As part of our series about violence we made a critical review of Steven Pinker’s book – The Better Angels of Our Nature. For the previous post please click here.
Pinker argues that violence is biologically intrinsic, evolutionarily logical and historically habitual, so what according to him made it decline?
Pinker has a few explanations along the book. The first one is the old thesis of the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who also recognized that humans are naturally violent. Therefore the only way to avoid the natural state, which is according to Hobbes war of all against all, is by establishing an absolute sovereignty political figure he called the Leviathan. Continue reading
As opposed to the former thinkers in this series about violence, the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker doesn’t think humans are naturally peaceful and non-violent. Along his extensive book about violence The Better Angels of Our Nature he thoroughly specifies how violent humans are and how violent humans can be. With numerous statistical evidences, examples and explanations, from the murder rates of non-state societies, through ancient wars, to the earliest known writings which are still canonical cultural elements such as Greek mythology and the Bible (substantially fictional as they are, both probably reflect human life and the values of that era, at least to some extent), corporal punishments, heretics torture, modern wars and up to psycho-evolutionist analysis of violence and brain parts and function specification, Pinker doesn’t really leave room for doubt that humans are naturally violent.
However, another difference between him and the former mentioned thinkers, is that he persistently argues that despite humans’ natural tendency to violence, despite its abundance through history and despite public image (Pinker blames the modern media for that false perception) violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era of our species’ existence.