Violence and Humanity

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Host: The School of Life
Location: Beveridge Hall, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Speaker: Steven Pinker, Robert Rowland Smith

Steven Pinker argues that humans are becoming less violent. That may seem a bizarre claim to make in the face of daily reports of terrible conflict around the world. But, despite the continuing litany of horrific events, Pinker’s research shows that we are much less likely to die at someone’s hands than ever before. Violence – both murder and warfare – has declined over centuries and decades. What’s more, Pinker argues, despite the global carnage of the last century, modernity is actually making us less violent.

So how do we encourage the further decline of violence? How do we foster increasingly peaceful societies? What is the role of reason in that process? What do continued acts of violence tell us about our society? And how does the reduction of physical aggression transform the nature of power? 

To help us begin to answer these vital questions, Professor Pinker will discuss the insights from his important new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity, with philosopher Robert Rowland Smith. They will discuss Pinker’s analysis of how modernity’s cultural institutions – art, religion, planned government, progressive ideology, international trade and even table manners – influence our attitude to arms. Whether you agree with him or not, this is a rare opportunity to examine the forces that replace violence with one of the most influential thinkers of our time.

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