At home: Steven Pinker

Annie Maccoby Berglof in the Financial Times:

ScreenHunter_87 Dec. 16 15.39Armed with a mug of tea, Pinker seats himself on a contemporary, Danish-designed sofa in the middle of his open-plan loft to discuss his most recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature , which makes surprising claims about our species: that we’ve become gentler and less aggressive than our ancestors. The proof, argues Pinker, is in comparative statistics on violence so convincing that not even two world wars can dent the evidence. “Conventional wisdom is that we’re living in violent times. The data sets say otherwise. Contrary to stereotyping – and I’ve confirmed the stereotype in a survey – the Middle Ages were much bloodier.”

The apartment, a converted leather warehouse where Pinker lives with his third wife, the novelist and philosopher Rebecca Goldstein, is located a few blocks from Boston’s financial district. “This was once an industrial space. There were tanneries in the area,” says Pinker. Divided into three rooms, it has 14ft-high ceilings and exposed brick walls. The supporting beams in the main room are from the original 19th-century construction. “They are nine inches across. You would be unlikely to see construction like this today,” he adds.

The building has an intriguing past. Pinker’s former sister-in-law once lived here. “She was here illegally,” Pinker says. “She was a painter and her partner was a sculptor. They put in their own plumbing. At some point the developers came in, young urban professionals started pricing them out and by sheer coincidence, decades later, we bought an apartment here, by which point all the artists had been driven out. This is a common urban sequence.”

More here.