Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress” as Want to Read:
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  10,672 ratings  ·  1,493 reviews
The follow-up to Pinker's groundbreaking The Better Angels of Our Nature presents the big picture of human progress: 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 eleg
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published February 13th 2018 by Viking
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Enlightenment Now, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.24  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,672 ratings  ·  1,493 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Bill Gates
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For years, I’ve been saying Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature was the best book I’d read in a decade. If I could recommend just one book for anyone to pick up, that was it. Pinker uses meticulous research to argue that we are living in the most peaceful time in human history. I’d never seen such a clear explanation of progress.

I’m going to stop talking up Better Angels so much, because Pinker has managed to top himself. His new book, Enlightenment Now, is even better.

David Wineberg
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it
You’ve never had it so good, and Steven Pinker has the stats and charts (over 70!) to prove it. Wars are fewer and less severe, homicides are down, racism is in decline, terrorism is a fading fad, democracy rules, communicable diseases and poverty are on their way out. Life expectancy is up, and police are killing fewer people, both black and white. Even the poor have refrigerators. Inequality is a requisite sign of success. So appreciate the wonderful state of affairs you find yourself in. This ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Feb 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
When this book was not boring me it was irritating me.

All of the author’s anecdotes I had read elsewhere. Science is good. I don’t need convincing. Vaccines work. Poverty is bad and is getting better throughout the world. Everyone who wants to know this stuff already knows it.

Why equate Al Gore with Theodore Kaczynski (The Unabomber) as the author seems to do regarding the environment? Is Fox News really right when they said the poor can’t be poor because they have cell phones and air condition
Mar 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-to-read
Why I won't be reading this:
Emily May
Jun 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2018
Steven Pinker makes a strong argument for enlightenment principles and, essentially, not giving up on the world because Donald Trump is president. We are not, contrary to popular belief, going backwards, and have in fact made astounding progress in all measurable areas, such as wealth, health, safety, education and equality.

Faced with the numbers, it's hard to disagree, though I went into this fairly convinced already. We do not, by any measure, live in a great world, but we do live in a better
A few months ago, I heard Steven Pinker give a talk about this book. I must say that his speaking skill did not impress me. However, his writing skill is brilliant. This is a very important book--epic in scope, comprehensive, well thought-out and structured, incredibly well researched, and full of some very important messages.

The book begins with a student's question "Why should I live?" To which Pinker answers with a profound interpretation of the "meaning of life". I won't repeat his complete
Atila Iamarino
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tudo o que esperava e um pouco mais. O livro é uma continuação do Os Anjos Bons da Nossa Natureza: Por Que a Violência Diminuiu, onde o Pinker escreve porque a humanidade está progredindo em quase todos os sentidos, apesar de termos a impressão do contrário.

Para alguém como eu, que não tem a menor bagagem filosófica, esta obra foi excelente. Pinker explica muito bem o que foi o Iluminismo (na interpretação dele) e porque o humanismo foi tão importante para mudarmos conceitos éticos, políticos e
Ross Blocher
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read Enlightenment Now. It seems odd to require a defense of reason, science, humanism and progress, but we suffer if we do not understand how far humanity has come by application of these principles. Steven Pinker has done us the favor of chronicling that progress, with data, in a compellingly written volume that challenges common assumptions. The news cycle and many prominent intellectuals would have us think that the world is becoming a darker, scarier place; yet the opposite ...more
Jillian Doherty
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ever since Bill Gates tweeted his endorsement for Pinker's Better Angels, fans have rushed to support his writing of big ideas by big thinkers!

Enlightenment Now illustrates Pinker's practical yet tangible style, but is freshly positive as well. His explosive understanding toward social science and political empathy will appeal to all big thinkers and affirmative readers alike.
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it
As with Steven Pinker’s earlier "The Better Angels of Our Nature," of which this is really an expansion and elucidation, I was frustrated by this book. On the one hand, Pinker is an able thinker and clear writer, free of much of the ideological cant and distortions of vision that today accompany most writing about society (for society is what this book is about), and he is mostly not afraid to follow his reasoning to its conclusions. His data on human progress is voluminous, persuasive, and extr ...more
Alex MacMillan
In his newest book, (Neoliberalism) Now: The Case for (Positivism), Scien(tism), (Atheism), and (Globalization), Steven Pinker seeks to cash in on the Trump election by rushing out what is mostly a rehash of material from his previous book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. His method of reasoning and tone of argument seeks to preach to the choir rather than persuade the unaffiliated. Unlike his classic works, The Blank Slate and The Sense of Style, this book will not be something we return to de ...more
This book is a sequel to Steven Pinker's other book "The Better Angels of our nature". The "The Better Angels of our nature" is a detailed comparison of violence in history. And how it reduced. The reasons for reduction and existence of these violences was covered.
But "Enlightenment now" Covers other topics such as health, wealth, knowledge and many more.
These two books have changed my mind about many of my core beliefs such as anarchism, nuclear energy, and endless other topics.

