|The Blank Slate
The Modern Denial of Human Nature
|Our conception of human nature affects every aspect of our lives, from child-rearing to politics, from morality to our appreciation of the arts. However, just as science is providing a clearer understanding of human nature, many people are viscerally opposing the very idea. They fear that discoveries about an innate human nature can be used to justify inequality, subvert social change, dissolve personal responsibility, and strip life of meaning and purpose.
In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker explains why many of today’s intellectuals deny the existence of human nature, claiming that each of us is born a blank slate upon which the environment writes, and that these inscriptions define every aspect of who we are. Pinker shows that this thesis is no longer tenable, nor is it particularly desirable.
By disentangling the moral and political issues from the scientific facts, Pinker rationally examines who and what we are. He shows that our commitments to equality, compassion, responsibility and purpose can be strengthened by a clear conception of human nature. Indeed, the doctrine of the blank slate may be doing more harm that good: it denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, it replaces hardheaded analysis of social problems with feel-good slogans, and it turns government, parenting, and the arts into clumsy social engineering.
With wit, lucidity, and startling insight, Steven Pinker explains how the new sciences of mind, brain, genes, and evolution, far from being corrosive of human values, complement observations about the human condition made by millenia of artists and philosophers. Essential reading for the new century, The Blank Slate helps define who we are for the coming age.