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am 16. November 2001
Vor längerem hatte ich Steven Pinkers erstes Buch "The language instinct" gelesen, bei dem aber einige Kapitel sehr trocken und theoretisch waren, andere aber sehr interessant. Daher hatte ich erst etwas gezögert nochmal ein Buch von ihm zu lesen, aber ich bereue es nicht es doch getan zu haben. Denn dies Buch ist von Anfang bis Ende sehr interessant, und deckt ein weites Spektrum des menschlichen Wesens ab - angefangen davon was das Gehirn von (heutigen) Computern unterscheidet, wie das Gehirn Logik, dreidimensionales Sehen, oder (als Linguist natürlich Pinkers Spezialgebiet) die Sprache meistert; dann aber auch in den weiteren Kapiteln wie die menschlichen Verhaltensweisen - positive wie Liebe, Freundschaft oder Altruismus, genauso wie die negativen wie Eifersucht, Mord oder Krieg - sich aus der Sicht der Evolution erklären lassen, denn hätten sie sich nicht positiv für die Fortpflanzungserfolg ausgewirkt hätten sie sich nicht entwickelt. Die Ideen aus dem zweiten Teil sind zwar nicht neu, Bücher wie "The selfish gene" gibt es ja schon länger, aber die Kombination dieser mit den Erklärungen der "einfacheren" Hirnfunktionen macht das Buch empfehlenswert.
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am 14. März 2015
I thought this book would be a about a material model of cognition with lots of fun examples of psychology tests from the lab, and so indeed it starts. However, the book really takes off towards the end applying evoltionary biology to family relations in a chapter called 'family values' I found this material jaw dropping and incendiary. There is a wow moment on virtually every page. It makes you want to stop and discuss it with whoever happens to be around.

I realise it wont appeal to everyone , but no one could claim this book isnt provacative and thought provoking.

buy this book!
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am 31. Oktober 1998
An example of the narrow-mindedness encouraged by Pinker's computational brain:
In the middle of the book Pinker cites Lakoff (1987) and a few of the examples given in the latter's _Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things_ to show that the traditional criterial-attribute model of categorization is incorrect. Now, the well-read reader knows what Lakoff was trying to demonstrate; that classical logic is inadequate when it comes to explaining how people categorize. Much of his book is devoted to showing the many interesting ways people actually do categorize. It's all centered around Eleanor Rosch's prototype theory, and the significant factor played in best examples of a category, radial categorization, metaphor, metonomy, etc., etc.

Pinker's "refutation" of Lakoff's examples is amazing. Without mentioning prototype theory (there or in the entire book), he argues that Lakoff's mistake is not realizing that such fuzzy categories are the result of "idealizations". Having satisfied the ignorant reader that Lakoff is on the wrong track, Pinker moves on to other topics.

But the hypocrisy is obvious. Pinker's concept of an "idealization" is not too far removed from Rosch's "prototype"!And in the process of ignoring the vast empirical data in support of how minds *really* categorize, Pinker feels safe to remain in the classical framework of categorization.

