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The Better Angels of Our Nature

Why Violence Has Declined
Lu par : Arthur Morey
Durée : 36 h et 39 min
4.5 out of 5 stars (12 notations)

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Description

We’ve all had the experience of reading about a bloody war or shocking crime and asking, “What is the world coming to?” But we seldom ask, “How bad was the world in the past?” In this startling new book, the best-selling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse. In fact, we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence.

Evidence of a bloody history has always been around us: the genocides in the Old Testament and crucifixions in the New; the gory mutilations in Shakespeare and Grimm; the British monarchs who beheaded their relatives and the American founders who dueled with their rivals; the nonchalant treatment in popular culture of wife-beating, child abuse, and the extermination of native peoples. Now the decline in these brutal practices can be quantified.

With the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps, Pinker presents some astonishing numbers. Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate in medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then suddenly were targeted for abolition. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the numbers they did a few decades ago. Rape, battering, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse, cruelty to animals — all substantially down.How could this have happened, if human nature has not changed? What led people to stop sacrificing children, stabbing each other at the dinner table, or burning cats and disemboweling criminals as forms of popular entertainment? Was it reading novels, cultivating table manners, fearing the police, or turning their energies to making money? Should the nuclear bomb get the Nobel Peace Prize for preventing World War III? Does rock and roll deserve the blame for the doubling of violence in the 1960s — and abortion deserve credit for the reversal in the 1990s?

Not exactly, Pinker argues. The key to explaining the decline of violence is to understand the inner demons that incline us toward violence (such as revenge, sadism, and tribalism) and the better angels that steer us away. Thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly control our impulses, empathize with others, bargain rather than plunder, debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence.

With the panache and intellectual zeal that have made his earlier books international best sellers and literary classics, Pinker will force you to rethink your deepest beliefs about progress, modernity, and human nature. This gripping book is sure to be among the most debated of the century so far.

©2011 by Steven Pinker. (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

Ce que les auditeurs disent de The Better Angels of Our Nature

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Global
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  • Global
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Interprétation
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • JD
  • 16/06/2019

Bien mais long

La thèse est très bien posée et argumentée. Cela permet d'avoir un regard réaliste sur le monde actuel. La fin est néanmoins assez redondante.

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  • Global
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 25/03/2019

A great book but...

As with all the authors books it is well written and researched.

The performance is great.

But since the book uses graphs and tables to help present the data and there are no PDFs available for download it makes using this book barely useable to understand the data presented. If you are reading this book to be truly informed, I suggest you buy the hard copy or Kindle edition.

I believe Audible should either make the data available by PDF as it is in other books and courses or they should inform the reader that they are not available.

64 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Eric
  • 11/11/2011

I'd kill for another book this good

Without question of the best audiobooks I've listened to, out of over 100 so far. An exploration of the decline in violence through human history, taking pains to make a coherent, substantive and well supported case for every assertion it makes. Detailed and technical without being dull, this book makes one of the best cases I can imagine for the general advancement of the species and the triumph of modernity. Exceptional.

120 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Francis J DiBona
  • 21/10/2011

Violence is decreasing everywhere. Who knew?

Steven Pinker is an intellectual of the first order. Yet all of his book are readily accessible to an educated reader (well, maybe not The Stuff of Thought, which was difficult "stuff").

The premise of this book is that violence is decreasing throughout the world. That includes all kinds of violence: murder, rape, war, genocide and even terrorism! And the decrease is evident over all time scales. Over the last 10,000 years the chances of being a victim of violence has declined dramatically. This is true for the last 1000 years, last 100 years and even the last 10 years. You might think that this is absurd from reading the headlines and listening to TV news but Pinker presents exhaustive data to prove his point. He gives us FBI reports, WHO data, government studies and scholarly studies. He also tries in every case to explain the "why" of the decrease. We have become more and more civilized over time. We also have become more sensitive to the lives and feelings of others.

Pinker is a wizard of making the difficult so easy to undersand. He not only alludes to the classics, The Bible, and academic studies, but also to pop culture. He frequently uses scenes from popular movies, TV shows, books and songs to make his point.

The reading is superb. It is neither dull nor overly dramatic. Within minutes I forgot that there was a reader and my mind was focused in on Steven Pinker's mind.

I would also highly recommend Pinker's previous tour-de-force, The Blank Slate.

85 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • K. Cunningham
  • 21/09/2012

The Greatest Thinkers of our Generation

I have read this rather long book twice now. I think I'll read it again soon. I hope you will, too (and I hope you = everyone).

