Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker: Panel Discussion

Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker: Panel Discussion

Experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and writer. Known for his spirited and wide-ranging defense of evolutionary psychology, his publications How the Mind Works (1997) and The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002) are seminal works of modern evolutionary psychology.

Event Details

2006 - 2007 Season

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Speaker Bio

Recently named one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today,” Pinker is the author of the 2002 New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. His earlier bestsellers include the 1998 Pulitzer Prize finalist How The Mind Works; his 1994 classic, The Language Instinct; and the book that popularized his research, Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. His next book, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, will be published in 2007.

A native of Montreal, Pinker received his B.A. from McGill University and his Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University, where he is currently Johnstone Professor of Psychology. Before assuming this endowed professorship, he taught at Stanford University and, for 21 years, at MIT. Pinker is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Pinker’s research on visual cognition and the psychology of language has received numerous awards, including the Troland Award from the National Academy of Sciences and five prizes from the American Psychological Association. In addition to these recognitions for his research, Pinker has won a number of teaching prizes and was named among Newsweek‘s “100 Americans for the Next Century.”

Discussion Topics

Developed by the Pinker faculty team for his campus visit

In The Blank Slate you talk about the relations among different disciplines and the sometimes competing knowledge claims that are produced by these disciplines. At one point you talk about reduction (good and bad) and there are various hints along the way about your way of understanding and articulating the relation among these different disciplinary approaches. Does a liberally educated person in the 21st century need to have this kind of meta-level understanding of different kinds and ways of knowing and how they relate to each other?

Imagine teaching a course on “human nature.” Such a class would encourage students to think across disciplinary lines, to draw on a wide body of knowledge, and to critically synthesize information. These are skills obviously that will also prepare them to be savvy contributing citizens. Any ideas regarding the design and content of courses like this on the undergraduate level? Or, are interdisciplinary discussions only possible following sufficient schooling in individual disciplines?


Dr. Thomas Cook, Professor of Philosophy

Dr. Steven St. John, Associate Professor of Psychology