Best introduction to Steven Pinker?
April 21, 2012 4:48 PM   Subscribe

Whats the best Steven Pinker book to start with?
posted by TigerCrane to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I thought Blank Slate was excellent (even though I have to admit I never finished it). Haven't read Stuff of Thought, but I have read enough critiques of it to not really be interested.
posted by zachawry at 4:58 PM on April 21, 2012

I have read The Language Instinct, Words and Rules, The Stuff of Thought, and The Blank Slate, but I'm maybe not the best person to answer this as I don't really have the time of day for most evo psych stuff. To me, The Blank Slate spent a little too much time axe-grinding about how political correctness prevents people from admitting that some things might just be human nature and too little time actually exploring the evidence for which things are human nature.

The Language Instinct is an excellent general introduction to ideas in Chomskyian linguistics and I'd recommend it to pretty much any layman who has a curiosity about language, and his other linguistics books are worth reading if you like The Language Instinct and want to go deeper.
posted by Jeanne at 5:04 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I started with The Language Instinct, and still like it best of his books that I've read (most of them). It's funny too.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:12 PM on April 21, 2012

The Language Instinct is great, though it presents a lot of things as undisputed that are very disputed. Still, funny and readable.
posted by jeather at 5:14 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

"How the Mind Works" would be good to start with because he lays out the ideas behind what he expands on in later books. "The Blank Slate" was the first one I read and it is one of my favorite books ever. I also especially enjoyed "The Stuff of Thought", which may be the 'funnest' of all of them (he talks about baby names and swearing) so that might also be a good one to start with. I would not advise starting with the newest one about violence--it's very quantitative and statistical and what I've always liked about his books is that they aren't like that (he talks more in terms of the ideas and theories behind things). I usually fly through his stuff but I did not love this last one and haven't finished it yet.
posted by lovableiago at 6:06 PM on April 21, 2012

I read The Language Instinct when I was a teen and I loved it and still remember bits and pieces from it once in a while. It was a fascinating book, quite un-putdownable for me. I thought his later stuff was more politically slanted -- I found his anti-PC views offputting.
posted by peacheater at 6:08 PM on April 21, 2012

I've read the Language Instinct and the Blank Slate and would certainly choose The Language Instinct of those two. But I've read parts of his new one, The Better Angels of our Nature, and was favorably impressed; there's a lot of stuff in it besides just the material about death and destruction; it seems to be a kind of big overstuffed knapsack filled with everything Pinker is interested in, and he tends to be interested in interesting things.

My answer remains Language Instinct, because that's the one that's closest to the science he knows the most deeply.
posted by escabeche at 7:08 PM on April 21, 2012

Another vote for The Language Instinct as a first!
posted by shortyJBot at 5:07 AM on April 22, 2012

Language Instinct, then How the Mind Works. Everything else felt optional to me. Except his newest, I'm really looking forward to that.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 6:46 PM on April 22, 2012

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