
72 von 84 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x90e6cc48) von 5 Sternen Nature vs. nurture case closed--with reservations 25. Dezember 2002
Von M. Spiller - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
Sociobiology is a controversial, yet important and growing field of scientific exploration. No other field of science elicits as much condemnation from academics and intellectuals, yet no other scientific endeavor has ever cast as much light on the truth about the evolution of human nature. The reason for the distain shown by academic intellectuals is sociobiology's crushing refutation of the concept known as the "blank slate" theory of human nature, which has become the cornerstone of postmodernist ideals of political correctness. The entire edifice of the postmodern human engineering project carried on at many universities and in the popular media is based upon the concept that "everything is political", and that the attribute we call "human nature" is nothing more than cultural propaganda instilled into children by their parents and reinforced throughout their lives by a rigid, chauvinistic propaganda machine that has become known as "Western Civilization". Evidence is fast mounting that human nature is anything but nonexistent, sociobiology is the area of science where this evidence is researched and proven, and Steven Pinker has done a good job of organizing and, with some reservations, elucidating the evidence. In short, boys and girls are no more identical above the neck than they are below, and every personal psychological attribute is nearly as genetically heritable as every physical attribute. This book proves to my satisfaction that human nature is a factor in the human condition, and that the blank slate theory of personality is a politically correct joke.
This is a long book, a bit tedious in places, but well written, interesting and even humorous overall. The inference that genetic influences are the all-important factor in life outcome is, I think, patently false and contradicted by experience and common sense. The best possible proof of this is contained in a short, fascinating book written by Theodore Dalrymple called "Life at the bottom", which I would strongly recommend as a reality-check by which to measure some of the tenants of sociobiology presented in Pinker's book. This is especially useful when evaluating chapter 19 on the debate about nature/nurture as it concerns children. Dalrymple's book is a collection of anecdotes gleaned from the experiences of a physician who has spent his life ministering to the British underclass. He does not discredit sociobiology, a subject which is never mentioned in his book. He illuminates the subject in the light of harsh reality.
In spite of its deficiencies, however, sociobiology goes a long way toward explaining how genetic tendencies coalesce into the characteristics known as "human nature". It also casts light upon the reasons that 20th century attempts to engineer utopian societies culminated in failure (and in the case of Marxist projects, the deaths of as many as a hundred million people). Sociobiology is, however explicitly silent upon the subject of how best to contain these human impulses in order to establish and maintain an orderly, yet progressive and free civilization. The "fact" of Human Nature presents us with a slew of "natural" behaviors. On the other hand, just because a behavior may be natural does not necessarily mean that its uninhibited expression is appropriate for the maintenance of an orderly civilization and a happy life.
While evidence from sociobiology seems to refute some of the cherished beliefs of modern conservatism as well as liberalism, the case against liberalism is much stronger. Pinker works very hard to establish his credentials as a modern liberal throughout the book, and in some areas I believe that his desire to be seen as a liberal has colored the conclusions he draws from his evidence. This is definitely a worthwhile book. Take the evidence seriously, but be wary when navigating the shoals of the author's opinions.
54 von 62 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x90e6cde0) von 5 Sternen Essential look at the fear of human nature 31. Oktober 2002
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
As far as I'm concerned, the most important book in the last five years (I'm a practicing evolutionary psychologist, so I care about these things more than most people). Pinker is brilliant, a great communicator, and obviously truly enthusiastic about ev psych. He believes that ev psych theory can help us see the truth about human nature and the innate structure of the brain. And his enthusiasm is not that of some dogmatic close-minded partisan, it's that of a scientist who has applied ev psych theories, seen their effectiveness, and actually acquired objective knowledge as a result of this process.
The book concentrates less on reviwing ev psych research (for that, see his 1997 book How the Mind Works), and more on analyzing why so many social scientists and people in general continue to be so frightened by the prospect that natural selection might affect neural tissue in the same way it that it affects every other kind of organismal tissue. Many people loathe the idea that there is a human nature, that behavior is the product of a brain that evolved by natural selection. Why are people so scared? Read this excellent book and find out.
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