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The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes (English Edition) Kindle版
This book is about what may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history. Believe it or not—and I know that most people do not—violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence. The decline, to be sure, has not been smooth; it has not brought violence down to zero; and it is not guaranteed to continue. But it is an unmistakable development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars to the spanking of children.
No aspect of life is untouched by the retreat from violence. Daily existence is very different if you always have to worry about being abducted, raped, or killed, and it’s hard to develop sophisticated arts, learning, or commerce if the institutions that support them are looted and burned as quickly as they are built.
The historical trajectory of violence affects not only how life is lived but how it is understood. What could be more fundamental to our sense of meaning and purpose than a conception of whether the strivings of the human race over long stretches of time have left us better or worse off? How, in particular, are we to make sense of modernity—of the erosion of family, tribe, tradition, and religion by the forces of individualism, cosmopolitanism, reason, and science? So much depends on how we understand the legacy of this transition: whether we see our world as a nightmare of crime, terrorism, genocide, and war, or as a period that, by the standards of history, is blessed by unprecedented levels of peaceful coexistence.
The question of whether the arithmetic sign of trends in violence is positive or negative also bears on our conception of human nature. Though theories of human nature rooted in biology are often associated with fatalism about violence, and the theory that the mind is a blank slate is associated with progress, in my view it is the other way around. How are we to understand the natural state of life when our species first emerged and the processes of history began? The belief that violence has increased suggests that the world we made has contaminated us, perhaps irretrievably. The belief that it has xxi decreased suggests that we started off nasty and that the artifices of civilization have moved us in a noble direction, one in which we can hope to continue.
This is a big book, but it has to be. First I have to convince you that violence really has gone down over the course of history, knowing that the very idea invites skepticism, incredulity, and sometimes anger. Our cognitive faculties predispose us to believe that we live in violent times, especially when they are stoked by media that follow the watchword “If it bleeds, it leads.” The human mind tends to estimate the probability of an event from the ease with which it can recall examples, and scenes of carnage are more likely to be beamed into our homes and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age.1 No matter how small the percentage of violent deaths may be, in absolute numbers there will always be enough of them to fill the evening news, so people’s impressions of violence will be disconnected from the actual proportions.
Also distorting our sense of danger is our moral psychology. No one has ever recruited activists to a cause by announcing that things are getting better, and bearers of good news are often advised to keep their mouths shut lest they lull people into complacency. Also, a large swath of our intellectual culture is loath to admit that there could be anything good about civilization, modernity, and Western society. But perhaps the main cause of the illusion of ever-present violence springs from one of the forces that drove violence down in the first place. The decline of violent behavior has been paralleled by a decline in attitudes that tolerate or glorify violence, and often the attitudes are in the lead. By the standards of the mass atrocities of human history, the lethal injection of a murderer in Texas, or an occasional hate crime in which a member of an ethnic minority is intimidated by hooligans, is pretty mild stuff. But from a contemporary vantage point, we see them as signs of how low our behavior can sink, not of how high our standards have risen.
In the teeth of these preconceptions, I will have to persuade you with numbers, which I will glean from datasets and depict in graphs. In each case I’ll explain where the numbers came from and do my best to interpret the ways they fall into place. The problem I have set out to understand is the reduction in violence at many scales—in the family, in the neighborhood, between tribes and other armed factions, and among major nations and states. If the history of violence at each level of granularity had an idiosyncratic trajectory, each would belong in a separate book. But to my repeated astonishment, the global trends in almost all of them, viewed from the vantage point of the present, point downward. That calls for documenting the various trends between a single pair of covers, and seeking commonalities in when, how, and why they have occurred.
Too many kinds of violence, I hope to convince you, have moved in the same direction for it all to be a coincidence, and that calls for an explanation. It is natural to recount the history of violence as a moral saga—a heroic struggle of justice against evil—but that is not my starting point. My approach is scientific in the broad sense of seeking explanations for why things happen. We may discover that a particular advance in peacefulness was brought about by moral entrepreneurs and their movements. But we may also discover that the explanation is more prosaic, like a change in technology, governance, commerce, or knowledge. Nor can we understand the decline of violence as an unstoppable force for progress that is carrying us toward an omega point of perfect peace. It is a collection of statistical trends in the behavior of groups of humans in various epochs, and as such it calls for an explanation in terms of psychology and history: how human minds deal with changing circumstances.
