Enlightenment Now is out, so there goes my weekend….

Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress is now out. I plan on reading it this weekend front to back.

Over the past few years, it’s not a secret that I’ve become more skeptical of the possibilities for humanism and progress. The case for reason and science are obviously clear, but that’s because reason and science aren’t fundamentally normative issues. Humanism and progress are grounded in norms.

Of course, I’ve long been more and more partial to the Scottish Enlightenment, which is more conservative and cautious than that of the French. In the current year, I’m a conservative liberal. But I am gloomy on the prospects for liberalism in the near term future.

Seth Largo distills may of my core intuitions:

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2 thoughts on “Enlightenment Now is out, so there goes my weekend….

  1. I’ve been thinking about this is terms of cities.

    Looking at how Americans digest Rome, I’ve come to realize on some level they can’t digest it — it is just too ancient and even with technology they view it as a burden rather than bonus.

    Get it see what you can get out. Too close to the third world.

    Romans may have the same view but have no shame about living in a more 19th or 20th century part of the metro area and enjoying that technology has mastered the city.

    So it is a matter of perspective.

    Take Dhaka, or Manilla, or Jakarta, and we are waiting for the technology to come so we can master those 21st century cities. Not there yet.

    The alternative to technology is social order, which is the “anglo-american” solution to urbanity — living in a a city means a thousands rules constraining your freedom.

    I mean, urine is sterile and I should be able to piss where I want. Or if I want to have a cow in my urban backyard I should be able to.

    Western cities are the opposite of libertarian thought.

    Maybe technology would free western cities as well. Uber, as an example, does open up car transport in cities to people who can’t afford it. It also makes the streets a nightmare. I say that as someone who uses it and despises what it does.

    So my answer so far is no, technology isn’t the answer, shared rules are. AT least with urban planning.

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  2. I’ve concluded that the moral arc of humanity tends toward progress, but that it is a continuous, nowhere differentiable curve.

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