In this brilliant and controversial book, Steven. Pinker, one of the world's leading cognitive scientists, explains what the mind is, how it evolved, and how it allows. STEVEN PINKER. Abstract: In my book How the Mind Works, I defended the theory that the human mind is a naturally selected system of organs of computation. Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker -rss -kings -perils -of -perception musicmarkup.info, graphed in Nagdy & Roser.
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'E ACCLAIMED BESTSELLER BY THE AUTHOR OF A THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT ill (ITTY, LUCID AND ULTIMATELY ENTHRALLING' OBSERVER STEVEN. File:Pinker Steven How the Mind Works pdf Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works, New York: William Morrow and Company, ;. FIRST EDITION. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Pinker, Steven, ~. Words and rules the ingredients of language /Steven Pinker-lst ed.
The smaller numbers come from darker patches, the larger numbers from brighter patches. The numbers shown in the array are the actual signalscoming from an electronic camera trained on a person'shand, though they could just as well be the firing rates of some of the nerve fibers coming from the eye to the brain as a person looks at a hand. For a robot brain--or a human brain-to recognize objects and not bump into them, it must crunch these numbers and guesswhat kinds of objects in the world reflected the light that gave rise to them. The problem is humblingly difficult. First, a visual system must locate where an object ends and the backdrop begins. But the world is not a coloring book, with black outlines around solid regions. The world as it is projected into our eyesis a mosaic of tiny shadedpatches.
From until , Pinker taught at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT , was the co-director of the Center for Cognitive science — , and eventually became the director of the Center for Cognitive neuroscience — ,  taking a one-year sabbatical at the University of California, Santa Barbara , in — Since , he has been serving as the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard and between and he also held the title of Harvard College Professor in recognition of his dedication to teaching.
I never outgrew my conversion to atheism at 13, but at various times was a serious cultural Jew. I laughed off my parents' argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose.
This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist.
In the interview with the Point of Inquiry podcast, Pinker states that he would "defend atheism as an empirically supported view. It's naturally getting crowded out by the successive naturalistic explanations. Pinker's research on visual cognition, begun in collaboration with his thesis adviser, Stephen Kosslyn, showed that mental images represent scenes and objects as they appear from a specific vantage point rather than capturing their intrinsic three-dimensional structure , and thus correspond to the neuroscientist David Marr 's theory of a "two-and-a-half-dimensional sketch.
In psycholinguistics, Pinker became known early in his career for promoting computational learning theory as a way to understand language acquisition in children. He wrote a tutorial review of the field followed by two books that advanced his own theory of language acquisition, and a series of experiments on how children acquire the passive, dative, and locative constructions.
These books were Language Learnability and Language Development , in Pinker's words "outlin[ing] a theory of how children acquire the words and grammatical structures of their mother tongue",  and Learnability and Cognition: The Acquisition of Argument Structure , in Pinker's words "focus[ing] on one aspect of this process, the ability to use different kinds of verbs in appropriate sentences, such as intransitive verbs, transitive verbs, and verbs taking different combinations of complements and indirect objects".
This included a monograph on children's regularization of irregular forms and his popular book, Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. Pinker argued that language depends on two things, the associative remembering of sounds and their meanings in words, and the use of rules to manipulate symbols for grammar.
He presented evidence against connectionism, where a child would have to learn all forms of all words and would simply retrieve each needed form from memory, in favour of the older alternative theory, the use of words and rules combined by generative phonology.
He showed that mistakes made by children indicate the use of default rules to add suffixes such as "-ed": for instance 'breaked' and 'comed' for 'broke' and 'came'.
He argued that this shows that irregular verb-forms in English have to be learnt and retrieved from memory individually, and that the children making these errors were predicting the regular "-ed" ending in an open-ended way by applying a mental rule. Pinker further argued that since the ten most frequently occurring English verbs be, have, do, say, make Pinker criticizes several widely held ideas about language — that it needs to be taught, that people's grammar is poor and getting worse with new ways of speaking, the Sapir—Whorf hypothesis that language limits the kinds of thoughts a person can have, and that other great apes can learn languages.
Pinker sees language as unique to humans, evolved to solve the specific problem of communication among social hunter-gatherers. He argues that it is as much an instinct as specialized adaptative behavior in other species, such as a spider 's web-weaving or a beaver 's dam-building. Pinker states in his introduction that his ideas are "deeply influenced"  by Chomsky; he also lists scientists whom Chomsky influenced to "open up whole new areas of language study, from child development and speech perception to neurology and genetics"  — Eric Lenneberg , George Miller , Roger Brown , Morris Halle and Alvin Liberman.