A large part of the book will explore the psychology of violence and nonviolence. The theory of mind that I will invoke is the synthesis of cognitive science, affective and cognitive neuroscience, social and evolutionary psychology, and other sciences of human nature that I explored in How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and The Stuff of Thought. According to this understanding, the mind is a complex system of cognitive and emotional faculties implemented in the brain which owe their basic design to the processes of evolution. Some of these faculties incline us toward various kinds of violence. Others—“the better angels of our nature,” in Abraham Lincoln’s words—incline us toward cooperation and peace. The way to explain the decline of violence is to identify the changes in our cultural and material milieu that have given our peaceable motives the upper hand.
Finally, I need to show how our history has engaged our psychology. Everything in human affairs is connected to everything else, and that is especially true of violence. Across time and space, the more peaceable societies also tend to be richer, healthier, better educated, better governed, more respectful of their women, and more likely to engage in trade. It’s not easy to tell which of these happy traits got the virtuous circle started and which went along for the ride, and it’s tempting to resign oneself to unsatisfying circularities, such as that violence declined because the culture got less violent. Social scientists distinguish “endogenous” variables—those that are inside the system, where they may be affected by the very phenomenon they are trying to explain—from the “exogenous” ones—those that are set in motion by forces from the outside. Exogenous forces can originate in the practical realm, such as changes in technology, demographics, and the mechanisms of commerce and governance. But they can also originate in the intellectual realm, as new ideas are conceived and disseminated and take on a life of their own. The most satisfying explanation of a historical change is one that identifies an exogenous trigger. To the best that the data allow it, I will try to identify exogenous forces that have engaged our mental faculties in different ways at different times and that thereby can be said to have caused the declines in violence.
The discussions that try to do justice to these questions add up to a big book—big enough that it won’t spoil the story if I preview its major conclusions. The Better Angels of Our Nature is a tale of six trends, five inner demons, four better angels, and five historical forces.
Six Trends (chapters 2 through 7). To give some coherence to the many developments that make up our species’ retreat from violence, I group them into six major trends.
The first, which took place on the scale of millennia, was the transition from the anarchy of the hunting, gathering, and horticultural societies in which our species spent most of its evolutionary history to the first agricultural civilizations with cities and governments, beginning around five thousand years ago. With that change came a reduction in the chronic raiding and feuding that characterized life in a state of nature and a more or less fivefold decrease in rates of violent death. I call this imposition of peace the Pacification Process.
The second transition spanned more than half a millennium and is best documented in Europe. Between the late Middle Ages and the 20th century, European countries saw a tenfold-to-fiftyfold decline in their rates of homicide. In his classic book The Civilizing Process, the sociologist Norbert Elias attributed this surprising decline to the consolidation of a patchwork of feudal territories into large kingdoms with centralized authority and an infrastructure of commerce. With a nod to Elias, I call this trend the Civilizing Process.
The third transition unfolded on the scale of centuries and took off around the time of the Age of Reason and the European Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries (though it had antecedents in classical Greece and the Renaissance, and parallels elsewhere in the world). It saw the first organized movements to abolish socially sanctioned forms of violence like despotism, slavery, dueling, judicial torture, superstitious killing, sadistic punishment, and cruelty to animals, together with the first stirrings of systematic pacifism. Historians sometimes call this transition the Humanitarian Revolution.
The fourth major transition took place after the end of World War II. The two-thirds of a century since then have been witness to a historically unprecedented development: the great powers, and developed states in general, have stopped waging war on one another. Historians have called this blessed state of affairs the Long Peace.2
The fifth trend is also about armed combat but is more tenuous. Though it may be hard for news readers to believe, since the end of the Cold War in 1989, organized conflicts of all kinds—civil wars, genocides, repression by autocratic governments, and terrorist attacks—have declined throughout the world. In recognition of the tentative nature of this happy development, I will call it the New Peace.
