So I recently had occasion to re-read Steve Pinker's How the Mind Works. It was very slightly less thrilling this time around only because, I'm sure, I've taken onboard so many of its revolutionary ideas and they are now indispensible mental furniture for me but of course it's as relevant and revelatory as ever. It's also damned funny (despite a few slightly sloggy sections, which are more than made up for by the many soaring sections). It is, I genuinely believe, the most important book of the 20th century.
Just as a for instance, it solves and I mean puts to bed what's probably the most important and pernicious problem in the history of philosophy: the mind-body problem. Moreover, this book provides the first draft for an actual understanding of who we are, where we came from, how we got this way and why we act in the wacky ways we do. Can you think of a more important set of questions? Well, after about five millennia of poets, priests, and philosophers gnawing away at them without effect, the scientists (particularly cognitive neuroscientists and evolutionary psychologists) have recently made enormous progress on this. This book spills it all. It is like reading a holy book, except it's all true.
If you yourself have a mind, you should give your mind a big treat and learn how your mind works. It's a powerful device to be operating without the manual. (buy from amazon.com) (buy from amazon.co.uk)
I've also been thinking I should post some TED videos. If you don't know TED, well, TED is TED. I'll use one to innaugurate our new "Edification Wednesdays" see, we're not all frivolity and viral hip-hop videos here on DftRE!
So here's Steve Pinker, on winning form, with an extremely edifying not to mention reassuring bit on why "we are living in the most peaceful time in our species' existence." Nineteen minutes, but I promise you won't be bored.
See? Things really are getting better!