I sincerely regret ever thinking anything positive about this man. I already had that figured out when I read my second book by him long ago, but if you'd like a careful appraisal of this latest one try this:
Otis Chandler
An eye-opening book. I picked this up because I saw the authors TED talk, and then Bill Gates called it the best book he's read in a decade (his review is worth reading)

The book starts with a premise that many people generally have an impression that the world is full of of serious crises.

"Magazine covers warn us of coming anarchies, plagues, epidemics, collapses, and so many “crises” (farm, health, retirement, welfare, energy, deficit) that copywriters have had to escalate to the redundant “se
Sep 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
A paean to the status quo that can be summarized in four words: ‘don’t worry, be happy’. (Actually five words, as one is contracted). This book will no doubt earn the author a lanyard to every corporate boardroom and conservative think tank in the country.

His thesis is that Enlightenment principles must be defended – but not against mindless consumerism, not against the growing disparities of wealth, not against the disruption of earth systems. No, the Enlightenment must be defended against The
Morgan Blackledge
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you had to chose a time to be alive, and (here’s the catch) you couldn’t pick what race, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or nationality you were. You’d be flat wrong if you chose any other time than right fuckin’ now!


Steven Pinker would like to convince you otherwise.

According to Pinker. Humans (on average) have never had it so good. And he’s got 500(+) pages and 75(+) graphs and charts that illustrate exactly that.

And quite convincingly so.

My favorite part is.

Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Pinker’s latest is getting a lot of press, of course.

Here are a few links:

His own synopsis at the Wall Street Journal: The Enlightenment Is Working (paywall; try Googling wsj The Enlightenment Is Working and clicking through from Google, maybe into “private browsing mode”. Works sometimes.)

Ezra Klein of Vox is a pretty good interviewer, and he hooked up with Pinker at his podcast. I really liked that they both name-dropped Dan Kahan's work at his Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Enlightening indeed! Very uplifting reading, especially for pessimists like me. He clearly points out the effect of distorted/exaggerated news, the negative bias of people, dirty politics and the lack of reason behind all the sky-is -falling attitude that seems to dominate communities.

I have learned so many good facts from this book that helped me view things differently such as the global Cosmopolitanism, 8x increase in number of countries ruled by democracy within the last 50 years, the increa
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
review to come
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As in The Better Angels of our Nature, Steven Pinker shows us why we have to look beyond the news cycle and our own biases to examine the forces that have continuously improved conditions for the bulk of humanity. And Pinker provides the data to back his arguments up. There's no doubt that Pinker will be accused of being a Pollyanna, but he acknowledges that mankind has hard work ahead - including dealing with global climate change. His argument is simply that if we stand a chance at confronting ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
I really enjoy Pinker's books. I think I have read all of them. I enjoyed this one as well despite some of my political differences with Pinker. I laud his hailing of the enlightenment. I am with him this maligned movement should get more respect than it does. I am a big believer in modernity. I agree science and reason even when done by flawed bipeds like ourselves is the best guide in our mental toolbox. Pinker recognizes that our modern politics is tribal and this clouds our judgment turning ...more
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
In Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Steven Pinker spends 550+ pages attempting to disavow you of any notion of "the good ol' days".

And he IS pretty convincing. He's got stats and graphs and lots of evidence to bolster his case that we live in amazing times - that progress and Enlightenment-era ideals have lead to better conditions in almost every measurable sphere. And he's right. He spends some ink and time on why we feel the opposite so often - the world
Jonathan Yu
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I see a lot of hostile commentary on this book. My opinion is that they didn’t read it as they hash the same issues that the author addresses.

This book is flawed. It’s sorta long and it lags at the end but I still say it’s 5 stars because of the mindset it instills in you. They want you to sit down and solve problems - not wait for things on faith and not always be wanting to tear the structure down. The structure is working and the doomsday doomers (which I find myself gravitating too at times
Ryan Boissonneault
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Francis Bacon once said that “some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” This is one of the few.

