on ‘Enlightenment Now’ by Steven Pinker

51cWT1TOr9L._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_Julian Baggini at Literary Review:

Pinker’s version of history is somewhat simplistic. The Enlightenment did not emerge out of nothing and the role of two millennia of Christianity can’t be swept under the carpet. Much as I’d like to be able to agree with Pinker that secular humanism is one of the driving forces behind progress, since hardly anyone was a convinced atheist until recently, this can’t be quite right. Nonetheless, it can be no coincidence that the rise of trust in reason and science over religious doctrines and authority correlates with almost all the improvements Pinker charts.

Enlightenment Now is not perfect. Pinker shares a common Anglophone prejudice against modern European philosophy, lumping most of it together under the heading of ‘postmodernism’ and attacking the grotesque version of Nietzsche created by fascists and the alt-right, not the more complex and interesting figure most scholars would recognise. In a work of such breadth and scope, small lapses like this are inevitable, but are far outweighed by the clarity, force and evidential weight of his central arguments.

more here.