Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Pinker’s Pollyannish Philosophy and Its Perfidious Politics

When I read Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, I could not find anything remotely scholarly in it. His sermons on the virtues of the Age of Enlightenment will make no sense to anyone who knows something about the history of the Enlightenment. His attempt to link all the progress of the modern times to the ideas developed during the Age of Enlightenment creates the impression of a shoddy replay of whiggish historiography, which no one, except the most gullible, would believe. His view is totally one-sided; he does not look at the problems created by the Enlightenment and modernity.

I find Jessica Riskin's essay, "Pinker’s Pollyannish Philosophy and Its Perfidious Politics," interesting. She notes that she was tangled in a “knot of Orwellian contradictions” by Pinker’s feeble arguments, his misrepresentation of past philosophers, and misinterpretation of data. Riskin writes, "Pinker is no intellectual historian, so perhaps it should not be surprising that he overlooks a key Enlightenment debate. I’m referring to the long and vigorous debate over the power, foundation, and limits of rational inquiry, perhaps the core example of Enlightenment self-directed skepticism."

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