The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature
Now, in Th ...more
It is also nice to hear someone talking about Kant and not talking about ‘the unknowability of the thing in itself’ – often the only bit of Kant anyone knows. One of the things Kant sought to do i ...more
It has ...more
Drawing from Immanuel Kant, who first proposed the concept of a priori cognitive frameworks of time and space (so-called "pure intuitions") in his Critique of Pure Reason, Pinker argues that the human brain comes equipped with an innate understanding of certain fundamental ...more
I was bogged down my the technical aspects of verbs and grammar towards the beginning of the book but the second half really hit its stride as Pinker explains metaphors, the need for taboos, expletives and indirect language.
A worthwile read for those wishing to learn more about humanity and the illogical quirks that make us interesting.
Most importantly, the purpose of education is revealed. Not to conv ...more
He is so good at what he does (explaining how come and how) that it becomes beside the point to disagree. In pointing the reader to the trap door of language theory and even holding it open, he is the perfect tour guide.Following along his inexorable logic,the reader can easily forget this, forget even his or her own position and the fact that,although the guide is especially friendly and attentive,that's a ...more
The first four chapters were, from my perspective, painful, drawn out descriptions of linguistics material more appropriate for a Linguistics 101 textbook than a popular book. Although sometimes these culminated in quite interesting points, Pinker often took dozens of pages to say what he could in just a few. The early chapters, in fact ...more
The question is, whether this ‘window’ is interesting.
Let’s look at an example. You can “load hay onto the wagon” and you can “load the wagon w ...more
I very much enjoyed The Language Instinct and quite enjoyed How the Mind Works.
I read Words and Rules when living in Thailand and learning Thai. I had real problems mapping what he had to say from English to Thai. What he had to say about English and its implication for how the Mind/Language engine work simply did not seem to be true.
The Stuff of Thought seems much more solid though and I am finding it quite fascinating.
There, now that I have completely sounded like an arrogant elitist intellectual, I can talk about my other impressions about this book.
That's really the only thing I can say. Pinker thinks about verbs more deeply than I've ever thought about anything. I like abstract ...more
1) I found 8 typos and this made me more gleeful than I have any right to be
2) I enjoyed the entire book, but the chapters towards the end on names and profanity are much more accessible to someone who only has a passing interest in linguistics than the rest of the book. that being said, it's very possible that Pinker will make your interest grow (I could say something about nature vs. nurture here to ...more
Also explained some of Kant's basic ideas from the Critique of Pure Reason without a single mention of transcendental idealism.
Intellectually, the book is a good complement to Pinker's earlier 'How the Mind Works', continuing in the framework of the computational theory of ...more
A word to the wary: the seventh chapter holds more obscenities within its fifty pages than Hemingway's entire corpus contains. One might find the words shocking even by Tumblr standards. The profanity isn't gratuitous, of course: the chapter's focus is expletives and dysphemisms, the psychology behind them, how our brains process them, why they are used, and why their grammar differs from that of u ...more
The root of my problem with this book is that the claims and synopsis printed on the cover seem to bear little relation to the actual material contained within. We are led to believe that this is a book solidly within the "popular science" category and that it will deal primarily with the co ...more
Penguin Books, 2008
I bought this book several years ago. In reality I don’t remember when was that. I do remember I bought it because of my follow up to Heiddeger’s “Qué Significa Pensar” (“What is called Thinking“), which I have read several times. I forgot that I had Pinker’s book in my library, until recently, when we gave as a present to my brother Javier: “The better angels of our nature”, written by Pinkert as well. Both, my brother ...more
However, the chapter in which Pinker refutes the "nativity" hypothesis was entirely overdone. Why waste so much effort refuting an idea that is so obviously wrong?
For example, I read an article about how robots are being programmed to follow some of the basic modes of human thought so they interface with humans bette ...more
I found the swear words chapter amusing and how decrees by the king can create words that in the future are deemed bad. Ex. 'fornication under consent of the ...more
But the book only gets 3 stars in my book (har har) because I want my non-fiction to be an argument supported by evidence, not evidence running willy-nilly ...more
There's a lot here, and a couple of the end chapters feel more speculative than the confident earlier ones, but this is a mine of insight for anyone int ...more
Pinker not only covers the rules of the English language based on observation like a linguist, but as a cognitive scientist and evolutionary psychologist, he also explores how the language is governed by human nature, especially sociological and ...more
He starts off with 9/11 and the trial where judges have to establish whether there was one event or two. This, ...more
By examining our words, we can learn a lot about who we are. So argues Harvard academic and popular science writer Steven Pinker in The Stuff of Thought, a logical extension of his previous books. Pinker once again caters to a popular (though scientifically literate) audience, using accessible examples from jokes, Shakespeare, pop songs, and films to understand the science. One fascinating chapter explores the value of metaphors; another covers swearing (did you know that "gee whiz" is derived from "Jes...more
How do children learn a language? Pinker starts the book with a long discussion on verbs in the English language. In fact, verbs and their usage is so difficult to explain in rules that it is almost impossible to have a list of those rules. Most of the correct usage of verbs is not taught in school. Even scientists have only recently started to chart the few rules they've discovered.
“A verb, then, is not ju ...more
I had trouble engaging with the portions of this book that focus on the minutiae of grammar, and what it tells us about ourselves. This happens to be the ...more