Summary of The Stuff of Thought

Language as a Window into Human Nature

Viking Press, more...

Buy the book

The Stuff of Thought book summary
Nothing is ever “just semantics.” For humans, language is the way to apprehend reality. Or is it?


8 Overall

8 Applicability

8 Innovation

9 Style


Steven Pinker’s enthusiasm about language comes through everywhere in this book – which is a good thing, because the subject matter itself is dense and complex. This combination results in a curious reading experience: Pinker’s lively style, many anecdotes and extreme lucidity pull you forward in the text, but the difficulty of the questions he raises could stump you for some time. He explores many linguistic theories in such depth that readers without a particular interest in the field may, frankly, get lost or find the book too abstract, despite Pinker’s numerous attempts to ground his discussions in reality. Therefore, while this is a fine book, getAbstract recommends it primarily to patient readers who have a strong interest in language and philosophy. Bring along an open mind and a sense of humor, since Pinker explores language practices – such as obscenities and insults – that may provoke emotional responses.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How language relates to reality;
  • How words acquire meaning; and
  • Why some words are taboo.


Language and Reality
On September 11, 2001, terrorists flew a plane into one tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. A few minutes later, they flew another plane into the other tower. This sweeping tragedy changed the course of history – but was it one event or two? The question...
Get the key points from this book in less than 10 minutes. Learn more about our products or log in

About the Author

Steven Pinker teaches psychology at Harvard, and is the author of The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate, a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

By the same author

Customers who read this summary also read

More by category