The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

Friday, October 5, 2007

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by Science & the City

 

Speaker: Steven Pinker, Harvard University

New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker possesses that rare combination of scientific aptitude and verbal eloquence that enables him to provide lucid explanations of deep and powerful ideas. His previous books—including the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Blank Slate—have catapulted him into the limelight as one of today's most important and popular science writers.

Now, in The Stuff of Thought, Pinker marries two of the subjects he knows best: language and human nature. The result is a fascinating look at how our words explain our nature. What does swearing reveal about our emotions? Why does innuendo disclose something about relationships? Pinker reveals how our use of prepositions and tenses taps into peculiarly human concepts of space and time, and how our nouns and verbs speak to our notions of matter. Even the names we give our babies have important things to say about our relations to our children and to society.

With his signature wit and style, Pinker takes on scientific questions like whether language affects thought, as well as forays into everyday life—why is bulk e-mail called spam and how do romantic comedies get such mileage out of the ambiguities of dating? The Stuff of Thought is a brilliantly crafted and highly readable work that will appeal to fans of readers of everything from The Selfish Gene and Blink to Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Until 2003, he taught in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as The New York Times, Time, and Slate, and is the author of six books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, and The Blank Slate.