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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Steven Pinker on ideology

I've been reading RAW's Natural Law recently, and that has focused me on the uses (and abuses) of ideology. In relation to that, here's a quotation from Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined:

Individual people have no shortage of selfish motives for violence. But the really big body counts in history pile up when a large number of people carry out a motive that transcends any one of them: an ideology. Like predatory or instrumental violence, ideological violence is a means to an end. But with an ideology, the end is idealistic: a conception of the greater good.

Yet for all that idealism, it’s ideology that drove many of the worst things that people have ever done to each other. They include the Crusades, the European Wars of Religion, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Russian and Chinese civil wars, the Vietnam War, the Holocaust, and the genocides of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. An ideology can be dangerous for several reasons. The infinite good it promises prevents its true believers from cutting a deal. It allows any number of eggs to be broken to make the utopian omelet. And it renders opponents of the ideology infinitely evil and hence deserving of infinite punishment.

Via Supergee, an important part of my daily info-diet.

1 comment:

Ewan said...

have you read Better Angels Of Our Nature yet? best book i've read yet this year.

it pretty much sets a bomb and explodes it underneath almost every political ideology from left to right to variants of anarchism/libertarianism.

Definitely one thing that sprung to mind when i was reading it was "this is some robert anton wilson type shit".

I mean, "things are getting better" is completely alien to most politicos let alone "in the past fe centuries things have got far far better than you can even comprehend."

Without question no matter what part of the political spectrum you identify with Mr Pinker will question some of your deep held beliefs.

Guaranteed this book will make you think, question, doubt every single poltical/sociological belief/ideology you've ever held or sympathised with.

That alone makes it essential reading for everyone.

And, as i said at the beginning, it's got a pretty much RAW message of everything's better than it used to be and it's getting better.