The main thesis of the book is that the enlightenment values of reason, science, and humanism have led to scientific and moral progress and that the embrace of these values will continue the trend. This, as opposed to counter-enlightenment values (religious faith, nationalism, tribalism, relativism, declinism), is the recipe for the maximizati
Edward Sudall
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
There are more slaves than there ever has been therefore the world is worse than it ever has been. That is my parodic example of oversimple and overgeneral Pinker-logic.

Wasn't it Albert Einstein that once said "not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

Actually, it was the Sociologist William Bruce Cameron. (But Einstein's celebrity authority, is like Pinker's: if he says it, it becomes more believed). The full quote is:
"It would be nice if all of
Намагаючись зібрати у жменю решту свого оптимізму щодо людства напередодні виборів, прослухала книжку гарвардського професора філософії Стівена Пінкера про те, що занепадницькі чутки щодо траєкторії людства сильно перебільшені. Основна теза книжки така: нам усім здається, що по цілому світу відбувається регрес (екологічний, політичний, у ситуації з правами людини і т.д.), але насправді це феномен Optimism Gap у дії (є такий феномен: більшість респондентів вважає, що становище в суспільстві погір ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Prof. Pinker points out early in this book that people have a tendency to marshal evidence that confirms their convictions whilst dismissing evidence that contradicts them. I’m as guilty of that as most people, and on the evidence of this book, my own convictions are similar to the author’s. Prof. Pinker’s book largely provides me with reinforcement for my pre-existing opinions and on that basis it’s not surprising I rate it highly.

A large part of the book is taken up with the author arguing th
Laura Noggle
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, nonfiction, history
This was an encouraging, uplifting look at many of the successes and bright spots that often get overlooked.

However, it's clear things need to be taken with a large grain of salt. I admit, my initial five star rating was more out of the hopefulness associated with the book. Hopefulness that the world isn't really going to hell in a handbasket, and hopeful that the mass generalizations and questionable analysis of facts/statistics had a firm foundation.

After reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb's mult
Michael Siliski
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended for anyone interested in a wake-up call about the progress made over the past few centuries.

Enlightenment Now makes the case that the ideals of reason, science, and humanism have driven the greatest advances in the history of human civilization over the past few centuries. The book is divided into three parts: the history of the enlightenment, the progress we’ve made, and the enlightenment ideals that must be defended going forward. However, the meat of the book, and Pinker’s passion
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic
I usually wait a while to write a review of a book in order to digest all the important aspects of the work and this is certainly true in this case as well.
Being somewhat of a libertarian with conservative leanings I found this book to be both illuminating as well as challenging. This book is Pinkers best attempt to defend the enlightenment; that is to say humanism, science and reason. He goes through many aspects quantitatively to prove his point - health, inequality, evironment, peace, safety
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds
  • Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia
  • Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible
  • Energy: A Human History
  • Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist
  • Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies
  • Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals
  • Cosmosapiens: Human Evolution from the Origin of the Universe
  • Beyond Weird
  • Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History
  • The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis
  • The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason and the Laws of Nature
  • Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations
  • The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World
  • Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World
  • War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots
  • Pluto's Republic: Incorporating The Art of the Soluble and Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (Oxford Paperbacks)
  • Toward the Light of Liberty: The Struggles for Freedom and Rights That Made the Modern Western World
See similar books…
Steven Arthur Pinker is a prominent Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and author of popular science. Pinker is known for his wide-ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and The New Republic, and is the author of numerou ...more
“One student asks: Why should I live?

Steven Pinker answers: In the very act of asking that question, you are seeking reasons for your convictions, and so you are committed to reason as the means to discover and justify what is important to you. And there are so many reasons to live! As a sentient being, you have the potential to flourish. You can refine your faculty of reason itself by learning and debating. You can seek explanations of the natural world through science, and insight into the human condition through the arts and humanities. You can make the most of your capacity for pleasure and satisfaction, which allowed your ancestors to thrive and thereby allowed you to exist. You can appreciate the beauty and richness of the natural and cultural world. As the heir to billions of years of life perpetuating itself, you can perpetuate life in turn. You have been endowed with a sense of sympathy—the ability to like, love, respect, help, and show kindness—and you can enjoy the gift of mutual benevolence with friends, family, and colleagues. And because reason tells you that none of this is particular to you, you have the responsibility to provide to others what you expect for yourself. You can foster the welfare of other sentient beings by enhancing life, health, knowledge, freedom, abundance, safety, beauty, and peace. History shows that when we sympathize with others and apply our ingenuity to improving the human condition, we can make progress in doing so, and you can help to continue that progress.”
“As we care about more of humanity, we’re apt to mistake the harms around us for signs of how low the world has sunk rather than how high our standards have risen.” 17 likes
More quotes…