Since I cannot believe that Pinker is ignorant of what Lakoff was actually talking about in his book, or the work of Rosch, I must conclude that by avoiding the real issues behind prototype theory he was being deliberately deceptive. And he is a very charismatic writer and speaker, so his popularizations have a better chance of reaching the public than the sometimes admittedly dense and verbose _Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things_. He leaves his readers with a biased report on the state of cognitive science, using what appears to me to be outright deception in the process, such as in the above example.
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am 16. Januar 2000
Ok, so it's not like Mr. Pinker drew a road map of our more-tangled-than-Christmas-lights neuron web, explaining the actual physics of the functioning mind. That's good! If Pinker could write such a book, who in their right mind (thank you for your courtesy laugh) would want to read such a bland text?
Do you enjoy reading your car's manual? No! But, if you didn't already know, you probably would like to know the logic, the ideas, and the purpose behind the handy glove box or the mysterious distributor cap.
This book is not a great scientific achievement because it enables us to build a mind out of various items found between our couch cushions. It's a great scientific achievement because it helps explain the window through which we all experience our world in a fun and easy to read text that omits trite details.
Well studied scientists, geniuses, and PHD's might find this book a waste of time. Good! Go write text books or something. But if you're an average person interested in a introduction to the mind that natural selection built, buy this book.
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am 22. Juni 1999
This book is interesting and had me thinking so I can easily recommend it. Unfortunately there are a couple of things that troubled me.
I have an autistic son and the one page about autism implied a lot more understanding and consensus about this condition than I believe exists. I can't help wondering if this overconfidence is a problem in other parts of the book where I don't have any prior knowledge.
I was also troubled about the tone he used toward religion. I don't expect belief or even the suspension of disbelief but I came away wondering if Steven Pinker thought that all religious leaders were not only wrong but knew that they were wrong. Comments about shamans and Jesus stick out. I wonder if the same sort of "I'm right and their blatently wrong" attitude affected his assessment of scientists who disagreed with him.
These two points would be minor nits if I could point to other parts of the book that I thought were right on target. Since I am new to the subject I will have to leave it as this book was fascinating but I need to do some more reading.
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am 15. September 2014
Too prosaic for my taste, I prefer more factual readings. Examples are sometimes confusing.
Nothing much new for me. Cannot support the hype around this athour.
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am 7. Juni 2000
Steven Pinker is Professor of Psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of the renowned books, 'The language instinct' (Penguin, 1995) and 'Words and rules: the ingredients of language' (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000). In this book, described by one reviewer as 'the best book ever written on the human mind', he puts forward a general theory about how and why the human mind works the way it does. Yet it is not a ponderous book; it is beautifully written and full of jokes and stories.
Pinker marries Darwin's theory of evolution to the latest developments in neuroscience and computation. He shows in detail how the process of natural selection shaped our entire neurological networks; how the struggle for survival selects from among our genes those most fit to flourish in our environment. Nature has produced in us bodies, brains and minds attuned to coping intelligently with whatever our environment demands. Housed in our bodies, our minds structure neural networks into adaptive programmes for handling our perceptions. Pinker concludes, "The mind is a system of organs of computation, designed by natural selection to solve the kinds of problems our ancestors faced in their foraging way of life."
Our beliefs and desires are information, allowing us to create meaning. "Beliefs are inscriptions in memory, desires are goal inscriptions, thinking is computation, perceptions are inscriptions triggered by sensors, trying is executing operations triggered by a goal." Pinker writes that the mind has a 'design stance' for dealing with artefacts, a 'physical stance' for dealing with objects, and an 'intentional stance' for dealing with people. "Causal and inferential roles tend to be in sync because natural selection designed both our perceptual and our inferential modules to work accurately, most of the time, in this world." With this down-to-earth kind of explanation, there is no need to invoke mysterious intangible powers: "We don't need spirits or occult forces to explain intelligence." Pinker sums up the recent amazing developments in neurobiology and cognitive science. This book, like those by his colleagues Daniel Dennett ('Darwin's dangerous idea' and 'Consciousness explained') and Richard Dawkins ('River out of Eden' and 'Unweaving the rainbow'), should be required reading. They are all Darwinians, but then why shouldn't they be? It is just like saying that all physicists are Einsteinians nowadays, or that all poets and playwrights are Shakespeareans, or that all osteopaths are Stillians. Their books make Karl Popper, so hostile to Darwin, and Californian gurus like Fritjof Capra, sadly outdated.
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am 2. Juli 1999
Pinker's How the Mind Works book is the best synthesis of the state of the art about mental processes but significantly it is also one of the first syntheses of the relation between human mind and culture. More than a product of evolutionary psychology this work is the product of 'neuroanthropology' (Pinker doesn't use that term; Damasio uses the term in cognitive sciences though Victor Turner coined it decades ago in Anthropology). Pinker explains the mental universals of people engaged in collective interaction to negotiate cultural processes. If Pinker holds that all humans have the same intuitive capacities for language, psychology, engineeering, physics, chemistry, arts, music, etc and the religious intuition, and if he holds that some capitalist and behavioral dynamics are attacking these survival universals by imposing anti-natural codes, then he is also one of the most radical thinker of this end of century. How the Mind Works is not only brilliant and readable but one of the most relevant and critical intellectual productions for this era of globalization when powerful sectors of humanity are embarking into even more anti-natural collective dynamics. Pinker indicates that in this context where humanity is either creating new universals or modulating the 3 million yr old ones into innovative definitions of universality, academics must stand for intelligent vigilance through interdisciplinary research and also engage in disseminating public understanding of science in order to allow people to not only understand the human mind but use this knowledge to ensure human survival. I recommend this book as text for Anthropology courses and hope it is used in many Introductory courses in universities because it establishes a basic interpretive framework to contextualize any human endeavor or academic discipline.
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am 13. Juli 2000
Let me start out by saying that I am an eighteen-year old reader who will be attending college next year and pursuing the study of neuroscience.
I remember sitting on the airplane yesterday and, while reading the section on the sexes, thinking to myself, "Wow. If someone just glazed this section over and missed the underlying point Pinker makes, this could appear really sexist." Lo and behold, I read the review below by Ms. Aloupie, and it appears to me that she has missed the point entirely.
The first clue is when she calls it "His theory" -- she may have missed the preface in which he states that almost all of the ideas are not his; he has merely compiled the best ones. He is not sexist towards anyone; he is simply pointing out how nature works as per relations between males and females. Where does he call anyone a "sissy?"
Here is where Ms. Aloupie's main argument doesn't make sense. She states that he is vehemently sexist towards both men and women. Let me get this straight: sexism is the discrimination against someone based on his or her gender. This means that to discriminate against someone, another person must be benefitted on similarly unjust grounds. For example, if I am a racist, I might give a job to a white person over an African-American simply because he is white. Pinker cannot, therefore, discriminate against both sexes; who is getting the benefit, I ask? Hermaphrodites?
Ms. Aloupie talks about Pinker's sorry lack of proof (which I must have missed in reading the entire book); however, she herself fails to cite a single quote or specific instance in her entire review.
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am 14. Februar 1999
Mr. Pinker states his case quite well (though he repeats his ideas over and over again in the book) . The ideas themselves are not new, but the evidence he gives for them is interesting. That said, some modesty would not be out of place. To Mr. Pinker, how the brain works is almost clear, but if only things were so simple ... Also, some more serious references to other opinions (such as Mr. Penrose's) are in order.
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