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Pinker, S: Enlightenment Now (英語) ペーパーバック – 2018/2/13
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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018
ONE OF THE ECONOMIST'S BOOKS OF THE YEAR
"My new favorite book of all time." --Bill Gates
If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science.
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.
Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature--tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking--which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation.
With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.
One of The Guardian’s “Books to Buy in 2018”
“An excellent book, lucidly written, timely, rich in data and eloquent in its championing of a rational humanism that is — it turns out — really quite cool.”—New York Times Book Review
"The world is getting better, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. I’m glad we have brilliant thinkers like Steven Pinker to help us see the big picture. Enlightenment Now is not only the best book Pinker’s ever written. It’s my new favorite book of all time.”—Bill Gates
“A terrific book…[Pinker] recounts the progress across a broad array of metrics, from health to wars, the environment to happiness, equal rights to quality of life.”—Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
"Steven Pinker’s mind bristles with pure, crystalline intelligence, deep knowledge and human sympathy."—Richard Dawkins
“Pinker is a paragon of exactly the kind of intellectual honesty and courage we need to restore conversation and community.”—David Brooks, The New York Times
“[Enlightenment Now] is magnificent, uplifting and makes you want to rush to your laptop and close your Twitter account.”—The Economist
“If 2017 was a rough year for you, look no further than Steven Pinker’s engaging new book, Enlightenment Now, to cheer you up. Conceived before Donald Trump even announced his candidacy, it could not have been better timed to clarify — and, for some, refute — the habits of mind that brought Trump and the GOP to power.”—The Washington Post
“Vindication has arrived in the form of Steven Pinker’s latest book. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress is remarkable, heart-warming, and long overdue."—Christian Science Monitor
“Pinker is a paragon of exactly the kind of intellectual honesty and courage we need to restore conversation and community, and the students are right to revere him.” —The Seattle Times
“[A] magisterial new book…Enlightenment Now is the most uplifting work of science I’ve ever read.”—Science Magazine
“A passionate and persuasive defense of reason and science…[and] an urgently needed reminder that progress is, to no small extent, a result of values that have served us - and can serve us - extraordinarily well.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A meticulous defense of science and objective analysis, [and] a rebuttal to the tribalism, knee-jerk partisanship and disinformation that taints our politics.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Brimming with surprising data and entertaining anecdotes.”—Financial Times
“[Pinker] makes a powerful case that the main line of history has been, since the Enlightenment, one of improvement.”—Scientific American
“Let’s stop once in a while to enjoy the view—I’m glad Pinker is pushing for this in a world that does it too rarely… It’s hard not to be convinced.”—Quartz
“Enlightenment Now is formidable.”—Financial Times
“As a demonstration of the value of reason, knowledge, and curiosity, Enlightenment Now can hardly be bettered.”—The Boston Globe
“With a wealth of knowledge, graphs and statistics, a strong grasp of history, and an engaging style of writing…Enlightenment Now provides a convincing case for gratitude.”—Pittsburgh Post Gazette
“A forceful defense of the democratic, humanist institutions that [Pinker] says brought about these changes, and a declaration that reason, science and humanism can solve the problems to come.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A masterly defense of the values of modernity against ‘progressophobes’.”—Times Higher Education
“Enlightenment Now strikes a powerful blow against the contemporary mystifications being peddled by tribalists on both the left and the right.”—Reason
“Pinker presents graphs and data which deserve to be reckoned with by fair-minded people. His conclusion is provocative, as anything by Pinker is likely to be.” —Colorado Springs Gazette
“Elegantly [argues] that in various ways humanity has every reason to be optimistic over life in the twenty-first century…. A defense of progress that will provoke deep thinking and thoughtful discourse among his many fans.”—Booklist
“Pinker defends progressive ideals against contemporary critics, pundits, cantankerous philosophers, and populist politicians to demonstrate how far humanity has come since the Enlightenment…In an era of increasingly “dystopian rhetoric,” Pinker’s sober, lucid, and meticulously researched vision of human progress is heartening and important.”—Publishers Weekly
“[An] impeccably written text full of interesting tidbits from neuroscience and other disciplines…The author examines the many ways in which Enlightenment ideals have given us lives that our forebears would envy even if gloominess and pessimism are the order of the day.” —Kirkus Review
Praise for The Better Angels of Our Nature:
“If I could give each of you a graduation present, it would be this—the most inspiring book I've ever read."—Bill Gates (May, 2017)
But if you have read Homo Deus (by Yuval Noah Harari), the book is almost redundant. Most of the book’s messages are the same as those of Homo Deus’, sans the Hararian dystopian spin. Pinker gives and ends with a positive spin.
