The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas

Political Discussion Group: Steven Pinker on Human Nature

Tue, September 4, 2018 | WAG 403B

5:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Our first political discussion of the year will address the role of human nature in politics. The question is as fundamental to political life: is human nature something stable and permanent, or is it not? To what extent are human beings "blank slates," who can be molded in accord with our decisions and moral purposes? And if they cannot change limitlessly, what implications does that have for our politics, especially our hopes to progress gradually toward fuller equality? 


These questions have been addressed by all the great political philosophers, and continue to be controversial today. The reading for this discussion will be taken from Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker’s 2002 book, The Blank Slate: A Modern Denial of Human Nature. In addition to raising the basic question about human nature, the excerpt we will consider also touches on the issues concerning  racial discrimination, eugenics, Marxism, and Nazism, all of which are closely related to the discussion of human nature. 


The discussion will be led by CTI junior and peer mentor, Tarek Zaher.


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