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The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004, edited by Steven Pinker, is another "provocative and thoroughly enjoyable [collection] from start to finish" (Publishers Weekly). Here is the best and newest on science and nature.
Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year. The author of The New York Times bestseller The Stuff of Thought offers a controversial history of violence. Faced with the ceaseless stream of news about war, crime, and terrorism, one could easily think we live in the most violent age ever seen. Yet as New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows in this startling and engaging new work, just the opposite is true: violence has been diminishing for millennia and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species's existence. For most of history, war, slavery, infanticide, child abuse, assassinations, pogroms, gruesome punishments, deadly quarrels, and genocide were ordinary features of life. But today, Pinker shows (with the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps) all these forms of violence have dwindled and are widely condemned. How has this happened? This groundbreaking book continues Pinker's exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly nonviolent world. The key, he explains, is to understand our intrinsic motives-- the inner demons that incline us toward violence and the better angels that steer us away--and how changing circumstances have allowed our better angels to prevail. Exploding fatalist myths about humankind's inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious and provocative book is sure to be hotly debated in living rooms and the Pentagon alike, and will challenge and change the way we think about our society.
The Blank Slate shows how many intellectuals have denied the existence of human nature by embracing three linked dogmas: the Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine. Each dogma carries a moral burden, so their defenders have engaged in desperate tactics to discredit the scientists who are now challenging them.
In this classic, the world's expert on language and mind lucidly explains everything you always wanted to know about language: how it works, how children learn it, how it changes, how the brain computes it, and how it evolved. With deft use of examples of humor and wordplay, Steven Pinker weaves our vast knowledge of language into a compelling story: language is a human instinct, wired into our brains by evolution. The Language Instinct received the William James Book Prize from the American Psychological Association and the Public Interest Award from the Linguistics Society of America. This edition includes an update on advances in the science of language since The Language Instinct was first published.
Before Steven Pinker wrote bestsellers on language and human nature, he wrote severaltechnical monographs on language acquisition that have become classics in cognitive science. Learnability and Cognition, first published in 1989, brought together two bigtopics: how do children learn their mother tongue, and how does the mind represent basic categoriesof meaning such as space, time, causality, agency, and goals? The stage for this synthesis was setby the fact that when children learn a language, they come to make surprisingly subtle distinctions:pour water into the glass and fill the glass with water soundnatural, but pour the glass with water and fill water into theglass sound odd. How can this happen, given that children are not reliably corrected foruttering odd sentences, and they don't just parrot back the correct ones they hear from theirparents? Pinker resolves this paradox with a theory of how children acquire the meaning and uses ofverbs, and explores that theory's implications for language, thought, and the relationship betweenthem. As Pinker writes in a new preface, "The Secret Life of Verbs," thephenomena and ideas he explored in this book inspired his 2007 bestseller The Stuff ofThought: Language as a Window into Human Nature. These technical discussions, he notes,provide insight not just into language acquisition but into literary metaphor, scientificunderstanding, political discourse, and even the conceptions of sexuality that go intoobscenity.
The author explains how the mind works by examining the way we use words. Pinker takes on scientific questions - such as how language affects thought, and which of our concepts are innate - as well as questions from the headlines and everyday life.
Pinker (psychology, MIT) explains the mysteries of language, such as why languages change over time and how children learn their native language, by dissecting the idea that language comprises a mental dictionary of memorized words and a mental grammar of creative rules. Pinker connects a remarkable number of topics such as the attempts to simulate language using computers; the nature of human concepts; the peculiarities of the English language; and the theories of Noam Chomsky, through a minute dissection of the phenomenon of regular and irregular verbs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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