Sarah's Reviews > The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker
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's review
Jun 01, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: audiobooks, politics-society, nonfiction
Read in June, 2012

I listened to this beast over the course of a month or so anytime I was out taking a walk or riding public transportation. It really got me thinking about war, government, the legal system, education, morality, parenting, culture... There's a lot in here!

I appreciated the craft and clarity of his argument, that violence has declined over time due to changes in the world that have promoted the more cooperative, peaceful parts of the human mind. It got me thinking about how society can continue to encourage those "better angels" (empathy, reason, self-control, morality) and to discourage our more brutish qualities (violence, dominance, sadism, revenge, ideology). It's a realistic, unmoralistic look at human nature that makes violence make sense. Or, the kind of perspective that I think is most likely to effect positive change - once you understand why violence erupts, you can think of ways to deter it, not just fear or punish it.

I also appreciated how Pinker in no way claims to know for certain why violence has declined or what our next steps should be. He presents a wealth of information and possible explanations, but doesn't preach.

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Reading Progress

08/20/2013 marked as: read

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