The Better Angels of Our Nature Book Summary - The Better Angels of Our Nature Book explained in key points
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The Better Angels of Our Nature summary

Steven Pinker

Why Violence Has Declined

4.5 (92 ratings)
37 mins

Brief summary

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker is a comprehensive analysis of human violence and its decline throughout history, proving that we are living in the most peaceful era in human history.

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    The Better Angels of Our Nature
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    Predation: Violence is a simple, natural way to get what we want, but it’s also risky and crude.

    In the first five blinks, let’s look at what motivates humans to commit violence – our so-called “inner demons.”

    The first of these is rooted in the fact that violence is a simple way to gain an evolutionary advantage.

    Through natural selection, all organisms have evolved to compete with one another for the survival of their genes.

    In this competition, organisms are sometimes forced to oppose one another – for instance, when resources are limited or there’s a short supply of potential mates. Using physical force is an effective way of securing those resources, so organisms prone to violence do have an advantage. This kind of instrumental violence is called predation and it’s a pragmatic means to getting what we want.

    For humans, too, this violent tendency is natural and commonplace. In fact, it can even be seen in young children: studies have shown that the most violent stage of development is toddlerhood, when children express behavior like biting, kicking and hitting.

    The tendency persists as we mature, too: in a survey of university students, up to 90 percent of men and 80 percent of women admitted that they’d fantasized about killing someone in the past year.

    This violent streak seems to have a neurological basis. Studies have found that artificially stimulating a certain area of the brain known as the “rage circuit” triggers feelings of aggression.

    But even though we have a natural propensity for violence, from an evolutionary standpoint our instincts for violence need to be kept in check, because acting on them is often a bad idea:

    Harming our kin, for example, would be counterproductive because they have inherited our genes.

    Also, violence is risky, because even if a particular organism wins a battle, it may still suffer injuries which could lower its chances of surviving and passing on its genes in the long run.

    For this reason, humans tend to employ violence selectively.

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    What is The Better Angels of Our Nature about?

    The Better Angels of Our Nature (2012) takes a close look at the history of violence in human society, explaining both our motivations to use violence on certain occasions and the factors that increasingly restrain us from using it – and how these factors have resulted in massive reductions in violence.

    The Better Angels of Our Nature Review

    The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011) is a thought-provoking exploration of the decline of violence in human history, captivating readers with its insightful analysis and compelling evidence. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • By providing a comprehensive examination of historical trends and data, the book challenges the common belief that violence has always been on the rise.
    • With its rigorous research and logical arguments, the book convincingly argues that our modern society is less violent than ever before.
    • Through its persuasive narrative and thought-provoking examples, the book offers hope and encourages critical thinking about the future of human civilization.

    Who should read The Better Angels of Our Nature?

    • Anyone who thinks the world is becoming an increasingly violent place
    • Anyone who’s interested in the forces and reasons that drive us to and keep us from violence
    • Anyone interested in the history of violence in human societies

    About the Author

    Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist, linguist and cognitive scientist with a professorship at Harvard University. His other bestsellers include How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought.

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    The Better Angels of Our Nature FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Better Angels of Our Nature?

    The main message of The Better Angels of Our Nature is that violence has decreased over time, and humanity has become more peaceful.

    How long does it take to read The Better Angels of Our Nature?

    The reading time for The Better Angels of Our Nature varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Better Angels of Our Nature a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Better Angels of Our Nature is worth reading as it provides a thought-provoking exploration of human violence and highlights the progress towards a more peaceful world.

    Who is the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature?

    The author of The Better Angels of Our Nature is Steven Pinker.

    What to read after The Better Angels of Our Nature?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Better Angels of Our Nature, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker
    • Rationality by Steven Pinker
    • The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker
    • The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker
    • Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
    • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
    • Factfulness by Hans Rosling
    • The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker
    • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
    • Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb