The Better Angels of our Nature is a book written by Steven Pinker, which highlights the decline in violence in the current world. The book begins with the studies related to the causes of death in different eras, and in various parts of the world. Firstly, Steven Pinker uses statistical features and evidence to present the fact that the world was excessively violent, in the past years. The book utilizes more than a hundred of maps and graphs to present the high numbers of deaths that occurred in the past eras within different communities. The book asserts that tribal warfare was extremely violent and could be compared to genocide of the 20th Century. The author proceeds with the assertion that sadistic punishments, slavery, and frivolous executions characterized the millennia but eventually had been approaching completion. The book points out that, over the years, there has been a sharp decline in the number of wars and military conflicts between both the developed and the developing countries. In order to illustrate the decline, the author proceeds with the assertion that the number of rapes, deadly riots, hatred crimes, and cruelty to animals have substantially declined all over the globe. The author notes that the decline in violence could be explained through understanding of people’s inner demons that motivate them to engage in violence and the better angels that shift people from engaging in violence. He associates the decline in violence with the beginning of government, trade, literacy, and cosmopolitanism. More so, the decline in violence is associated with the increased levels of empathy, control of people’s impulses, agreement, rather than aggression, increased reasonability levels.
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According to Steven Pinker (2011), the long arc of human civilization has played an instrumental role in reduction of violence over the years. The principal argument that supports the role of civilization in the reduction of violence is the union of states. Most of the individuals are now civilized and prefer creating states with a centralized management rather than living on their own as a range of isolated communities. He asserts that human civilization has strived to improve relationships among people from different communities and states globally. Pinker (2011) asserts that civilization forced people to leave their traditional living habits, such as solely hunting and communal warfare, and join to form large nations that have been able to live more peacefully over the recent years. Pinker asserts that the formation of a state is a uniting process that makes individuals better than they would have been, in case they had been living alone in some tribal cocoons. An individual state has control over all citizens and the ability to maintain peace over a longer period as compared to communal living. This principal argument justifies Hobbes’ assertion that the lack of state would lead to nasty, brutal, and short life of human beings in the contemporary world. The author emphasizes that the civilization of individuals has culminated in the formation of a state that ensures that individuals are pacified effectively and shun any thought of violence. Pacification is achieved through measures, such as educating the masses of a state over the significance of living in peace, as a one inseparable state. This tactics discourages violence and ensures that peace is upheld in all states. This argument is effective in concluding that civilization has ensured increased collaboration of individuals in states; hence, the reduction in violence. It effectively indicates the manner in which individuals used to live in independent tribes and the manner in which violence flourished. Gradually, people became civilized and decided to unite into states with the common ideology of living in peace as one nation. More so, the argument effectively proves that the formation of the nations has made it easier for governments to pacify their citizens; hence, the states have been able to reduce the general level of violence.
Steven Pinker uses substantial evidence to prove this hypothesis. He cites the pre-state studies that indicate that 15% of pre-historic human beings were killed by their fellows, because of communal aggressions. He proves the fact with some examples of the state societies, for example, the Aztec in Mexico, who experienced a sharp decline in the level of violence. He indicates that there were only 5% of murders in this state, as compared to other non-state societies that existed, in the times. Furthermore, he presents evidence that, in Europe, deaths in war were at 3% because of the beginning of the states. Steven Pinker (2011) has used this evidence with the aim of indicating the significance of civilization and the ultimate formation of states for individuals and society as a whole. He indicated that the formation of states in different parts of the globe has played an instrumental role in minimizing the levels of aggression in society. Pinker (2011) uses this evidence with the aim of proving the role of pacification in the reduction of violence in different countries. This evidence is also aimed at proving Hobbes’ insight that emphasizes that, without a state, life would have been unbearable.
I consider the evidence provided by Pinker strong enough, because it is in line with the facts that have been presented in the argument. The evidence does not deviate from the strong assertions in the argument that civilization through the formation of states has been instrumental in reducing violence all over the globe. The evidence proves the facts that have been presented in the argument. Moreover, the evidence is strong because it employs some figures and statistical data to prove the decline in violence around the globe. It uses percentages to backup the assertion that there was a reasonable decline in the number of individuals that were killed in different corners of the world since the formation of the states. The use of figures enables one to understand and follow the transformation of the notion of violence since the pre-states days. This follow up enables one understand the effectiveness of civilization and state formation in the reduction of general violence in the world. Therefore, I consider the evidence to be strong, because it is supported by the facts that have been presented in the argument about the reduction of violence in the states. In addition, it does not contradict significant aspects of the argument; hence, it ensures that a state fulfills its objective of reducing in violence rates around the globe.
