The Summer Reading Program at the Honors College provides you with an opportunity to explore the ideas of community, innovation, and teamwork through a common reading experience, and also to engage in open civil discourse with fellow students in your future residential hall about a current issue in our society.
Summer Reading 2018
This year’s summer reading features Dr. Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now, The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, which Bill Gates has called his “new favorite book of all time.”
Dr. Pinker is an influential cognitive scientist and experimental psychologist who is interested in all aspects of language and mind. He is currently the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics, and social relations. Over the past two and a half decades, his work on language and the mind has generated intense interest and frequent controversy. More recently, he has become known for advancing the ideas that the great successes the world has enjoyed are mainly taken for granted and that the scientific revolution and human reason have enabled (and are continuing to enable) the human condition to become fundamentally and measurably better
In the process, in both his new book and elsewhere, Dr. Pinker has taken on figures and ideas embraced by both the left and the right and, in turn, has been criticized by thinkers from different ends of the political spectrum. Some say he is excessively optimistic and relies on science and statistics to ignore real, persistent inequities and injustices. Others claim he neglects the value of religion, culture, and "traditional values" in presenting his case. He himself is critical of what he sees as the irrationality of both right-wing populism and leftist identity politics.
The Honors College is honored to be bringing Dr. Pinker to campus with the Program in Cognitive Science on October 3, when you will have an opportunity to hear him lecture and to meet him in a small setting. We selected his book for our summer reading because it provides a popular, influential, and provocative account of how different disciplines can be fused together to create a better world. We also selected it because it articulates its positions—and its opposition to other ideas and practices—with clarity and civility, and we look forward to you engaging with his ideas—and your new peers—in the same spirit.