Finally, the postwar era, symbolically inaugurated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, has seen a growing revulsion against aggression on smaller scales, including violence against ethnic minorities, women, children, homosexuals, and animals. These spin-offs from the concept of human rights—civil rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, gay rights, and animal rights—were asserted in a cascade of movements from the late 1950s to the present day which I will call the Rights Revolutions.
Five Inner Demons (chapter 8). Many people implicitly believe in the Hydraulic Theory of Violence: that humans harbor an inner drive toward aggression (a death instinct or thirst for blood), which builds up inside us and must periodically be discharged. Nothing could be further from a contemporary scientific understanding of the psychology of violence. Aggression is not a single motive, let alone a mounting urge. It is the output of several psychological systems that differ in their environmental triggers, their internal logic, their neurobiological basis, and their social distribution. Chapter 8 is devoted to explaining five of them. Predatory or instrumental violence is simply violence deployed as a practical means to an end. Dominance is the urge for authority, prestige, glory, and power, whether it takes the form of macho posturing among individuals or contests for supremacy among racial, ethnic, religious, or national groups. Revenge fuels the moralistic urge toward retribution, punishment, and justice. Sadism is pleasure taken in another’s suffering. And ideology is a shared belief system, usually involving a vision of utopia, that justifies unlimited violence in pursuit of unlimited good.
Four Better Angels (chapter 9). Humans are not innately good (just as they are not innately evil), but they come equipped with motives that can orient them away from violence and toward cooperation and altruism. Empathy (particularly in the sense of sympathetic concern) prompts us to feel the pain of others and to align their interests with our own. Self-control allows us to anticipate the consequences of acting on our impulses and to inhibit them accordingly. The moral sense sanctifies a set of norms and taboos that govern the interactions among people in a culture, sometimes in ways that decrease violence, though often (when the norms are tribal, authoritarian, or puritanical) in ways that increase it. And the faculty of reason allows us to extricate ourselves from our parochial vantage points, to reflect on the ways in which we live our lives, to deduce ways in which we could be better off, and to guide the application of the other better angels of our nature. In one section I will also examine the possibility that in recent history Homo sapiens has literally evolved to become less violent in the biologist’s technical sense of a change in our genome. But the focus of the book is on transformations that are strictly environmental: changes in historical circumstances that engage a fixed human nature in different ways.--このテキストは、kindle_edition版に関連付けられています。
Brilliant, mind-altering...Everyone should read this astonishing book -- David Runciman ― Guardian
A supremely important book. To have command of so much research, spread across so many different fields, is a masterly achievement. Pinker convincingly demonstrates that there has been a dramatic decline in violence, and he is persuasive about the causes of that decline -- Peter Singer ― New York Times
[A] sweeping new review of the history of human violence...[Pinker has] the kind of academic superbrain that can translate otherwise impenetrable statistics into a meaningful narrative of human behaviour...impeccable scholarship -- Tony Allen-Mills ― Sunday Times
Written in Pinker's distinctively entertaining and clear personal style...a marvellous synthesis of science, history and storytelling -- Clive Cookson ― Financial Times
A salutary reality-check...Better Angels is itself a great liberal landmark -- Marek Kohn ― Independent
Pinker's scholarhsip is astounding...flawless...masterful -- Joanna Bourke ― The Times
Selected by the New York Times as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2011 ― New York Times --このテキストは、paperback版に関連付けられています。
- ASIN : B005HHSYMW
