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  • Enlightenment Now

  • The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
  • Written by: Steven Pinker
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 19 hrs and 49 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (580 ratings)
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Enlightenment Now

Written by: Steven Pinker
Narrated by: Arthur Morey
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Publisher's Summary

Instant New York Times best-seller. A New York Times notable book of 2018. One of The Economist's books of the year.

"My new favorite book of all time." (Bill Gates)

If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: People are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science. 

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing. 

Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature--tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking--which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation. 

With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress. 

Includes a Bonus PDF with charts and graphs.  

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2018 Steven Pinker (P)2018 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"Narrator Arthur Morey hits the sweet spot with a balanced delivery pairing clarity and judicious pace to make Pinker's timely and uplifting message accessible to the thoughtful listener.... Listeners who enjoy a challenge will find this beautifully written, masterfully presented audiobook rewarding." (AudioFile)  

What listeners say about Enlightenment Now

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Intellectual optimistic Steven Pinker did it again

When you want to stay informed about the state of the world you are consistently pushed the idea that everything is terrible and we're ask turning this planet into a hell scape. This book brings a wealth of information and a ton of graphs to help pull you out of that mind set and remind you we are standing on the shoulders of giants and we continue to push towards an ever brighter future.

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not a book suitable for audio

given the amount of data in this book, it is not well suited for audio format. the ideas presented within are interesting, but it is easier to read on paper/Kindle.

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Deceptive and self-plagiarized

I had few issues with the book:
First, Pinker has an obvious point about progress, but in many cases I feel his tone is like a politician campaigning for re-election. When he is trying to depict a shiny horizon on matters such as social and economic inequality and climate change, he is walking on the deception line.
Secondly, I did not find Pinker's new book to offer any fresh outlook. Very much a self-plagiarized extension to his ideas of ever lasting progress in "The Better Angels of Our Nature". He has summarized his 2015 Munk debate with Alain de Botton and Malcolm Gladwell. Pinker has dedicated whole chapters addressing some of main points by his critics on this debate, such as atomic Armageddon, humanism, happiness, etc. While Pinker is not shy to list thinkers on different views, he is silent about de Botton and Malcolm Gladwell debate.
Finally, I don't get picking fight with some thinkers like Nietzsche, and trying to link all anti-science and fascism blame on him. Just don't get what he was trying to achieve by demonizing him.

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The wrong book for the right moment

Look, Steve Pinker is a giant, and there is something to the idea of the Power of Positive Thinking on a cultural level, but I get the impression that Pinker forgets he is surrounded by the intellectual and cultural elite at all times. He forgets how unaware average people really are. It's not that they are ignoring the positive in favour of the negative , it's that they just aren't paying attention to anything outside their own lives. Humans aren't excessively pessimistic on a social level, unless they're A. depressed, a condition which ignores the evidence so a recitation of facts is unhelpful to deal with the problems, or B. intellectuals who are looking for problems to solve. In those people it's not a bug, it's a feature.
Intellectuals know the world is improving in the long-term sense and on quite a few socioeconomic metrics.
It's just not improving fast enough. Climate change, extremism, polarization and the globalization of the latter two are all existential threats to humanity, regardless of other metrics.
Anyone engaged enough to read Pinker likely doesn't need a dose of positivity. They need a kick in their complacency to tackle the problems we really must solve.

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This deserves 10 stars !!!!!!

This has easily been one of my favourite books of the year hands down. I bought the hard copy as soon as I finished the audiobook, so that I could quote the statistics, charts, and graphs used to source his material. Professor Pinker paints such a beautifully bleak, raw, honest, and yet humbling picture of what life was like for everyday people like us only a few centuries ago, making this “Covid” pandemic seem like child’s play in comparison. Very educational and humbling. It was almost impossible to complain about literally anything once I finished reading.

Absolutely loved it !!!

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  • 2019-05-14

Like Nassim Taleb would say: IYI

Sadly, Pinker couldn't get above his political bias. Couldn't just stick to facts and had to attact Trump and Brexit supporters, because why would an 'intellectual' respect democracy when it doesn't go 'his way'? At least the pdf is good!

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Quality Optimism

It was nice to have this well documented set of optimistic facts, pulling from a longer time cycle than nightly or weekly news, documenting some of the positive progress we have, and can make, as a species. #Audible1

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It filled me with Intellectual Optimism.

I see why this Bill Gates’ new favourite book. It filled me with Intellectual Optimism. Just the graphs alone are inspiring.

