Steven Pinker on Knowledge and Education

From Steven Pinker’s ENLIGHTENMENT NOW, chapter 16, Knowledge, p233:

The supernova of knowledge continuously redefines what it means to be human. Our understanding of who we are, where we came from, how the world works, and what matters in life depends on partaking of the vast and ever-expanding store of knowledge. Though unlettered hunters, herders, and peasants are fully human, anthropologists often comment on their orientation to the present, the local, the physical. To be aware of one’s country and its history, of the diversity of customs and beliefs across the globe and through the ages, of the blunders and triumphs of past civilizations, of the microcosms of cells and atoms and the macrocosmsm of planets and galaxies, of the ethereal reality of number and logic and pattern — such awareness truly lift us to a higher plane of consciousness. It is a gift of belonging to a brainy species with a long history.

p235, on the vindication of the Enlightenment:

So much changes when you get an education! You unlearn dangerous superstitions, such as that leaders rule by divine right, or that people who don’t look like you are less than human. You learn that there are other cultures that are as tied to their ways of life as you are to yours, and for now better or worse reason. You learn that charismatic saviors have led their countries to disaster. You learn that your convictions, no matter how heartfelt or popular, may be mistaken. You learn that there are better and worse ways to live, and that other people and other cultures may know things that you don’t. No least, you learn that there are ways of resolving conflicts without violence. All these epiphanies militate against knuckling under the rule of an autocrat or joining a crusade to subdue and kill your neighbors. Of course, none of this wisdom is guaranteed, particularly when authorities promulgate their own dogmas, alternative facts, and conspiracy theories — and, in a backhanded compliment to the power of knowledge, stifle the people and ideas that might discredit them.

This entry was posted in Steven Pinker. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply