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  • 1.
    Sverker, Joseph
    University College Stockholm, Department of Religious Studies and Theology.
    Putting a tired dichotomy to rest: Steven Pinker and the problem of nature and nurture2024In: Steven Pinker: Critical Reponses / [ed] Ray Scott Percival, Berkeley: Open Universe , 2024Chapter in book (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    From great classics of literature to Psychology 101 the question of nature or nurture seems to haunt us. It is quite a surprise then to read that Steven Pinker sees it as ‘a tired dichotomy’ that one better ‘think around’.[1] It soon becomes evident though, that he spends much time and though on the question rather than ignoring it. Not unlike Raskolnikov, the question leaves Pinker no rest. He even devotes 500 pages to it in The Blank Slate.[2] It was not so simple to ‘think around’ the question of nature versus nurture after all. It can even be argued that the dichotomy between nature and nurture, heredity and environment, is of central importance if we are to critically evaluate Pinker’s thinking about the human being at all.

    The relationship between the social on the one hand and the biological on the other is a lynchpin into Pinker’s anthropology. Or if we are to borrow Pinker’s image about verbs,[3] nature versus nurture is a rabbit hole, small and insignificant, but once you enter it, a whole world is opened up. The question of nature/nurture reveals some critical points about Pinker’s view of the human being at large. But in order to reveal those greater questions we need to begin with the question of how Pinker understands the relationship between nature and nurture. [1] Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: The New Science of Language and Mind (London: Penguin, 1995), 277.[2] Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Penguin, 2003).[3] Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (London: Penguin, 2008), 25.

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