“The chasm between the perpetrator’s perspective – amoral, pragmatic, even frivolous – and the victim’s is nowhere wider than in our predation of animals… [M]ost people would not want to know the opinion of a broiler chicken or a live lobster on whether the mild pleasure we get from eating their flesh rather than a plate of eggplant justifies the sacrifice they will make. The same incuriosity enables coldhearted predatory violence against humans.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 614.

Advertisements

“The small number of premeditated murders that are actually carried out must be the cusp of a colossal iceberg of homicidal desires submerged in a sea of inhibitions.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 583.

 

“Violence is found throughout the history and prehistory of our species, and shows no signs of having been invented in one place and spread to the others.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 580.

 

“[Martin Luther] King’s historic speech to the March on Washington in 1963 was an ingenious recombination of the intellectual components he had collected during his peripatetic pilgrimage: imagery and language from the Hebrew prophets, the valorization of suffering from Christianity, the ideal of individual rights from the European Enlightenment, cadences and rhetorical tropes from the African American church, and a strategic plan from an Indian who had been steeped in Jain, Hindu, and British culture.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 578.

 

“Insofar as violence is immoral, the Rights Revolutions show that a moral way of life often requires a decisive rejection of instinct, culture, religion, and standard practice. In their place is an ethics that is inspired by empathy and reason and stated in the language of rights. We force ourselves into the shoes (or paws) of other sentient beings and consider their interests, starting with their interest in not being hurt or killed, and we ignore superficialities that may catch our eye such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and to some extent, species.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), pp. 572-573.

“For the first time in millennia, the [homosexual] citizens of more than half the countries of the world can enjoy…safety [from assault, intimidation, discrimination, moral condemnation and state-sponsored violence] – not enough of them, but a measure of progress from a time in which not even helping to save one’s country from defeat in war was enough to keep the government goons away [as Alan Turing found out].” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), pp. 547-548.

 

“It would be an exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing explained the nature of logical and mathematical reasoning, invented the digital computer, solved the mind-body problem, and saved Western civilization. But it would not be much of an exaggeration.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 538.

 

“The movement over the past two centuries to increase the valuation of children’s lives is one of the great moral advances in history. But the movement over the past two decades to increase the valuation to infinity can lead only to absurdities.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 538.

“The prohibition of spanking [children] represents a stunning change from millennia in which parents were considered to own their children, and the way they treated them was considered no one else’s business. But it is consistent with other intrusions of the state into the family, such as compulsory schooling, mandatory vaccination, the removal of children from abusive homes, the imposition of lifesaving medical care over the objections of religious parents, and the prohibition of female genital cutting by communities of Muslim immigrants in European countries. In one frame of mind, this meddling is a totalitarian imposition of state power into the intimate sphere of the family. But in another, it is part of the historical current toward a recognition of the autonomy of individuals. Children are people, and like adults they have a right to life and limb (and genitalia) that is secured by the social contract that empowers the state. The fact that other individuals – their parents – stake a claim of ownership over them cannot negate that right.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 527.

“[John] Locke, [Jean-Jacques] Rousseau, and the 19th-century reformers had set in motion an escalator of gentleness in the treatment of children, and in recent decades its rate of ascent has accelerated.” – Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 524.