- 出版社 : Penguin; 第1版 (2011/10/6)
- 発売日 : 2011/10/6
- 言語 : 英語
- ファイルサイズ : 17576 KB
- Text-to-Speech（テキスト読み上げ機能） : 有効
- X-Ray : 有効
- Word Wise : 有効
- 本の長さ : 784ページ
- Amazon 売れ筋ランキング: - 2,164,278位洋書 (の売れ筋ランキングを見る洋書)
する傾向にあると論じてます。本書はロンボルグの “The Skeptical Environmentalist” と並んで、
ひとつは、暴力減少トレンドの中に見られる逆コースを "思想的に" 説明しているところ。フランス革命
第一章 A Foreign Countryでは、歴史的な資料を参照しつつ、人類の残虐性がいかに凄まじいものであったかを詳述している。心臓の弱い人にはかなりショックが強い記述が多いので注意が必要だ。
第二章 The Pacification Processでは、社会制度や法制がいかにして人間の暴力に抑制的に発達してきたかが記されている。
第三章 The Civilizing Processにおいては、中世から現代にいたるまでに欧州で見られた殺人発生率の減少に焦点があてられている。
第四章 The Humanitarian Revolutionでは、中世の残虐な処刑法、奴隷制度、死刑制度などが扱われ、啓蒙と文明化による暴力の減少が論じられる。
第五章 The Long Peaceでは、大規模戦争が少なくともここ数十年で大幅に減少していることが記されている。
第六章 The New Peaceでは、近年になってより注目されつつある市民虐殺やテロが扱われる。
第七章 The Rights Revolutionにおいては、市民権、女性や子供の権利、同性愛者の権利、動物の権利などが心理学的な視点を交えて論じられる。
第八章 Inner Demonsでは、生物学的な知見を交えながら、略奪、支配、復讐、サディズム、そしてイデオロギーをその出自とする暴力について詳述されている。
第九章 Better Angelsでは、同情、自己コントロール、タブーなどが脳科学的な知見を踏まえつつ扱われている。
最終章 On Angel’s Wingsでは、グローバル化による商業圏の拡大、理性、文化の「女性化(feminization)」など、暴力に拮抗的な要素に言及される。
Extending the concept of violence to include the global long term consequences of replication of someone’s genes, and having a grasp of the nature of how evolution works (i.e., kin selection) will provide a very different perspective on history, current events, and how things are likely to go in the next few hundred years. One might start by noting that the decrease in physical violence over history has been matched (and made possible) by the constantly increasing merciless rape of the planet (i.e., by people's destruction of their own descendants future). Pinker (like most people most of the time) is often distracted by the superficialities of culture when it’s biology that matters. See my recent reviews of Wilson’s ‘The Social Conquest of Earth’ and Nowak and Highfield’s ‘SuperCooperators’ for a brief summary of the vacuity of altruism and the operation of kin selection and the uselessness and superficiality of describing behavior in cultural terms.
This is the classic nature/nurture issue and nature trumps nurture --infinitely. What really matters is the violence done to the earth by the relentless increase in population and resource destruction (due to medicine and technology and conflict suppression by police and military). About 200,000 more people a day (another Las Vegas every 3 days, another Los Angeles every three weeks), the 12 tons or so of topsoil going into the sea/person/year etc. mean that unless some miracle happens the biosphere and civilization will largely collapse in the next two centuries and there will be starvation, misery and violence of every kind on a staggering scale. People's manners, opinions and tendencies to commit violent acts are of no relevance unless they can do something to avoid this catastrophe, and I don't see how that is going to happen. There is no space for arguments, and no point either (yes I'm a fatalist), so I'll just make a few comments as though they were facts. Don't imagine I have a personal stake in promoting one group at the expense of others. I am 73, have no descendants and no close relatives and do not identify with any political, national or religious group and regard the ones I belong to by default as just as repulsive as all the rest.
Parents are the worst Enemies of Life on Earth and, taking the broad view of things, women are as violent as men when one considers the fact that women's violence (like most of that done by men) is largely done in slow motion, at a distance in time and space and mostly carried out by proxy -by their descendants and by men. Increasingly, women bear children regardless of whether they have a mate and the effect of stopping one woman from breeding is on average much greater than stopping one man, since they are the reproductive bottleneck. One can take the view that people and their offspring richly deserve whatever misery comes their way and (with rare exceptions) the rich and famous are the worst offenders. Meryl Streep or Bill Gates and each of their kids may destroy 50 tons of topsoil each per year for generations into the future, while an Indian farmer and his may destroy 1 ton. If someone denies it that's fine, and to their descendants I say "Welcome to Hell on Earth"(WTHOE).