The main body can be summarized in 10 words: “societies have become healthier, wealthier, freer, happier, and better educated.” (p.324) If you already knew them to be so, you may as well skip Chapters 5-19 (pp.53-321).
The book is worth a good, deep dive, nonetheless. Some critical distinctions and useful tools you come away are:
1. “Entro, Evo, Info” (p.15)
These are three keystone ideas which enable you to efficiently elucidate the human condition and the nature of progress. Entro means entropy; Evo is evolution; Info is information. We are in an entropy-governed universe, but on our solar-powered earth, the open system gives rise to living organisms and sets forth the process of evolution. Living organisms must acquire information and process it in order to survive (to discern food from poison, for example). Humans, more than any other species on earth, harness an inordinately large amount of information, which is the secret behind all the enormous gains we continue to make.
2. Cognitive biases
The book is replete with examples of cognitive biases which distort our perceptions. p.26 gives a torrent of such biases: “People think that words and thoughts can impinge on the physical world in prayers and curses. They underestimate the prevalence of coincidence. They generalize from paltry samples, namely their own experience. They infer causation from correlation. People demonize those they disagree with, attributing differences of opinion to stupidity and dishonesty. People see violence as moral, not immoral: across the world and throughout history, more people have been murdered to mete out justice than satisfy greed.”
3. “Ideas matter.” (p.349)
Nietzsche influenced Hitler, Mussolini, Stalinism. The list reads like the worst murderous dictators of recent history. It was only ideas that Nietzsche and other Second Culture intellectuals were spewing. But they proved so deadly, so insidious. The right ideas (such as reason, science, humanism) cannot simply be laid to rest as ‘unexceptionable’, but they need defense against too-prevalent thought garbage such as ‘religious faith’, ‘nationalism’, ‘diclinism’, ‘the Second Culture’, ‘relativism’, ‘populism’.
An aside #1. I have an issue with Pinker’s prescription for decarbonization to prevent climate change. He endorses use of nuclear power. (pp.146-9) He brushes off the threat of nuclear power failure by saying “engineers (have been) reducing the risks of accidents and contamination far below those of fossil fuels.” (p.148) I strongly disagree with the position. One nuclear power failure could equate thousands of fossil fuel accidents, in the same manner one nuclear weapon dropping could equate thousands of conventional weapon use.
An aside #2. Pinker grapples with ‘a catchy name’ which encapsulates the notions of reason, science and humanistic objectives, listing rather hideous sounding names such as ‘protopia’, ‘pessimistic hopefulness’, ‘opti-realism’, ‘radical incrementalism’, ‘a very serious possibilist’. (p.345) I think something like ‘a sober probabilist’ is better.
In zahlreichen Graphen über Langlebigkeit, Gesundheit, Alphabetisierung, Sicherheit und Glück zeigt Pinker, wie sich die Lebensqualität der meisten Menschen in den letzten 200 Jahren verbessert hat. Der Schlüssel dieser positiven Veränderungen stellt eine Kombination aus der Wissenschaft mit einem humanistischen Weltbild dar.
Nicht ein göttliches Wesen sondern die Menschen selbst haben ihr Schicksal und ihr Leben in der Hand und können die Gesellschaft zum Positiven verändern. Diese positive Grundeinstellung brauchen wir, um auch die großen Probleme des 21. Jahrhunderts angehen zu können.
Hay que recordar que Newton fue un profundo religioso.
This book give us a state of our world and fantastic futur features to demonstrate that it was a lot worse before and it will be a lot better tomorrow, a complement to Hans Rosling's book "Factfullness". Excellent!