Pinker to post his “Rationality” lectures

February 9, 2020 • 1:30 pm

After I noted that Steve Pinker was teaching a course on Rationality at Harvard, and had put a lecture online, I’ve had a few inquiries about whether he’s going to publicly post all his lectures for the course. (Its website is below; click on screenshot.) The answer is yes for his lectures, but for guest lecturers he has to get their permission.

The lectures are being uploaded at this site, and there are already four of them posted. So tune in if you want to follow the course.

I am informed that Steve begins each lecture with a rock song appropriate to the topic of the day. And although, when I called attention to his first talk, I said I couldn’t see whether he was wearing cowboy boots, I’m additionally informed that he never lectures without cowboy boots and a necktie. The tie is partly is in memory of his grandfather Carl Wiesenfeld, who made ties in a factory in Montreal founded during the Depression (Metropolitan Cravat).

10 thoughts on “Pinker to post his “Rationality” lectures

  1. Knowing what your grandfather did during the depression to get by is a good thing. My grandfather was a barnstormer in the 30s which included entering the air races in the early 30s and going to county fairs and events to haul passengers. Made money during those times when most people were not.

    1. My paternal grandfather was a coal miner, hauling his 16 tons of No. 2 anthracite out of a Pennsylvania mountainside every day. When the Depression came, the mines cut down to partial shifts. My grandfather would work for a local farmer in his off time, in exchange for fresh milk and vegetables to bring home to his three young children.

      My maternal grandfather was a crane operator for Republic Steel. He and my grandmother had five kids born in the 1920s, my mom being the youngest, born a few months before the 1929 stock-market crash (plus two more Irish-Catholic “surprises” that came along in the mid-Thirties). For a while, they were on “relief” (which is what welfare was called in those days), as were many other families in their neighborhood. Their home was next to a street-car station and, to make a little extra money, my mom’s older siblings would go out in the mornings to scour the station and nearby tracks for empty bottles left behind by winos, to sell back to local bootleggers during Prohibition (and for a couple years thereafter until the supply of legal liquor caught up with the demand).

  2. I am informed that Steve begins each lecture with a rock song appropriate to the topic of the day.

    Safe to say Prof. Pinker is too much the refined gentleman to get things rolling with an attention-grabber like the proto-punk MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams”? 🙂

  3. Rock on, Pinker – literally. He might be aware of research showing that student retention of learned material improves when professors inject humor into lectures – even when the humor is unrelated. If the rock song gives a mnemonic hook for some of the material, that might be even better.

  4. My grandfather owned a pattern shop making models for casting plants. During the depression when business slacked off, he kept the family going by small scale farming and gardening. They owned chickens and a few cows. He used to say the farm was his insurance policy. I haven’t worn a tie in nearly 30 years – except for a few weddings.

  5. One was a doctor and the other a farmer. The farmer raised black eyed peas as a cash crop and sold in the farmer’s market in Atlanta, sixty mikes away, driving in a wagon and later in Ford Model T pickups.

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