"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. Read more...
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"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 na ve 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.
- ISBN-13: 9780525427575
- ISBN-10: 0525427570
- Publisher: Viking
- Publish Date: February 2018
- Page Count: 576
- Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
How far we’ve come
Is life getting better or worse? Watching the news these days, it seems that our cities are threatened by violence, our country is more politically divided than ever, and our world is endangered by global warming. The future looks pretty bleak. But Steven Pinker, Harvard professor and bestselling author, offers a different outlook. Picking up where he left off in 2011’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, which argued that violence and discrimination have lessened over time, Enlightenment Now posits that life has improved by several measures over the last 350 years, in large part because of the Enlightenment, a global movement that originated in 18th-century Europe and centered on the idea that any problem could be meaningfully addressed through the systematic application of human effort. Pinker further presses that the insights and approaches of the Enlightenment—including reason, science and humanism—offer keys to humanity’s continued success.
Pinker first establishes the book’s philosophical premise, suggesting that a favorable assessment of humanity’s progress since the 1700s is both obvious and provocative. Thinkers and pundits on both the right and the left, Pinker writes, prefer fatalism and radicalism, and position the present moment in a doomsday narrative that belies the truth of humanity’s global well-being. Pinker measures progress as related to particular topics, such as health, wealth, sustenance, equal rights, safety, quality of life and happiness. He does not limit himself to the Western world, but instead seeks a global point of view, relying on academic works from a dizzying array of disciplines (medicine, history, sociology and psychology) to provide evidence for his claims. Because of this vigorous approach and Pinker’s articulate authorial voice, as well as the elegant graphs that accompany each chapter, this ambitious book is an entirely absorbing read. To settle in with Enlightenment Now is to receive the sense that, on the whole, life is on the upswing and, to quote from the popular musical Hamilton, we should “look around” and acknowledge “how lucky we are to be alive right now!”