One prominent opponent of Pinker's view is Geoffrey Sampson whose book, Educating Eve: The 'Language Instinct' Debate has been described as the "definitive response" to Pinker's book.
Sampson denies there is a language instinct, and argues that children can learn language because people can learn anything. In his book Impossible Minds, the machine intelligence researcher Igor Aleksander calls The Language Instinct excellent, and argues that Pinker presents a relatively soft claim for innatism, accompanied by a strong dislike of the 'Standard Social Sciences Model' or SSSM Pinker's term , which supposes that development is purely dependent on culture. Further, Aleksander writes that while Pinker criticises some attempts to explain language processing with neural nets, Pinker later makes use of a neural net to create past tense verb forms correctly.
Aleksander concludes that while he doesn't support the SSSM, "a cultural repository of language just seems the easy trick for an efficient evolutionary system armed with an iconic state machine to play. Another major theme in Pinker's theories is that human cognition works, in part, by combinatorial symbol-manipulation, not just associations among sensory features, as in many connectionist models.
Giving the example of German, Yang argues that irregular nouns in that language at least all belong to classes, governed by rules, and that things get even worse in languages that attach prefixes and suffixes to make up long 'words': they can't be learnt individually, as there are untold numbers of combinations. Given his evolutionary perspective, a central question is how an intelligent mind capable of abstract thought evolved: how a mind adapted to Stone Age life could work in the modern world.
Many quirks of language are the result.
He sees language as being tied primarily to the capacity for logical reasoning, and speculates that human proclivity for music may be a spandrel — a feature not adaptive in its own right, but that has persisted through other traits that are more broadly practical, and thus selected for.
In How the Mind Works, Pinker reiterates Immanuel Kant 's view that music is not in itself an important cognitive phenomenon, but that it happens to stimulate important auditory and spatio-motor cognitive functions. Pinker compares music to "auditory cheesecake", stating that "As far as biological cause and effect is concerned, music is useless". This argument has been rejected by Daniel Levitin and Joseph Carroll , experts in music cognition , who argue that music has had an important role in the evolution of human cognition.
In fact, GDP merely measures the rate at which a society is transforming nature and human activities into the monetary economy, regardless of the ensuing quality of life. Anything that causes economic activity of any kind, whether good or bad, adds to GDP.
An oil spill, for example, increases GDP because of the cost of cleaning it up: the bigger the spill, the better it is for GDP. My whole house was nature… I had my patch of land where I planted a bit of everything, all sorts of fruit trees. I was rich.
One prominent alternative measure, the Genuine Progress Indicator GPI , reduces GDP for negative environmental factors such as the cost of pollution, loss of primary forest and soil quality, and social factors such as the cost of crime and commuting.
It increases the measure for positive factors missing from GDP such as housework, volunteer work, and higher education. Graph 6: What has improved global health? Life expectancy around the world has more than doubled in the past century. Infant mortality everywhere is a tiny fraction of what it once was. Improvements in medical knowledge and hygiene have saved literally billions of lives.
Pinker melds together what he sees as the twin engines of progress: GDP growth and increase in knowledge. Economic growth, for him, is a direct result of global capitalism. Preston—and his followers, including Pinker—explained this away by suggesting that advances in medicine and healthcare must have improved things across the board.
Figure 6: GDP vs. Life expectancy compared with Education vs.
Life expectancy. Source: W. Lutz and E. Lutz and Kebede, however, used sophisticated multi-level regression models to analyze how closely education correlated with life expectancy compared with GDP.
The correlation with GDP was spurious. In fact, their model suggests that both GDP and health are ultimately driven by the amount of schooling children receive. This finding has enormous implications for development priorities in national and global policy. Lutz and Kebede show that a more effective policy would be to invest in schooling for children, with all the ensuing benefits in quality of life that will bring. In reality, for the past few decades, the dean chose the money.
Whether this is because of faulty reasoning on his part, or a conscious strategy to obfuscate, the result is the same. Most readers will walk away from his book with the indelible impression that free market capitalism is an underlying driver of human progress.
Pinker himself states the importance of avoiding this kind of conflation.