The emphasis nowadays is always on Human Rights, but it is clear that if civilization is to stand a chance, Human Responsibilities must replace Human Rights. Nobody gets rights without being a responsible citizen and the first thing this means is minimal environmental destruction . The most basic responsibility is no children unless your society asks you to produce them. A society or a world that lets people breed at random will always be exploited by selfish genes until it collapses (or reaches a point where life is so horrific it's not worth living). If society continues to maintain Human Rights as primary, that's fine and to their descendants one can say with confidence "WTHOE".
"Helping" has to be seen from a global long term perspective. Almost all "help" that's given by individuals, organizations or countries harms others and the world in the long run and must only be given after very careful consideration. If you want to hand out money, food, medicine, etc., you need to ask what the long term environmental consequences are. If you want to please everyone all the time, that's fine and again to your descendants I say "WTHOE".
Dysgenics: endless trillions of creatures beginning with bacteria-like forms over 3 billion years ago have died to create us and all current life and this is called eugenics, evolution by natural selection or kin selection (inclusive fitness). We all have "bad genes" but some are worse than others. It is estimated that up to 50% of all human conceptions end in spontaneous abortion due to "bad genes". Civilization is dysgenic. This problem is currently trivial compared to overpopulation but getting worse by the day. Medicine, welfare, democracy, equality, justice, human rights and "helping" of all kinds have global long term dysgenic consequences which will collapse society even if population growth stops. Again if the world refuses to believe it or doesn't want to deal with it that's fine and to their (and everyone’s) descendants we can say "WTHOE".
Beware the utopian scenarios that suggest doomsday can be avoided by judicious application of technologies. As they say you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can't fool mother nature any of the time. I leave you with just one example. Famous scientist Raymond Kurzweil proposed nanobots as the saviors of humankind. They would make anything we needed and clean every mess. They would even make ever better versions of themselves. They would keep us as pets. But think of how many people treat their pets, and pets are overpopulating and destroying and becoming dysgenic almost as fast as humans (e.g. feral cats alone kill perhaps 100 billion wild animals a year). Pets only exist because we destroy the earth to feed them and we have spay and neuter clinics and euthanize the sick and unwanted ones. We practice rigorous population control and eugenics on them deliberately and by omission, and no form of life can evolve or exist without these two controls'not even bots. And what's to stop nanobots from evolving? Any change that facilitated reproduction would automatically be selected for and any behavior that wasted time or energy (i.e., taking care of humans) would be heavily selected against. What would stop the bots program from mutating into a homicidal form and exploiting all earth's resources causing global collapse? There is no free lunch for bots either and to them too we can confidently say "WTHOE".
This is where any thoughts about the world and human behavior must lead an educated person but Pinker says nothing about it. So the first 400 pages of this book can be skipped and the last 300 read as a nice summary of EP (evolutionary psychology) as of 2011. However, as in his other books and nearly universally in the behavioral sciences, there is no clear broad framework for intentionality as pioneered by Wittgenstein, Searle and many others. I have presented such a framework in my many reviews of works by and about these two natural psychological geniuses and will not repeat it here.
If you are a regular consumer of news media you could be forgiven for thinking, "what decline in violence?" There seems always to be a war going on somewhere, our towns and cities are crime ridden, aren't they? The answer is yes war has not been and seems unlikely to be eliminated any time soon and violent crime is a daily fact of life in many places in this world.
When you take a cold hard look at the facts rather than the news headlines the conclusion is undeniable that the world is a less violent place today than its ever been. Starting with our hunter/gatherer ancestors where life was truly nasty, brutish and short, travelling forward in time through early civilisations to our modern era of nation states and global commerce there has been a huge decline in the odds of suffering injury and untimely death at the hands of a fellow human. This decline has not been steady or constant but has wavered up at times and down at others, and from place to place, but long term, the decline is very real. Pinker stacks up the evidence in a clear and digestible form, that can seem repetitive but makes the case for the long term decline of violence irrefutable by any reasonable mind.
