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Inner Demons January 19, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Books, Brain Glitches, Responses.
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Still reading Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature.  I’ve just finished the chapter on what it is about human brains that leads us into violence that ought to be avoidable.  Again, this chapter really could be a whole book on its own.

He sums up at the end of this chapter by re-listing five “inner demons” and I think his list is a good summary.  He didn’t number the list, but I’m going to here:

  1. People, especially men, are overconfident in their prospects for success; when they fight each other, the outcome is likely to be bloodier than any of them thought.
  2. People, especially men, strive for dominance for themselves and their groups; when contests of dominance are joined, they are unlikely to sort the parties by merit and are likely to be a net loss for everyone.
  3. People seek revenge by an accounting that exaggerates their innocence and their adversaries’ malice; when two sides seek perfect justice, they condemn themselves and their heirs to strife.
  4. People can not only overcome their revulsion to hands-on violence but acquire a taste for it; if they indulge it in private, or in cahoots with their peers, they can become sadists.
  5. And people can avow a belief they don’t hold because they think everyone else avows it; such beliefs can sweep through a closed society and bring it under the spell of a collective delusion. (pg 570)

The chapter has a really detailed examination of each of these points.  This is a really interesting book, and I wish it was required reading for every politician before they were allowed to take office.

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1. makagutu - January 20, 2017

I think he left one point out, people like profit and war serves this very well. At the same time allows would be nondescript people to be known.

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Ubi Dubium - January 20, 2017

There’s a LOT about violence for direct gain in earlier chapters of this book, so he didn’t leave it out, it just wasn’t part of this list.

His three main causes for violence were predation (gain), defence, and credibility (honor). But sometimes we are violent when it’s not serving one of those purposes, or a lot more violent than we need to be to accomplish our goal, and this chapter was about what’s wrong with our brains that leads us into stupid non-productive violence.

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makagutu - January 20, 2017

Makes sense

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