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Metascience

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 347–350 | Cite as

We need progress in ideas about how to achieve progress

Steven Pinker: Enlightenment NOW: the case for reason, science, humanism and progress. UK: Allen Lane, 2018, 556pp, £25
  • Nicholas Maxwell
Book Review

This is in many ways a terrific book, from which I have learnt much. But it is also deeply flawed. Science and reason are at the heart of the book, but the conceptions that Steven Pinker defends are damagingly irrational. And these defective conceptions of science and reason, as a result of being associated with the Enlightenment Programme for the past two or three centuries, have been responsible, in part, for the genesis of the global problems we now suffer from, and our current inability to deal with them properly. There is not a glimmering of an awareness of any of this in Pinker’s book. This flaw in Enlightenment NOW is serious indeed.

The book gives a detailed and eloquent account of the multifaceted progress in human well-being achieved by the Enlightenment—a combination of science, technology, reason and humanism. Part I begins with a sketch of these basic elements of the Enlightenment and then discusses three ideas important for progress about which the Enlightenment knew...

References

  1. Maxwell, N. 1974. The rationality of scientific discovery. Philosophy of Science 41: 123–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Maxwell, N. 1984. From knowledge to wisdom. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  3. Maxwell, N. 1998. The comprehensibility of the universe. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  4. Maxwell, N. 2004. Is science neurotic?. London: World Scientific Europe.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Maxwell, N. 2014. How universities can help create a wiser world. Exeter: Imprint Academic.Google Scholar
  6. Maxwell, N. 2017. Understanding scientific progress. St. Paul: Paragon House.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University College LondonLondonUK

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