The big question this book attempts to answer is "what are the causes of this decline?" This is a question that it is vital for us to grasp if we are to ensure that the "long peace" may continue into the future and the world continue to get less violent. That we have come to think that war and other violence is not a smart way to behave is a triumph of reason and rational action that we may take for granted but just a few generations ago many still believed in the honour of war and the necessity of defending one's honour by violently destroying your enemies.
The conclusions that Pinker arrives at seem entirely plausible. The decline in violence seems inextricably linked with a rise in education, the sharing of information, the ability to read and be transported into the lives of others, and the sympathy this engenders. The resulting rise in enlightened reasoning overtaking received dogma as a better way to organise ourselves. Democracy for all its faults does seem a force for peace. Democracies that function passably well don't go to war with each other. The positive changes in western culture in just my own life time have been quite remarkable. The universal declaration of human rights, the civil rights movement, the rise of women's rights, gay rights, animal rights, the downfall of communism and other ideologies and despots that diminished the rights of the individual. Glance a little further back into the past and things our ancestors gave little thought to, slavery, wife beating, child beating, torture, witch burning, infanticide, now fill us with horror. It is unthinkable that we could now accept such things as a part of civilised life in the 21st century.
It is no accident that the most peaceful and safe places to live in the modern world are those places with a well educated populace governed by a functioning democracy, policed by an impartial justice system, with open access to information. Conversely the least safe places in the world lack some or all of the above.
The ideas that were yesteryears liberal radicalism, women's rights for instance, have now become so mainstream that even the most conservative have embraced the inevitable and sometimes even claim it as their own idea.
The feminisation of world is also a force for peace. Violence is by no means exclusively male but it is overwhelmingly so. Most violence is perpetrated by young men. A fact that is beginning to haunt those parts of the world that have used modern methods (and old fashioned infanticide) to preferentially select for male offspring. The resulting large groups of young adult males, without the prospect of marriage and its calming influence on male testosterone fuelled behaviour, is the cause of much criminally or ideologically driven violence. The countries where violence within the family and wider communities is rife also happen to be the countries where women's rights and their influence is weakest.
The lesson I think I have learned from reading The Better Angels Of Our Nature is that whilst the future is by no means assured to be less violent than the past, we now have a fairly clear idea of how to steer ourselves in that direction. This is to embrace science and reason, reject ideology and dogma. We need functioning democracies, we need shared commerce and resources, we need impartial justice, we need open information and free discussion. None of those things can happen unless all the people are sufficiently educated to be able not only to read, write and do arithmetic but to be capable of abstract reasoning. We have to be able to walk a mile in another man's (or woman's) shoes.
Over a century ago Charles Darwin summed it up in The Descent Of Man.
As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to men of all nations and races.
It's become such a cliché these days, to say 'this is the best book I've read...'etcetera, But for me, it really does fall true for 'Better Angels Of Our Nature'. It is the most informative and interesting non-fiction book I can remember reading. I feel like I've learned so much just from one book.
It covers not just the various acts of violence over human history, but the change in attitudes such as human rights movements, and the evolution of 'etiquette' social behaviour, table manners and such, too. As well as the possible reasons 'why'. All this from our primitive past of hunter gatherer tribes, to modern day states and super-states.
You might be expecting (considering the subject) an heavy, dry, academic tone from the author, but Pinker writes with such eloquence, he draws you in and arouses genuine interest. I didn't find the book a particularly heavy book. I'd actually read just about half of the book in one sitting, and the second half, a day later. Given the fact that this book covers so much, I do feel I'll need to read it a couple of times though to benefit from the full wealth of knowledge it offers.
I bought this book, along with a couple of other of Pinker's books, a few of weeks ago. But with the size and subject of this book, I put off reading it for a while. Thinking it was going to be heavily academic, and needed to be in the right mood for it to take my interest. I needn't have though. I've thoroughly enjoyed it, and look forward to reading more of Pinker's collection, including 'Blank Slate', which I bought along with this one.
If someone was to ask me to recommend them just one book - this would be that book. Can't recommend it enough.