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without enlightenment there is only confusion

Great narration!!!
In today's society, unless we look and see enlightenment, we will spiral downward into hell on earth. The author looks at every aspect of life throughout the centuries to show how and when enlightenment was strong and when it was the opposite.
If we want to have a peaceful future, we have to look only for the positive.

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So meaningful

this book contains some of the most important ideas I have ever been exposed to

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  • Neuron
  • 2018-02-25

We live in the best of all times

Did you know that the life expectancy, globally, today is 71 years whereas 200 years ago the life expectancy was 31?. Did you know that there is a much smaller chance today that you will be murdered, go to war, die in a plane or car crash, or die from a lightning strike than in any other time in history? Did you know that a higher proportion of people are born into democracies and have access to sufficient food and money than ever before? To quote a quote from this book: “If you could choose to be born anytime, you would choose now” - Barack Obama

Steven Pinker is, without doubt, one of the most important and knowledgeable intellectuals in the world today. With Enlightenment Now, he proves this point again. Few write as well as Pinker. And even fewer can pack so much information and statistics into a book and still maintain such beautiful prose. Even if you only remember a small part of all the knowledge you will acquire if you read this book, you will have learned a lot.

The book has two parts. The first and longest part (around 20 chapters) describes the progress that has occurred in a number of different areas of life (see below). The second part of the book is a defense of the ideas of the enlightenment - the ideas that are responsible for much of the progress that has been observed. Below is a non-exhaustive list of topics reviewed by Pinker in this book


Life duration - Life expectancy, at any age, is longer today than it has ever been i.e. old people today also have a longer life expectancy than old people in the past

Economics - We are much much richer and every day another 130.000 people in the world exits extreme poverty

Access to food - All parts of the world have access to more food, in the west, the poor are often obese

Equality - There is more equality between the genders and between different ethnic groups and people (especially youth) value equality more than ever before

The environment - Climate change IS a potential concern however we are making progress and in most other respects the environment is getting better: more trees, cleaner air etc. As we are entering the digital age we are also using fewer resources (paper, plastics etc).

Wars - Whereas wars used to be the norm, there are no wars between major powers today and even with the terrible civil war in Syria, casualties are nowhere near that in previous wars

Accidents - People are less likely to die from car crashes, lightning strikes, falls etc. We seem to value life more today and we have taken steps to look out for and prevent all kinds of accidents

Violence - Murders, rapes, and violence are less common. It is very unlikely that you will die in a terror-attack.

Political systems - Contrary to what you might think if you watch the news, democracy is on the rise and has been for a long time. The anti-enlightenment populism (ex Trump) is a concern however, it is an old-people movement and will likely dissipate

Quality of life - More people today find their life exciting and meaningful than before. We have more spare-time and we don’t have to work until we die

Happiness - People are happier today and happiness comes with progress in the other variables described here.

Existential threats - The hole in the ozone is gone, forests are growing, no nukes have been launched (despite what doomsayers of yesterday would have you believe).


To sum up the first part of the book: Things have gotten better. Much better. Still, don’t think that Pinker believes that all problems are gone. He reiterates the point that the laundry does not wash itself - and global challenges don’t solve themselves. Despite the progress we have seen there are ample challenges left. There are still wars, famines, genocides, and environmental issues. Pinker acknowledges this, however, he emphasizes that the world has seen progress, not regress. And it is important to acknowledge that things have gotten better - not to pad ourselves on the shoulder - but rather so that we can analyze what it is that has worked so that we can keep doing that.

Is it the enlightenment ideas that have caused the undeniable progress in the world? This is the question addressed in the second part of the book. Since progress occurred in the world before the enlightened philosophers took the stage I would say only partly. Then again there were people acting in the spirit of the enlightenment even before Hume, Voltaire and the rest. And it feels safe to say that progress is not achieved through irrationality, populism, and closed-mindedness. To me as a scientist, this seems like a relatively trivial point, but I get reminded that it isn’t a view shared by the rest of the world every time I turn on the TV or radio.

The objections to this book are predictable (see other reviews). People are accusing Pinker of being a politically motivated naive optimist. If you think so then I can only advice you to read the book (and finish it), and then make up your own mind. Unlike most of those who criticise him, Pinker provides data to back his claims. I can only assume that it is Pinker’s critics, not Pinker himself, who are politically motivated “progressophobics” who, upon hearing a couple of anecdotes or reading about the war in Syria, throws all data out the window and claim that things are getting worse and that anyone who says otherwise is a naive optimist, right-wing fundamentalist or climate change denier.