The idea that we are living in the most peaceful, least murderous time in the history of the planet is an oddly uncomfortable one for many. First, it just doesn't feel that way. We hear about and see on TV and the internet a seemingly endless stream of stories about mass killings, senseless acts of cruelty, war and even genocide. Also, if we say now is better than ever, then maybe people will stop working to make the world yet less violent.

And for those of us in our middle years, we can readily look back and say that, Yes, things were simpler then. We left our doors unlocked. Kids played outside, etc.

The thing is, it doesn't really take all that much more thinking to notice that not that long ago even in this country women and African Americans were not allowed to vote. Not long ago, we had segregation, lynchings, race riots, assassinations of our leaders, a long a protracted war in Southeast Asia, which followed not long after a protracted (Undeclared) war in Korea, which came very shortly after the nuclear bombing of Japan, which essentially ended the worst global war ever, which some historians consider to have been simply part two of the other worst global war ever. And as one goes back in time, the wars, genocides, ethnic cleansings, etc., keep piling on.

The massive tyrants responsible for the annihilation of tens, maybe hundreds of millions of people in the beginning and middle of the 20th century are long gone. There hasn't been conflict among the world's super powers since the bombs fell on Japan.

On a scale much closer to home, Pinker talks at length about the change in the moral zeitgeist such that treating wives and children as property is outlaw throughout a much greater part of the globe today than just 30 years ago. Spanking children could land you in jail. Spanking your dog can now land you in jail in some places! Foods and cosmetics are often "cruelty" free, where the idea was unheard of not long ago.

Pinker does a brilliant and thorough (800+ pages worth) job of laying out all the statistics to support his case that violence has actually declined. More importantly, he adduces a long list of forces that have contributed to that decline. It's a big book, and it's not possible to summarize it in a few paragraphs. However, it might suffice to say that the forces Pinker adduces are pretty well supported in their various academic disciplines (anthropology, sociology, psychology).

Among the most interesting forces thought to be at work civilizing the world is commerce. This is one that ruffles some feathers a bit, but the argument is essentially this. When you look at the data, what appears to be the case is that countries that trade with each other don't tend to kill each other. Pinker uses a line from writer Robert Wright, who said (paraphrasing), "The reason I don't want to kill the Japanese is that they make my minivan." The line is intended to be ironic, of course, but the point stands. When our economic lives are intertwined, we find ways to resolve disputes peaceably. How likely is it that France and Spain would go to war today over disputed territory in the Alps? Moreover, by this stage in world history, we (powerful countries) have figured out that overtaking and subjugating nations by force is more expensive than trading with them and imposing economic and policy-based restrictions. One may object to neo-liberalism, but it can hardly be more objectionable than its predecessor strategy, conquest and empire. This part of the book and argument is long and involved and fascinating.

Another strong force in the civilizing of the globe involves media and its globalizing effects. Again, we may not like what we see in our media outlets every day, but the fact that people nearly everywhere know a lot about people nearly everywhere else on earth helps reduce violence. The reason it does is that the more we know about other people, the more we can put ourselves in their shoes, the less likely we are to kill them. We can relate a little more. We don't de-humanize them as much. This isn't to say that racism, culturism, etc, has or ever will go away. We are a tribal species. But, data show that as people in general are more and more able to reason abstractly about the world, and to think about what it is like to be someone other than who they are, the less violent they are. This type of reasoning leads to more understanding and less killing. There are plenty of exceptions to this, and this isn't to say that neighboring countries or ethnic groups within countries don't still kill each other. They certainly do (but moreso when infused with lots of religious fervor). But, in general, the trend is away from killing.

A final point. PInker cites a good deal of data and some theorizing to suggest that even the 21st century terrorism plague is already fading away. The reason: it doesn't work. In the big picture, terrorists never succeed in accomplishing what they wanted to accomplish via their terrorism. Ireland is not united. Basque country is not independent. Israel is still Israel.

To continue to make things better, it is critical that we know what has worked in the past. Many strategies and natural trends have contributed to making the world a safer place today. The Better Angels lays out in detail what has been working. It is well worth knowing what they are. It is also helpful to feel just a bit better about who we are as a species today.

