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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
4.5 out of 5 stars (312 ratings)

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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A Healthy Dose of Perspective

I loved this title and have thus far listened to it twice through. In a time of political, environmental and social conflict and insecurity, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I hope it reaches many more open minds because as a species we deserve to be proud of our accomplishments and reminded of why we continuously struggle to be better than we are. This book is a gift and has changed my perspective.

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  • PR
  • 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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    4 out of 5 stars

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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eye-opening, mind-changing, a worthy read!

Arthur Morey gives a top notch performance of this impeccably researched demonstration that we continue to live in time of unprecedented enlightenment.

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All the Nobel prizes, Mr. Pinker

Enlightenment Now is the most captivating book I have listened to in a long time. Steven Pinker brings a pragmatic and unbiased perspective to the biggest challenges we face as a species and global family. A refreshing, indepth and surprisingly hopeful stastical analysis with a dash of humor. A must read for everyone who is worried, hopeless or overwhelmed by the state of the world.

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Life is a Blessing.

We live in a time that is better than ever. Things are actually better than they seem. Longer lives, better health. More income. Embrace reason. Step outside of your echo chamber. Get knowledgeable and avoid ignorance. Bless Y'all.

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Much needed enlightenment

There are some important ideas in this book but I found my mind lose focus now and then due to the dry reading style and somewhat wandering narrative. Still a great book in spite of these issues, might be a better experience reading the book in print.

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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.

100 of 111 people found this review helpful

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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.

24 of 26 people found this review helpful

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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.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • PD
  • 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.

51 of 62 people found this review helpful

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  • Victor
  • 2018-06-25

important, but not much new

could have been 1/3 as long and as good. verl long winded, but if you haven't been reading in this area of the human condition, very good

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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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.

18 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Philomath
  • 2018-03-10

The case for reason made well with caveats

This book follows pleasantly on “The Better Angels of Out Nature” in its positive outlook of the enlightenment and the development of modern society through reason and science.

As always Steven Pinker is an engaging writer and one can’t but admire the style and confidence of his narrative, which he supports with figures and facts.

It is outside of his field of Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience, and linguistics, and in some cases his lack of in depth knowledge in other fields such as technology can be detected. Also as expected their is a slight bias to his narrative but all within reason, excuse the pun.

Generally it is a more realistic and positive outlook into a future that too many are presenting as dystopian. While there are dangers of the accelerating advancements made, which the author sometimes eludes to, all in all, a book worth reading as with all of his books.

Recommended to those who are Steven Pinker fans, as he does not disappoint, as well as the many that watch too much bad on news on TV.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Stephen L Wheeler
  • 2018-04-04

Required Reading for Humankind

A well-thought out and constructed argument for applying reason to today’s problems supported by empirical evidence usually presented over a longer time horizon than the media’s fascination with aberrations to overall trends and linear forecasting. If a magical genie were to appear to me and give me three wishes, one of them would certainly be that all human beings would read and understand the message of this book. Told in a way that is objective, entertaining, educational and full of “aha” moments, this book and its author are a balm and an antidote for the rash of apathy, magical thinking, and tribalism that seem to abound today.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean-Michel
  • 2018-03-31

Remplissant d'optimisme

Clair, précis, d'une importance et pertinence difficiles à surestimer, ce convaincant requiem intellectuel pour le progrès, la science, l'humanisme et la raison défait mythes et idées reçues et chasse le pessimisme, le nihilisme et la morosité. Bravo! Bravissimo!!

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott
  • 2018-07-21

Too quiet?

This is an okay read/listen, but it’s one of the least audible Audible books I have encountered. I suppose it’s possible my hearing isn’t what it used to be, but so far I haven’t noticed other readings being quite so muted. Please leave the volume-lowering to the listener and crank that mutha up! Thanks!

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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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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  • 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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  • 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

0 of 1 people found this review helpful