October 18, 2007

"Proud Atheists" Pinker and Goldstein Interviewed

There's an extremely interesting interview with Steven Pinker and Rebecca Goldstein at Salon.Com:

Would you say your common interests are partly what brought you together?

GOLDSTEIN: Oh yes, completely. Actually, we met through each other's work. I was a great fan of Steve's work. And then I discovered that he had cited me in one of his books. It was my unusual use of an irregular verb. So it was completely through our work and my tremendous interest in Steve's work that we first came to know each other. I don't know if I should say this, but when I first met Steve in the flesh, I said that the way he thinks had so completely changed the way I think -- particularly what I had learned from him about cognitive psychology and evolutionary psychology -- that I said, "I don't think I've had my mind so shaken up by any thinker since [18th-century philosopher] David Hume." And he very modestly said, "That can't be the case." But it was the case. So I can certainly say that Steve has profoundly influenced the way I think.

PINKER: I've certainly been influenced by Rebecca as well. Our connection isn't just that we met through an irregular verb, which sounds like the ultimate literary romance of two nerds finding each other. [Goldstein laughs.] Rebecca as a philosopher is a strong defender of realism -- the idea that there is a real world that we can come to know --which emboldened me to press that theme in my own writings, even though people often say that we just construct reality through language. And the topic of consciousness -- how the mind emerges from the body, and what makes the three-pound organ that we call the brain actually experience things subjectively -- is a theme that runs through both my nonfiction and Rebecca's fiction and her philosophical writings.

Read the rest here. I am keen to read Goldstein's book on Spinoza, not least because of his influence on George Eliot.

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