Free Speech, Human Nature, and the New Wave of Enlightenment with Prof. Steven Pinker
Play • 56 min

Host Paul Johnson welcomes Harvard University Professor and author Steven Pinker. 

They discuss the new wave of enlightenment, what stands in the way of us being more rational, the difference between being an optimist and an optimistic, free speech, cancel culture, and more.

  • Paul Johnson and Prof. Steven Pinker discuss the ongoing issue of American people losing faith, which often leads to losing agency and having a problem with identity politics. 
  • Prof. Pinker touches upon the fact that several historical trends have gone in a positive direction but that people aren’t aware of this because they get their world’s view from the news.
  • Paul Johnson and Prof. Pinker talk about the causes behind this new enlightenment, why the U.S. seems to be behind compared to other Western Countries and the conditions that have created the ongoing enlightenment period.
  • Why do ‘progressives hate to see progress?’ Prof. Pinker shares his thoughts and the psychological aspects that he believes may stand behind that line of thinking.
  • Prof. Pinker illustrates what he considers things that stand in the way of us becoming more rational.  
  • Paul asks Prof. Pinker about his approach that tends to be questioning everything: the values of the left, his own ideas, and himself. 
  • Prof. Pinker talks about how, from a psychological standpoint, to help people rationalize and look at things rationally when they are panicking.
  • Paul and Prof. Pinker go over amygdala hijacking, and the difference between being an optimist and being optimistic.
  • Nowadays, there seems to be a strong streak of authoritarianism by the left and young people seem to be strong supporters of free speech. Paul and Prof. Pinker discuss why that appears to be the case.
  • Prof. Pinker shares what he believes gives him the ability to test the norms, even when they could lead to long-term challenges for his career.
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