97 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sean
  • 23/10/2011

One of my top 5 favorite books

This is one of those rare books that does more than inform or amuse: it actually has the potential to influence for a lifetime. It is even more rare in that it does this from an entirely positive angle. And though it does occasionally dip into contemporary politics, it does so in a detached and enlightened enough manner so as not to destroy its timelessness. The author does a great job of extolling the good ideas and skewering the bad ones from all ages, including our own, and instilling a sense of awe in the face of enormous human progress.

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  • Global
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  • Phineas
  • 27/10/2011

A Thorough Study and an Enjoyable Listen

Arthur Morey does an excellent job with the narration. I found his voice engaging during the entirety of the almost 37 hours of this audiobook.

As one would hope for a book this lengthy, Steven Pinker doesn't waste your time. After a brief introduction, the book takes off into a systematic and thoroughgoing analysis of just about all the data one could ask for on this topic. He gives the numbers, the studies, etc. and explains them at every step of the way. He goes into quite a bit of history, biology, neuroscience, politics, law, and several other subjects relevant to the topic which were a pleasure to learn about for their own sake. I found that Pinker even anticipated nearly every question I had, usually only a few sentences after it popped into my mind. I don't think one could ask for a better book the subject.

Steven Pinker writes near the end of the book, "...and I hope that the numbers I have marshaled have lifted your assessment of the state of the world from the lugubrious conventional wisdom." I can say that this has been the effect on me.

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  • Global
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Theodore
  • 30/06/2012

Excellent Book All Over

I was quite pleased with this entire title. It proposes a very interesting point and attacks it head on. The way that it was brought across by the narrator was very pleasing to the ears. Overall a very nice production with some excellent points overall.

The argument that Violence has declined over time is one that I personally thought was a given if one were to think of it. Being a fan of Renaissance History it appeared to me that violence had declined. The author though uses this as well as a number of other points to brings across his point as to why this is so, using other factors such as religion, standard of living, etc. to provide insight on this fact.

The book has A LOT of information (useful information mind you) but it is a lot of information to process and I think this plays up it having a lot of replay value.

29 personnes ont trouvé cela utile

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Walter
  • 13/05/2012

My Pick for Best Book in a Few Years

I try to pick a personal book of the year about once a year and a personal book of the decade about every 10 years. But I also have some in between category of books that are better than the book of the year, but not as good as the book of the decade. “Better Angles” is in this category.

In the last 5 or 6 years there seems to be a growing awareness that violence has declined significantly in parts of the U.S. since the ‘70s. This awareness may be in part due to other popular books that have pointed this out, like Freakonomics. However, this book shows that the decline in violence is global and part of a very long term trend. The details are varied, but the pattern is remarkably consistent. And the affect is not small. For example 500 years ago violence in the more civilized parts of Western Europe was 30 times higher than in the U.S. today.

The first “third” of the book contains copious detail designed to convince you that in spite of rare exceptions the trend toward less violence is significant. The middle “third” of the book reviews what science can (and can’t) tell us about the causes of violence. The last “third” tries to construct a theory that explains the reason for the actual decline in violence.

So what is his conclusion? In a word “enlightenment”. I found the argument compelling. But even more interestingly the result is an unexpected defense of education, learning, refinement, and bourgeoisie values. He clearly thinks enlightenment is at odds with modern leftist (or right wing) politics; and uses the phrase “classical liberalism”.

Three cautions: The author is a statistical researcher or a number cruncher. The math is all almost trivial, but numeracy is the core of the argument and is the bulk of the book. The book is irreverent. I found it charmingly so. But other may find it borderline belligerent. Finally, it is a long and detailed, to the point of pushing the audible format.

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  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Randall D. Raymond
  • 12/11/2011

One of the Most Surprising Books I've Read

I just loved this book. I get so tired of hearing people say how bad things have gotten, and how much more violent we are than our wonderful peaceful ancestors. Pinker puts the lie to that idea and backs up his personal observations with extensive documentation. I appreciate that Pinker is trying to make a point here and may have omitted some evidence that didn't back up his claims, so I'd like to read a detailed refutation of his central tenet. The only objection I have to this book is that it is, in my opinion, somewhat longer than it needed to be, as he makes some points over and over again.

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  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Charles
  • 10/01/2012

An emotional lift

It is sometimes hard to have hope for the future. I hear about new and horrible websites, terrible atrocities, lives of crime, heartbreak, death and despair. It is easy for me to slip into a malaise thinking that there is nothing to keep the world from going to hell. This book gave me an emotional lift. It's strange because the author doesn't play to pathos; the arguments are detached and analytic. Nor does he suggest any mystical or supernatural intervention guiding the process. People have good reasons to be tolerant and peaceful, if not straight up kind. Instead of hoping inspite of the world, I now feel that there are good reasons to hope for and with it.

