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Download the entire book directly from the author. The complete book is available as HTML with interactive Processing. This book is typeset on the web in Georgia with headers in Proxima Nova. The Better Angels of Our Nature. The book contains a wealth of data simply documenting violence across time and geography. This paints a picture of massive declines in violence of all forms, from war, to improved treatment of children.
The book’s title was taken from the ending of U. Pinker uses the phrase as a metaphor for four human motivations — empathy, self-control, the “moral sense,” and reason — that, he writes, can “orient us away from violence and towards cooperation and altruism. The decline in violence, he argues, is enormous in magnitude, visible on both long and short time scales, and found in many domains, including military conflict, homicide, genocide, torture, criminal justice, and treatment of children, homosexuals, animals and racial and ethnic minorities. Pinker argues that the radical declines in violent behavior that he documents do not result from major changes in human biology or cognition. He specifically rejects the view that humans are necessarily violent, and thus have to undergo radical change in order to become more peaceable. Instead, he argues: “The way to explain the decline of violence is to identify the changes in our cultural and material milieu that have given our peaceable motives the upper hand.
Pinker identifies five “historical forces” that have favored “our peaceable motives” and “have driven the multiple declines in violence. The first section of the book, chapters 2 through 7, seeks to demonstrate and to analyze historical trends related to declines of violence on different scales. Chapter 8 discusses five “inner demons” – psychological systems that can lead to violence. Chapter 9 examines four “better angels” or motives that can incline people away from violence. The last chapter examines the five historical forces listed above that have led to declines in violence.