This book is another masterpiece from one of the best non-fiction writers, and on my rating scale it no doubt deserves the top rating. However, I still think that Better Angels, with its more narrow focus, is probably a better book. To some extent, this book is a follow up to Better Angels, even though this book has a broader scope. Since Better Angels was published many people seem to think that things have turned around and that the world is now regressing. If you read this book you will learn that this is not the case. The progress until 2011 when Better Angels were published has continued and is expected to continue into the future as well.

So, to sum up, read this book if you want an antidote to all the doomsayers that dominate the media. Read this book if you want to revive the optimist in you. Evidently, we can make the world a better place - as we have done in the past.

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  • Kitsune
  • 2018-08-06

Legitimately Optimistic but Sometimes Biased

I'm a big Pinker fan. He's a brilliant speaker, writer, and is fantastic at being able to disseminate erudite concepts to the common man. He has well-earned his reputation. He can be persuasive, witty and reassuring when we feel we are doomed as a society. He gives statistics that are irrefutable and makes a wonderful case for the fact that we are evolving, not devolving, as a society/nation/world.

However, his last 3 chapters or so are very disheartening. I am hardly a fan of Donald Trump. However, Pinker's hatred of Trump spews forth in many venomous diatribes against him. I agree with him as to why Trump is what he is, and why he has accumulated a mass of followers. But Pinker's obvious bias is a problem. It will alienate some of the people who need to hear his message the most. For that, I must downgrade an otherwise sterling book.

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  • Phil
  • 2018-02-14

Every Bit As good as Better Angels of Our Nature

I am not through this book yet, but 4 hour into the book today (2-13-2018) this book is every bit as good as Better Angels, which is my favorite non-fiction out of hundreds I have listened to on Audible. Authur Murray is the perfect narrator for this book as he was for Better Angels. This book will make you feel better about our world with solid facts provided to lay a foundation for this optimism.

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  • Gary
  • 2018-02-14

Tells us how Al Gore is like the Unabomber!!!

When this book was not boring me it was irritating me.

All of the author’s anecdotes I had read elsewhere. Science is good. I don’t need convincing. Vaccines work. Poverty is bad and is getting better throughout the world. Everyone who wants to know this stuff already knows it.

Why equate Al Gore with Theodore Kaczynski (The Unabomber) as the author seems to do regarding the environment? Is Fox News really right when they said the poor can’t be poor because they have cell phones and air conditioning today? The author defended that absurdity though he doesn’t mention that Fox used to argue that when Obama was president.

And why did the author make a false equivalence between Bernie Sanders and Trump? Sanders didn’t believe ‘climate change is a Chinese Hoax’, or pick someone in his cabinet who thinks vaccines cause autism, or wanted to build a wall and claim Mexico will pay for it, or feed our hate against Muslims, Browns, Asians or anyone who strikes his fancy for the day even kneeling football players.

This author always seemed to have some pie in the sky anti-humanist post-modernist Strawman he was easily demolishing for some reason I couldn’t figure out. He mentioned the in-gratitude where in the 9th circle of hell and implied Dante had a point and people most of us have never heard of such as Heidegger, Adorno, and Neitzsche, and I think he also mentioned Marcuse belonged there for their in-gratitude. (I’m going to venture a guess, since I didn’t read all of the book: the author doesn’t like ‘identity politics’ and gets bothered by ‘political correctness’ and thinks ‘both sides’ are to blame. I don’t know if that’s where he was going, but I wasn’t going to find out by wading thru a familiar story I’ve read better told in other books).

The author is completely out of his depth on economics and inequality. I suggest you read Piketty’s book instead of this author’s poorly constructed deconstruction of Piketty’s wonderful book, and then tell me again why inequality is not real or not a big deal! His Enlightenment and Romanticism knowledge seemed superficial. Of the 8 or so Voltaire quips he provided, I had heard them all elsewhere.

I stopped this book after 5 hours. I got my credit back from Audible. I seldom do that. This author was teaching me nothing I didn’t already know, and worse than that seemed to have a disregard for the truth by trying to defend his own thesis beyond what the facts would take a reasonable person.

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  • Rahul Srivastava
  • 2018-04-03

Maybe a good book but not a good audiobook

Difficult to follow graphs and data in an audiobook. Narration is also a bit too monotone.

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  • JDC
  • 2018-08-28

Good information but a ponderous dissertation

I stumbled across one of the author’s TED Talks via the TED Radio Hour podcast on NPR. Listened to some of his other presentations which prompted me to purchase his most recent work. I appreciate his numbers driven perspective on life and the enlightened progress of humanity. He presents a grounded reality which is welcomed in a world where all we seem to hear about is the numerous crises which will lead to the end of humankind. However, the presentation is ponderous and repetitive. Many times, while listening to the book, I had to assure myself I had not accidentally gone backwards in the presentation (which I had not). While the hardcopy version of the book would make for a good reference library – the audiobook is a miss.

