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Author Topic: Correspondence with Steven Pinker  (Read 4443 times)
kurtfifelski
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« on: January 15, 2015, 07:48:06 PM »

I emailed Steven Pinker, here is our correspondence.

Dr. Pinker,

I do not know if you're aware of this, but you are one of the more cited authors in the policy debate community. Your arguments about the decline of violence are compelling to many as reasons why we should focus on policy making instead of, say, psychoanalysis. A handful of debaters, including two from your school, argue this characterization is wrong because it incentives, to quote Monica Toft, a peace bubble. I am wondering if you have any responses to these arguments.

Thank you for your time and your prolific writing style, you're truly the best.

Kurt Fifelski

--

Thanks, Kurt. Monica Toft, with whom Iím friendly, is no longer at Harvard; she moved to Oxford a couple of years ago.
 
Itís certainly possible that the prevalence of war will increase; Goldstein and I certainly donít believe that the decline of war is a law of nature. (Indeed, there has been a small uptick in the past three years Ė see my recent article in Slate with Andrew Mack called ďThe World has Not Falling Apart.Ē) Itís also possible that it will decrease. But no, thereís no ďbubbleĒ in the sense of an unsustainable trend caused solely by a widespread expectation that such a trend will continue. Peace doesnít work that way. There is no natural rate of peace to which deviations inevitably return; pairs of states, or entire regions, can go from recurring war to stable peace without any counteracting tendency to a reversal (e.g., Britain & the US; Germany & France).Also, itís not just raw rates of war that have changed; so have many of the underlying fundamental drivers. Military spending per GDP, rates of conscription,  romantic militarism, are down; international institutions and global trade per GDP is up.
 
As for forms of human harm other than deaths: Monica presents no data that they have increased, and Andrew and I summarize a number of ways in which they decrease. In general, of course, rates of death and other forms of harm correlate over time, since if you do a lot of shooting and bombing, then among the people who donít get killed, many end up injured and traumatized. Conversely, if fewer people are getting shot to death, fewer people are getting injured by gunshots, and fewer are traumatized by seeing their buddies injured or killed.
 
Best,
Steve
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bbolman
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2015, 01:02:23 PM »

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darthsuo
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2015, 01:24:04 PM »

You think Pinker is your ally . . .
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kelly young
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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2015, 02:43:52 PM »








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Trond Jacobsen
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2015, 05:05:26 PM »

I think the rise of psychoanalytic-infected argumentation is a terrible turn. For the most part Lacan, Butler, Kristeva, Deleuze/Guatarri, etc., are full of shit.

Assuming Pinker's claim about trends in aggregate violence are true, how is this an argument for policy making over some other decision framework?
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