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The Blank Slate in the London Underground

Usually when we feature pictures of posters in the London Underground the news is bad. But here is some good news, in the form of a poster advertising Steven Pinker‘s The Blank Slate.

The book itself probably doesn’t need much plugging here, but I’ll plug it anyway. It’s about true and false (as in the “Blank Slate” of the title) views of human nature, and about how they affect politics, education, aesthetics, and so on. Summarising brutally, if you think that human nature is something that a political system can simply shape at will, you’ll tend to say that your preferred political system should shape away, sometimes with murderous consequences.

To me the encouraging thing about this book is that here is a mainstream publishing event, so to speak, which is full almost to the point of saturation with references to the literature of liberty, of classical liberalism and of anti-collectivism. If you were a regular reader of the publications of, say, the Libertarian Alliance, or of the Reason Foundation, or of the Cato Institute, you’d find references to any number of debates and discussions and personalities which would ring bells with you. Among the many names, for example, listed in the References section are: Friedrich Hayek, Thomas Sowell, Robert Nozick, Kenneth Minogue, Ferdinand Mount, Wendy McElroy and Tom Wolfe, to name just a very few such. I suspect that the Reason foundation may deserve particular kudos for helping Pinker’s thinking along these lines.

When I first spotted this poster, there must have been quite a few of them around, but when, digital camera in hand, I went looking for it again yesterday, I had nearly given up when I found one still on view. Presumably this campaign was timed to coincide with this competition, for which The Blank Slate was shortlisted. (Pinker has been shortlisted for this prize three times, but has yet to win it.)

Since this is Samizdata, let me also mention that the lady in the poster to the left of the Pinker poster as we look at it is Eliza Dushku, star of the movie Wrong Turn. “A brutally exciting, savage shocker. Shriek, jump, enjoy!”

Ah, human nature.

8 comments to The Blank Slate in the London Underground

  • >the lady in the poster to the left of the
    >Pinker poster as we look at it is Eliza
    >Dushku, star of the movie Wrong Turn.

    and better known to many of us as Faith, the morally ambiguous vampire slayer.

  • She was great in This Boy’s Life. Well, maybe not great. Her line was: “criminal”.

    But I have been looking for a book to read while on vacation, and this is now the one.

  • Johan

    “I am neither a socialist nor an anarchist.” (when talking about Noam Chomsky in the interview linked to further down)

    “Pinker, who confides that he preferred Al Gore to George Bush in the US presidential elections, calls himself a “classical liberal, which many today would call a conservative. I am pro-science, pro-reason, moderate in politics.”

    An interview from The Jerusalem Post was found here. Quite interesting. Oh, if you go back one step in the URL, you’ll find his homepage

  • Brian,

    I would be interested to learn your view of the what I see as Pinkers great unresolved issue, namelt that the blank slate, which has underpinned liberal politics for a century, is a lie but liberal politics must be allowed to sail on regardless. Is this sustainable? Or is a new political consensus – an outgrowth from sociobiology – now inevitable as more and more academics take the arguments forward?

  • Eliza Dushku is hot. Check her out in Bring It On, the best cheerleader movie ever (no, really).

    What a sad comment to leave, but leave it I will.

  • Tex

    ’bout time Samizdata had a Dushku-related post.

  • Eamon Brennan

    Why is Pinker referred to as a scientist?


  • John J. Coupal

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the most prestigious schools in the US.

    But it retains people like Noam Chomsky (a professional America-hater and self-described as a linguist) and non-scientist Pinker on it s faculty.

    The mish-mash of faculty types seems really weird!