Steven Pinker Quotes (40 Quotes)

    Personality and socialization aren't the same thing.

    There has to be innate circuitry that does the learning, that creates the culture, that acquires the culture, and that responds to socialization.

    It got ugly. People used this as an occasion to vent a large number of grievances.

    Art works because it appeals to certain faculties of the mind. Music depends on details of the auditory system, painting and sculpture on the visual system. Poetry and literature depend on language.

    It's also a recognition that however much people might vary, they have certain things in common by virtue of their common human nature.

    The great appeal of the doctrine that the mind is a blank slate is the simple mathematical fact that zero equals zero.

    As many political writers have pointed out, commitment to political equality is not an empirical claim that people are clones.

    If people are innately saddled with certain sins and flaws, like selfishness, prejudice, sort-sightedness, and self-deception, then political reform would seem to be a waste of time.

    My opinions about human nature are shared by many psychologists, linguists, and biologists, not to mention philosophers and scholars going back centuries.

    But a conception of human nature, and its connections to other fields such as politics and the arts, have been there from time immemorial.

    Today there are movements in the arts to reintroduce beauty and narrative and melody and other basic human pleasures. And they are considered radical extremists.

    I think that there is a quasi-religious theory of human nature that is prevalent among pundits and intellectuals, which includes both empirical assumptions about how the mind works and a set of values that people hang on those assumptions.

    The three-year-old, then, is a grammatical genius - master of most constructions, obeying rules farmore often than flouting them, respecting language universals, erring in sensible, adultlike ways, and avoiding many kinds of errors altogether.

    So no, it's not all in the genes, but what isn't in the genes isn't in the family environment either. It can't be explained in terms of the overall personalities or the child-rearing practices of parents.

    Why do people believe that there are dangerous implications of the idea that the mind is a product of the brain, that the brain is organized in part by the genome, and that the genome was shaped by natural selection?

    Evolutionary psychology is taking that mindset and applying it to more emotionally charged aspects of behavior, such as sexuality, violence, beauty, and family feelings.

    It's the old idea that the process of evolution is some push in the direction of greater complexity--in particular greater intellectual complexity. In one twig of the tree of life, namely ours, having a big brain happened to have advantages. But that's just what worked for a particular species of primate 5 to 7 million years ago.

    There's no reason that we should give up that lever on people's behavior - namely, the inhibition systems of the brain - just because we're coming to understand more about the temptation systems.

    But in most cases even the possibility that the correlations reflect shared genes is taboo.

    Parents provide their children with genes as well as an environment, so the fact that talkative parents have kids with good language skills could simply mean that and that the same genes that make parents talkative make children articulate.

    Intellectual life was enormously affected by an understandable revulsion to Nazism, with its pseudoscientific theories of race, and its equally nonsensical glorification of conflict as part of the evolutionary wisdom of nature.

    We may be seeing a coming together of the humanities and the science of human nature.

    Political equality consists of recognizing, as the Constitution says, that people have certain inalienable rights, namely life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Recognizing those rights is not the same thing as believing that people are indistinguishable in every respect.

    Even if he does occasionally hurt people's feelings -- he occasionally hurts my feelings -- but I'm a big boy. I can get over it. I can argue back. We really need somebody to question the way a university is run.

    During the past century the doctrine of the blank slate has set the agenda for much of the social sciences and humanities, ... ... Psychology has sought to explain all thought, feeling, and behavior with a few simple mechanisms of learning.

    Most intellectuals today have a phobia of any explanation of the mind that invokes genetics.

    For example, parents who talk a lot to their children have kids with better language skills, parents who spank have children who grow up to be violent, parents who are neither too authoritarian or too lenient have children who are well-adjusted, and so on.

    The connections I draw between human nature and political systems in my new book, for example, were prefigured in the debates during the Enlightenment and during the framing of the American Constitution.

    But the newest research is showing that many properties of the brain are genetically organized, and don't depend on information coming in from the senses.

    To make changes you have to make some enemies, but you also have to be careful not too make too many enemies. He made far too many enemies.

    One of them is a simple logical point that no matter how important learning and culture and socialization are, they don't happen by magic.

    People today sometimes get uncomfortable with empirical claims that seem to clash with their political assumptions, often because they haven't given much thought to the connections.

    By exploring the political and moral colorings of discoveries about what makes us tick, we can have a more honest science and a less fearful intellectual milieu.

    Why are empirical questions about how the mind works so weighted down with political and moral and emotional baggage?

    Evolutionary psychology is one of four sciences that are bringing human nature back into the picture.

    Many artists and scholars have pointed out that ultimately art depends on human nature.

    I don't consider myself to be that radical a thinker.

    I think this confusion leads intellectuals and artists themselves to believe that the elite arts and humanities are a kind of higher, exalted form of human endeavor.

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