Violence in the Modern World

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

From the Publisher: We’ve all had the experience of reading about a bloody war or shocking crime and asking, “What is the world coming to?” But we seldom ask, “How bad was the world in the past?” In this startling new book, the bestselling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse....

Reviewed by Peter Singer.

This is an important book.


  1. I'll read this asap. 'The Blank Slate', where I believe Pinker started this argument, I found surprisingly nuanced and engaging. And while I've yet to read this latest installment, my experience of analyzing Pinker's arguments in-depth left me with a definite cautionary attitude to his logic on this issue. Please see 'War & the Noble Savage' if you're interested! Maybe when I read 'Better Angels' I'll write a brief summary of my ideas, updated to respond to this. It'll be interesting to see if he's plugged any holes in his thinking.

    But if he's still saying, "Now is less violent than any other time in human history", I'm afraid he's probably still propagandizing for the status quo. Because for the opening 94% of our story, there isn't enough evidence to be conclusive about the matter. And the evidence we do have seems to give good (if not conclusive) support to the idea that "primitive" humans lived in a less violent climate than we do. Things certainly got a lot worse after we started settling down and farming; and we've certainly improved since then. But that's a more complex picture than Pinker's painting.


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