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  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • doktorFaustus
  • 02/10/2016

Vom Wichtigsten in der Menschheitsgeschichte

Die Geschichte der Menschheit ist ein schwarzes Buch, eine Schlachthauschronik, durchherrscht von Gewalt, randvoll mit unaussprechlichen Grausamkeiten. Diese monumentale Gewaltgeschichte der Menschheit ist eine riesige Gelehrtenleistung und ein starkes Gegenmittel gegen die Versuchung einer verzweifelten Weltsicht. Denn es gibt sie, die andere Geschichte der Menschheit die hoffnungsvoll und zupackend optimistisch stimmen kann, denn als deren Leitmotive lassen sich wachsendes Mitgefühl, steigende Bildungsteilhabe und der Rückgang(!)sämtlicher Spielarten von Gewalt behaupten. Steven Pinker schreibt glasklar, argumentiert stringent, inspiriert zur Dankbarkeit für alle technischen, humanitären, kulturellen und zivilisatorischen Errungenschaften die unsere Gattung in die friedlichste(!) Epoche seit Menschengedenken geführt haben. In der deutschen Übersetzung: "Dieses Buch handelt vom Wichtigsten, was in der Menschheitsgeschichte jemals geschehen ist...Die Gewalt ist über lange Zeiträume immer weiter zurückgegangen, und heute dürften wir in der friedlichsten Epoche leben, seit unsere Spezies existiert..." Wer im Abgleich solcher Worte mit all den gegenwärtigen Krisen und Katastrophen ernsthaft, ja verärgert am Urteilsvermögen des Autors zweifelt der möge sich doch auf dieses spektakuläre Hörbuch einlassen. Haben wir doch Vertrauen auf die Kraft der "besseren Engel unserer Natur" ohne je die Macht unserer "inneren Dämonen" zu unterschätzen.
Eine aufwühlende Bildungserfahrung!

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  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Christos Bersos
  • 08/01/2019

A must read for everyone

I cannot think of a better way to spend 36 hours. Steven Pinker does not disappoint.

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Utilisateur anonyme
  • 19/12/2018

Faszinierend und unglaublich aufschlussreich

Sollte Pflichtlektüre sein für alle, aber insbesondere für Politiker und Aktivisten in der ganzen Welt, damit es allen besser geht und Rückschlägen vorzubeugen.

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Kunde
  • 05/10/2018

Brillantes Buch

Steven Pinker schafft einen klaren und nüchternen Blick darauf, dass wir in einer der friedlichten Zeiten jemals leben.
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  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Felix Hever
  • 25/02/2018

A monumental masterpiece

that every human should have read (or listened). The sheer multitude of knowledge researched ans presented by the author is astounding. This book covers everything we should care about, now and in the years to come.

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Henrik
  • 13/11/2017

A great work!

I would advice anyone not just to read this book, but to make it a book of study. I’ve listened to it twice now, and now I’m also reading selected chapters, hoping I can get just half as clear minded as Steven Pinker about our inner demons and better angels. If you are interested in keeping and making the world a better place, if you want to understand our species’ history and potential for doing harm and doing good. You should make this book a book of study, hoping it might make yourself act, think and perceive, what chance and history will throw at you, in an enlightened way.

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Marc Dierckx
  • 12/01/2017

The kabbalah of human progress

Six trends for declining violence, five inner demons and four better angels are according to Steven Pinker's the recipe why the world is becoming a better place. The number of sources he quotes to solidify his claim are plentiful and impressive, but the repetition of the examples a drop of bitterness on the otherwise engaging storytelling. To believe his claim remains an act of faith, but the encounter with so many new insights and "faits divers" was for me the real pleasure. I hope that Steven Pinker comes up with a couple of other numbers - I would suggest seven arch-angels instead of four angles - to make a sequel. it would make the kabbalah more complete and my life of a couple of hours enjoyment richer.

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Daniel Lehmann
  • 22/05/2016

Explains why violence is on the decline

This book puts current events and trends into historic context through an incredibly interesting mix of history, statistics, psychology and reason.

Reading this book will make you appreciate the fact that we all live in the most peaceful time there has ever been.

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  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Wolf Doleys
  • 16/10/2016

Great Book!

Pinker's focus is directed to the history of the West . He is quite right in this field . He neglects the rest of the World. He should read Huntington on the role of cultures.