Summary of The Blank Slate

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The Blank Slate book summary


9 Overall

7 Importance

8 Innovation

9 Style


This book covers a lot of ground: philosophy, genetics, cognition, sociology and academic infighting. Steven Pinker, writing with persuasiveness and craft, shows why the doctrine of the “Blank Slate” became so important to 20th century intellectuals that they were willing to lie, cheat, libel and even threaten those who dissented. Yet, the dissenters were right. Given what science now knows of genetics, the idea that people are blank slates at birth is simply untenable. getAbstract finds that the author, despite a few hints of personal prejudices (ah, there’s human nature again), does an excellent job of grappling with enormously challenging subjects.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What “human nature” means
  • Why people are not “Blank Slates” at birth
  • Why the “Noble Savage” doctrine is wrong
  • How the 20th century academic establishment fought to suppress the truth about human nature

About the Author

Steven Pinker is a psychology professor at Harvard University. His research on visual cognition and the psychology of language earned prizes from the National Academy of Sciences and the American Psychological Association, which gave The Blank Slate two major book awards.



The Orthodoxy
The doctrines of the “Blank Slate” – that people are born as empty pages and their experiences write their personalities – and the “Noble Savage” – that “humans in their natural state are selfless, peaceable and untroubled” – originated in the 17th and 18th centuries with...

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