Steven Pinker Interviews Thomas Hobbes
Pinker: I might want to resuscitate Thomas Hobbes and have dinner with him, the 17th century English philosopher who’s mostly – and I think I’m unfairly – associated with the idea that life in the state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short. Hobbes was a witty and brilliant writer. He was a kind of psychologist who had a physiological, mechanistic view of thinking and emotion. He said reasoning is but reckoning – reckoning in the original sense of computation or calculation. He thought deeply about the problems of violence, and had an analysis of the causes of violence that I think are quite valid today. He put his finger on what might be the greatest violence reduction technique ever invented. That is a responsible government. And he . . . Wherever you turn, I think, in psychology and philosophy, you find areas in which he had some _______ or _______. So I would love to pick his brains if I could. I’d ask him how he would solve the problem of policing the police. He had this concept of the leviathan – that is a government to which people would voluntarily surrender their autonomy in exchange for having to adjudicate disputes and basically keep us from each other’s throats. But I’d say to him, “You’re kind of unclear as to why this leviathan would just be kind of a fascist dictator, as if that would be better than life in the state of anarchy.” Well one thing we’ve learned is that not only is it better to have a government and be in anarchy; but on the other hand having a ________, aggressive government might not be much better than living in anarchy. I would ask him whether he could anticipate the concept of democracy, and how his own view of human nature could be confronted with the idea that whoever is leading the government would himself have the flaws of human nature. How do you square that circle?
"You’re kind of unclear as to why this Leviathan would just be kind of a fascist dictator, as if that would be better than life in the state of anarchy."
Universities claim to prepare students for the world. How many actually do it?
- Many university mission statements do not live up to their promise, writes Ben Nelson, founder of Minerva, a university designed to develop intellect over content memorization.
- The core competencies that students need for success—critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and cross-cultural understanding, for example—should be intentionally taught, not left to chance.
- These competencies can be summed up with one word: wisdom. True wisdom is the ability to apply one's knowledge appropriately when faced with novel situations.
As a doctor, I am reminded every day of the fragility of the human body, how closely mortality lurks just around the corner.
Tyson dives into the search for alien life, dark matter, and the physics of football.
- Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson joins us to talk about one of our favorite subjects: space.
- In the three-chaptered video, Tyson speaks about the search for alien life inside and outside of the Goldilocks Zone, why the term "dark matter" should really be called "dark gravity," and how the rotation of the Earth may have been the deciding factor in a football game.
- These fascinating space facts, as well as others shared in Tyson's books, make it easier for everyone to grasp complex ideas that are literally out of this world.
This is what the world will look like, 250 million years from now
To us humans, the shape and location of oceans and continents seems fixed. But that's only because our lives are so short.
SpaceX's momentous Crew Dragon launch is a sign of things to come for the space industry, and humanity's future.
- SpaceX was founded in 2002 and was an industry joke for many years. Eighteen years later, it is the first private company to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.
- Today, SpaceX's Crew Dragon launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS. The journey will take about 19 hours.
- Dylan Taylor, chairman and CEO of Voyager Space Holdings, looks at SpaceX's journey from startup to a commercial space company with the operating power of a nation-state.