The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Steven Pinker

Language: English

Pages: 832

ISBN: 0143122010

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Steven Pinker

Language: English

Pages: 832

ISBN: 0143122010

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A provocative history of violence—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Stuff of Thought and The Blank Slate

Believe it or not, today we may be living in the most peaceful moment in our species' existence. In his gripping and controversial new work, New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows that despite the ceaseless news about war, crime, and terrorism, violence has actually been in decline over long stretches of history. Exploding myths about humankind's inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious book continues Pinker's exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly enlightened world.

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Schwager, the Hebrew Bible “con­ tains over six hundred passages that explicitly talk about nations, kings, or individuals attacking, destroying, and killing others. . . . Aside from the approximately one thousand verses in which Yahweh himself appears as the direct executioner of violent punishments, and the many texts in which the Lord delivers the criminal to the punisher’s sword, in over one hundred other passages Yahweh expressly gives the command to kill people.”22 Matthew White, a

expectation that they will be brought to justice than by maximizing the gruesomeness of the penalty.) Yet in the foreign country we call the past, 14 THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE crucifixion was a common punishment. It was invented by the Persians, car­ ried back to Europe by Alexander the Great, and widely used in Mediterranean empires. Jesus, who was convicted of minor rabble-rousing, was crucified along with two common thieves. The outrage that the story was meant to arouse was not that

evolutionary lineage. When we reach our own species, I will zero in on the contrast between foraging bands and tribes who live in a state of anarchy and peoples who live in settled states with some form of governance. We will also look at how foragers fight and what they fight over. This leads to the pivotal question: Is the warring of anarchic tribes more or less destructive than that of people living in settled states? The answer requires a switch from narratives to numbers: the per capita

realm, such as changes in tech­ nology, 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 explana­ tion 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

are born with original sin or that God exists in three persons or that Ali was the second-most divinely inspired man after Muhammad. When people organize their lives around these beliefs, and then learn of other people who seem to be doing just fine without them—or worse, who credibly rebut them—they are in danger of looking like fools. Since one cannot defend a belief based on faith by persuading skeptics it is true, the faithful are apt to react to unbelief with rage, and may try to eliminate

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