Rationality | Steven Pinker
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In the twenty-first century, humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding – and at the same time appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that discovered vaccines for Covid-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, quack cures, and conspiracy theorising?
In this lecture, based on his 2021 book Rationality, Steven Pinker rejects the cynical cliché that humans are simply an irrational species – cavemen out of time fatally cursed with biases, fallacies, and illusions. After all, we discovered the laws of nature, lengthened and enriched our lives, and set the benchmarks for rationality itself. Instead, he will explain, we think in ways that suit the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning we have built up over millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, causal inference, and decision-making under uncertainty. These tools are not a standard part of our educational curricula, and have never been presented clearly and entertainingly in a single book – until now.
Rationality matters. It leads to better choices in our lives and in the public sphere, and is the ultimate driver of social justice and moral progress. Brimming with insight and humour, Rationality will enlighten, inspire and empower.
About Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics, and social relations. He grew up in Montreal and earned his BA from McGill and his PhD from Harvard. Currently Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, he has also taught at Stanford and MIT. He has won numerous prizes for his research, his teaching, and his books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, The Sense of Style, and Enlightenment Now. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Humanist of the Year, a recipient of nine honorary doctorates, and one of Foreign Policy’s ‘World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals’ and Time magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People in the World Today’. He was Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and writes frequently for the New York Times, the Guardian, and other publications. His 12th book, published in 2021, is Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters.
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