May 23, 2018

Critique of Pinker's Enlightenment Now

Here is an interesting critique of Steven Pinker's book Enlightenment Now by Jeremy Lent. Lent writes: "I agree with much of what Pinker has to say" but also "I believe it’s crucially important to take Pinker to task for some dangerously erroneous arguments he makes" and: "It’s precisely because of the validity of much of Pinker’s narrative that the flaws in his argument are so dangerous."

Steven Pinker’s Ideas About Progress Are Fatally Flawed. These Eight Graphs Show Why. 
It’s time to reclaim the mantle of “Progress” for progressives. By falsely tethering the concept of progress to free market economics and centrist values, Steven Pinker has tried to appropriate a great idea for which he has no rightful claim. In Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, published earlier this year, Steven Pinker argues that the human race has never had it so good as a result of values he attributes to the European Enlightenment of the 18th century. He berates those who focus on what is wrong with the world’s current condition as pessimists who only help to incite regressive reactionaries. Instead, he glorifies the dominant neoliberal, technocratic approach to solving the world’s problems as the only one that has worked in the past and will continue to lead humanity on its current triumphant path.

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February 14, 2018

Progressphobia: what is it and how can it be cured?

In the new book by Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now, I came across a new word: progressphobia. The book is a fervent plea for four central Enlightenment-ideas: reason, science, humanism, and progress. Pinker argues that the combination of these ideas means that humanity, through a greater understanding of reality, due to science, and an increasing circle of sympathy, caused by cosmopolitanism and reason, can make intellectual and moral progress. The aim of Enlightenment-thinkers was not so much to change human nature but to build institutions which would bring out the best sides of human nature. According to Pinker, these ideas need to be defended more than ever.

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