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  • Walter D.
  • 2018-02-27

Great book despite the cheap Trump bashing

I really liked this book, as I did the other Pinker books. The ideas and concepts for enlightenment are well presented and resonate with any thinking person. I was put off by what seemed like petty Trump bashing, which didn’t seem to be supported with facts as much with Democratic Party Talking Points. Pinker is right in thinking Trump is not leading us in enlightenment, but wrong in suggesting either of the two majors parties are. Partisan politics only waist about ten percent of the reading, the rest is filled with interesting facts and dispelled fallacies about the present state of humanity. I’ve picked up several hard copies for friends, and look forward to the hours of conversations it will inspire. I highly recommend this book to anyone.

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  • Client Amazon
  • 2018-03-31

A must read for our age

Bill Gates may have cited it a his new favorite book, but this is not the reason why you should read it ;-)...Besides, his promotion was certainly counterproductive to entice those people who, alas, would most need to read this book : the flat-earthers, the conspiracy theorists, the misinformed,scapegoat-seeking, angry, resentful, or bigoted masses who vote for populist politicians peddling anti-science propaganda to promote their ideological agendas.
Pinker is best positioned among world-renowned intellectuals to update against all current challenges and repudiations the great tradition of european englightenment, which is not , as some would have it, a euro-centric quirk, but the only sound, time-proven and universal basis for an open liberal society.
Many self-help/positive thinking books advise people to "count their blessings" every day, but this book should be the ultimate blessing-provider : remind every day that you live in a time where the risks of suffering or dying a violent death are lower than they have ever been, thanks, ultimately, to science and reason. And it should make deservedly proud all those who have contributed, through the patient incremental collective efforts of science and engineering, to this secular achievement.

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  • Joe
  • 2020-11-18

Political

The author starts out right away with his views on President Trump. I assumed from the title that the book was about enlightenment, not politics and liberalism.

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  • vijay bhatt
  • 2018-06-13

feels like review paper about human progress

There is lot of data produced to feel comfortable (and to be sure) that world is getting better, safer and future holds a lot of promise. But it says nothing how it was achieved, what were the reasons some breakthroughs were possible and why it took so long for others, also no talk about why apparently things look bad everyday around (as perception portrayed by news etc). No clue on what can be done to have these good things happen more and more. So overall I felt like I'm listening to data compilation on human progress.
This book has high rating and many recommend it, so maybe i misjudged and my analysis is wrong... best would be if you find out yourself :) .

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  • Aymeric Roger
  • 2021-05-17

Ce livre m'a fait changer de regard sur le monde

Un livre très instructif qui fait changer de regard sur le monde et voir la vie avec plus d'optimisme, chiffres à la clef. Les graphiques sont éloquents et les arguments convainquants. Une prise de perspective très réussie que l'on a envie de partager autour de soi.
La dernière grande partie du livre est toutefois trop longue à mon sens et tient plus de l'essai que de l'ouvrage scientifique. Enfin, j'ai été extrêmement déçu de l'avis caricatural un peu ridicule sur Nietzsche, que Pinker n'a semble-t-il pas du tout compris.

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  • Carlos A Bonadona V
  • 2019-05-08

Realistics perspectives of mankind.

Beyond our day to day perceptions. To better understand from where we came, how we improve our lives and what our future can be.

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  • Maurice Tawil
  • 2019-04-28

Pas Mal mais Tres repetitif

Beaucoup trop de statistiques qui nous donne une idée trop positive du monde dans lequel nous vivons.
pas reussi a terminer

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  • Pierre Gauthier
  • 2019-03-17

Disappointing!

In this exceedingly long work, Steven Pinker defends the position that mankind currently lives in the best period in all its history. He convincingly supports this with abundant statistics, touching health, murder rate, wars, etc.

Sadly, the author repeats himself, to the extent of defeating his thesis. Also, he is overly adamant with those with whom he disagrees, including the Catholic Church. Tolerance, an essential component of enlightenment, is not displayed, particularly in the latter part of the book.

In the audio version, the graphs included in a PDF attachment are very disappointing, strictly in black and white and poorly laid out, with little respect for the buyer.

Overall, a summary of this work is enough to grasp its message and it appears by no means worthwhile to invest time and money to the whole thing.

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