Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

The Enlightenment (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/enlightenment/) has been battered, abused, misrepresented and accused of leading to all sorts of horrors like the worst excesses of the French Revolution and Nazism. The vilification has been going on since its earliest appearance in Europe in the 1600s. This is mostly because it had deeply unsettling implications for established world views, and those in power who espoused them. Today, the detractors of Enlightenment are still fools and hypocrites. They are quite happy to switch the kettle on in the morning, fly in aircraft, and trot along to their local hospital when ill. In other words, they pay silent tribute to the power, success and truth of experimental science every day of their lives. The historical foundations of that science are found in The Enlightenment.

Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Pinker) defends progressive ideals against contemporary critics of The Enlightenment. He explains the enormous benefits that Enlightenment thinking has brought to humankind. Science, reason, and humanism are explored through the lenses of evolutionary biology, physics, sociology, anthropology, and history.

Pinker exposes the fallacies that critics of progressive ideals employ. He astutely captures the deceptive techniques of the naysayers whose opinions influence the wider public. The author then goes on to explore how political discourse exploits cognitive biases, leading to polarization and partisanship. He carefully sets out the case for humanism against its main rivals, theism and nationalism. In an era of increasingly dystopian rhetoric, Pinker’s sober, lucid, and meticulously researched vision of human progress is to be greatly welcomed.

Read this alongside Anthony Pagden’s The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters  (2013)(https://www.amazon.co.uk/Enlightenment-Why-Still-Matters/dp/0198700881/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1518344160&sr=8-1)

Also, for an account of our own proud contribution in Scotland read Arthur Herman’s The Scottish Enlightenment: the Scots’ Invention of the Modern World (2002)(https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scottish-Enlightenment-Scots-Invention-Modern/dp/1841152765/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1518344434&sr=1-1&keywords=scottish+enlightenment)

Check if these excellent thought provoking books are in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at https://www.sllclibrary.co.uk/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/OPAC/BSEARCH

576 pages in Random House

First published 2018

ISBN 978-0525427575

Image result for steven pinker

Professor Steven Pinker

Scroll to Top