On the other hand, the argument is weak because of the assertion that the formation of a state would automatically lead to peaceful living among individuals. It must be noted that there are some nations, which are still at war even after the formation of states. In fact, the formation of the state has contributed to the divisions that exist in some countries across the globe. For instance, countries like Somalia have witnessed continuous fighting even after the allegation of civilization and the formation of a state. There has been continuous rivalry in the country, and there have been excessive number of deaths even with the existence of a state and the central area of control. The author does not take into consideration the events in the histories of the states; hence, he presents a weak argument that does not cater for all aspects of life in all regions. Moreover, the assertion that the formation of a state gives expressway to peace makes the argument weak, because it cannot be employed for all countries around the globe. Peaceful living among individuals emanates from mutual understanding and acceptance of each other’s beliefs rather than the formation of a state. Some states lead divisive politics through propaganda and authoritarian leadership; hence, they increase the levels of violence. Therefore, the argument is extremely weak in its assertion that violence has been reduced solely by the formation of a state.
Moreover, the argument is weak because it does not cover all aspects of violence effectively. Notably, Pinker presents different types of violence at the beginning of his book. However, he fails to cover all these types of violence in his argument. He does not take into account some significant forms of violence, such as the one against homosexuals. The author does not indicate the manner in which the formation of states has assisted in the fight against violent acts, such as the one against homosexuality. Such cases of violence are rampant in society today even after the formation of a state and civilization. The author should have given an in depth analysis of such forms of violence and the manner, in which the formation of nations has assisted in solving problems related to them. The focus on the violence emanating from wars alone does not give an adequate image of the violence that is currently in existence. The author should have illustrated the manner, in which other forms of violence have been addressed adequately by civilization and subsequent formation of nations, more thoroughly, rather than focusing solely on the violence relating to war.
In addition, the evidence is weak because it does not give the approximate number of people who died in the violent military conflicts. Instead of presenting the number of people in percentages, the evidence should have given in approximate numbers of people’s lives that were lost. This strategy would have presented appealing evidence that could be easily understood and effectively considered by all individuals. People understand approximate numbers better than percentages. The presentation of these numbers could have ensured that there is effective understanding of the evidence among readers. Individuals could have understood the evidence better in case it was presented in the form of the exact figures of the entire population. The presentation of figures would have enabled individuals to compare the number of people that have been dying from violence over the years. This weakness raises a number of questions because the percentages used are difficult to interpret. For instance, one is not able to tell the exact number of people that died at a particular place, at a given period. These percentages are cited for specific communities only; hence, the paper does not give a global image of the actual reduction in the number of people’s death all over the globe. Therefore, when using these tribal representations, the reader is not able to get the correct view of the manner, in which violence has reduced. The evidence would have been more appropriate, in case it had focused on the global numbers, in terms of violence reduction.
On balance, I think Steven Pinker was successful in supporting his claim. He was successful because of the numerous pieces of evidence he presents after each argument. Evidence is an effective tool in ensuring that a particular point is passed across in the required manner. Pinker employed significant evidence in supporting all the claims about violence that he presented in his book. For instance, using the pre-state communities and the state communities, the author supports the fact of reduction in number of war crimes. This comparison is effective in ensuring that the claim is understood among individuals. More so, I think the author has managed to support his claim successfully because most of his assertions are in line with those made by earlier researches. He supports his claim effectively by basing it on Hobbes’ assertion that, without a state, individuals are likely to lead miserable lives. The reference to assertions, made by other individuals, ensures that there is success in the presentation of the claim. Furthermore, I think Pinker managed to support his claim because of the practical examples that he cites. He refers to the world war period and says that people have realized their mistakes and decided to settle for peace. He employs global organizations, such as the United Nations Organization, in supporting his claim; hence, he ensures that it is presented and understood effectively. The inclusion of these significant world organizations in the claim ensures that it is successful as it gives a true view of the current world affairs.
I am persuaded by Pinker’s claim because of the existing period of relative peace in most parts of the globe. Most countries have decided to collaborate and join peace blocks that help in reduction of violence across the globe. I am also convinced because there has been a relative period of peace in the history of humanity as different communities are integrated into one state. There has been continuous mutual understanding and agreement between all the communities around the globe. In fact, there have been organizations, such as the Women’s Rights Movement, to fight for the rights and reduce sexual violence against women. The existence of such bodies enabled me to be in complete agreement with the claim that the level of violence has reduced significantly over the years. I also support the claim because of the tangible evidence that the author of the book presents in his argument. All these arguments ensure that the claim is substantial and can be understood easily by all individuals.