Customer Reviews for

Better Angels of Our Nature, The: Why Violence Has Declined

Average Rating 4.5
( 22 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
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  • Posted February 14, 2012

    A Must Read

    This book is fantastic, if you can tolerate a sober look at perhaps the most emotional of subject matter. Be prepared for some of your prejudices to be overturned. You will go on a journey through anecdotes of cruelty and tragedy, through social and psychological studies, and even through mapping the structure of the brain. Hundreds of pages long, this book will keep you reading and reading until you arrive at a cautiously optimistic endpoint. And far from heaps of speculation, nearly every page of the book cites at least one reference to the greater literature. This book has changed my thinking.

    That said, the eBook version has some serious shortcomings. The diagrams are nearly unreadable. The index at the back is useless without page numbers. What the heck? Get yourself a paper copy of this one, if you don't need to carry it around with you.

    -jw

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2013

    e EXCELLENT

    Exhaustive. Well researched. Fascinating. Not for the faint of heart, though, as some of the descriptions of violent acts can be pretty graphic. Wothwhile read for sure.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 20, 2012

    Solid, clear, worth it.

    THE NOTION that in 2012 we live in the least violent times our species has ever known seems odd at first. The idea even makes one bridle in disbelief. Yet, that is the central idea in The Angels of Our Better Nature. Steven Pinker makes a good case—good enough that I frequently found myself examining ideas I previously held as settled fact to see if they might not be just settled prejudices. That's good writing. Any reader grows or learns only after reaching that point. Why take the trouble to look beyond what you 'know' unless something gives you reason to sense there might be more to be found. This is where Pinker shines. He is always there, the consummate guiding teacher, suggesting things to consider. This is encounter with the big picture though faithful attention to detail. He does not push, does not attempt to drag you his way with rhetoric. He neither blusters nor condescends. Instead, he guides and offers for your consideration. Then he always brings you back to your own life. You just understand it better. It is not recitation of fact and argument. It is conversation. There is a person in there. For sure, there is careful argument, with equally careful examination of counter-evidence and plausible synthesis of threads from many, many sources in science, history, math, logic and psychology—even art. He brings a reader not so much to acceptance of his point as to greater comprehension of it in the context of human life. “Draw your own conclusions.” he seems to say. His prose sparkles with clarity. This book has some passages that rely on analytical mathematics, things most of us don't deal with very often. I am interested in math but I am by no means a mathematician. I had to read some passages repeatedly, but I was rewarded. I didn't learn mathematics (well, maybe a little bit) but his presentation succeeded in giving me a clear sense of the mechanics of the phenomena described by the math. Without inflicting pain. That's a worthy achievement.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2012

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2012

    Thought provoking and fascinating read

    Dr. Pinker knows how to make history, psychology, anthropology and economics into a blended, cohesive and utterly fascinating text. This bok wil provoke countless discussions and i certainly plan to use it in my teaching as well. Truly brilliant and thoroughly researched. I give it a very strong recommendation for anyone who likes to think and learn.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2015

    Another brilliant, erudite, overwhelmingly researched, and remarkably witty work of iconoclasm by one of the greatest of a dying breed, the true natural philosopher. He could make paint drying fascinating and funny.

    I love Steven Pinker and everything he's ever written, and even when I disagree with him, he is always entertaining, enlightening and thought-provoking (all of which, btw, is certainly the case here, except for the disagreement). In a society slowly destroying itself from within, demeaning and depleting its own self-confidence, by believing, against all available evidence, that things have never been so bad and are getting worse. Huh? Such blatant, unreflective thinking (or lack thereof) badly needs the corrective and often counterintuitive ideas in this book. Thank God there are those like Pinker that refuse to accept the current scientistic/political orthodoxies, whatever they may be (read The Blank Slate for another brilliant example) and have the knowledge and wit to challenge, indeed demolish, that conventional wisdom, the common sense, which he loves to show is so often completely wrong. (I just wish he wrote more often).

    This is not just a great argument against the various alarmists forever proclaiming that the sky is falling (in this case, the commonly held presumption that we as a society are consumed by violence and war and are heading toward inevitable cataclysm), it's a wealth of fascinating information, full of surprises and somehow considering the subject, a true page turner. He, along with Terry Pratchett (and with the sadly deceased, but greatest genius of the second half of the last century, Richard Feynman) are my favorite authors, the best and wisest current (or nearly so) writers of philosophy, science and the intersection of both with cultural commentary I know, precisely, I suspect, because they don't claim to be philosophers (whose current professional incarnations, at least, seem to know as little about real philosophy, and even less about its foundation in science and history, as, for example, our artists and poets know or care for or even have any talent for art or poetry). I always feel a bit sad when I finish one of their books (and immediately can't wait for the next) both because they're so much fun, but also because I have the sense that I've gained so much from reading their each very distinctive works and wish they didn't have to end. They write with boundless imagination, wit and clarity, always managing to entertain, enlighten and provoke with their wonderful books.

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  • Posted February 28, 2015

    This book puts great math and rigor behind a really really impor

    This book puts great math and rigor behind a really really important question ... are humans becoming more or less violent over history. If we watch the news and see today's latest horror of human evil, and feel it as if it happened to someone near us we'd probably think these are the worst of times. But the history and math tell a much more optimistic story and one that's really important to understand in terms of our whole approach to the world and history. With that said, Pinker's snark regarding religion is unhelpful and rather misses the Church's role in the fruit that Pinker so thoroughly documents. (See Charles Taylor's "A Secular Age" for a much more helpful approach to a related questions). Additionally, the book is about 2/3ds longer than it needed to be. A good editor and distillation would have been quite welcome. Still, 4 stars for doing the heavy lifting on a really important question and explaining it well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2012

    Pinkfur

    She waited.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 20, 2012

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    Posted January 12, 2013

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    Posted February 25, 2013

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    Posted January 21, 2012

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    Posted February 11, 2013

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    Posted October 24, 2011

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