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  1. To what extent do you agree with this statement: “There are a number of reasons to doubt that the human mind is a blank slate, and some of them just come from common sense”?
  2. Do you agree that “the minds of men and the minds of women are not indistinguishable”?
  3. What does the experiment with gray matter distribution prove?
  4. Why do some people find the doctrine of blank slates so appealing?
  5. Do you find it hard to believe that “virtually all humans are born with a moral sense”?
  6. Do you agree with those who say that art is in decline?
  7. How do you understand this statement: “the impulse of modern art is the desire to destroy beauty”? Do you agree?
  8. “I’m overwhelmed with parenting advice… I feel like I could devote my life to figuring out what to play with my kids.” I think anyone who’s recently been a parent can sympathize with this mother.” – Does the presenter imply that most of parenting is done in vain?
  9. “Everything that happens to you in a given home over all of those years appears to leave no permanent stamp on your personality or intellect” – does this statement arouse any emotions in you? Do you find it hard to agree?
  10. What’s your take on nature/nurture debate? Are we mostly shaped by our genes or upbringing?



in the interim = during the period of time between two events; until a particular event happens

A year ago, I spoke to you about a book that I was just in the process of completing, that has come out in the interim, and I would like to talk to you today about some of the controversies that that book inspired.

to predispose = to influence someone so that they are likely to think or behave in a particular way

“The human brain is capable of a full range of behaviors and predisposed to none.”

to construe = to understand the meaning of a word, a sentence, or an action in a particular way

But if you instead look at what is common to the world’s cultures, you find that there is an enormously rich set of behaviors and emotions and ways of construing the world that can be found in all of the world’s 6,000-odd cultures.

congenial = pleasant, suitable

Well, there are a number of political reasons why people have found it congenial.

to condemn to… = to force to experience an unpleasant situation

Whereas, if we’re born with certain instincts, then perhaps some of them might condemn us to selfishness, prejudice and violence.

non sequiturs = a statement that does not seem to follow what has just been said in any natural or logical way

Well, in the book, I argue that these are, in fact, non sequiturs.

ignoble = not good or honest; that should make you feel shame

Also, even if we were born with certain ignoble motives, they don’t automatically lead to ignoble behavior.

to take a stand = to publicly express an opinion about something, especially to say whether you support or are against something

There was indeed reason to be nervous, and there were moments in which I did feel nervous, knowing the history of what has happened to people who’ve taken controversial stands or discovered disquieting findings in the behavioral sciences.

to barrage = if you are barraged by criticisms, complaints, or questions, you have todeal with a large number of them at the same time

Well, pretty soon they were barraged with enraged letters, death threats, ban on the topic in a number of scientific journals, coming from irate left-handers and their advocates, and they were literally afraid to open their mail because of the venom and vituperation that they had inadvertently inspired.

to deplore = to strongly disapprove of something and criticize it, especially publicly

And I have a collection, probably 10 or 15 headlines, from highbrow magazines deploring the fact that the arts are in decline in our time.

to dwindle = to become gradually less or smaller

Serious book stores are losing their franchise, nonprofit theaters are surviving primarily by commercializing their repertory, symphony orchestras are diluting their programs, public television is increasing its dependence on reruns of British sitcoms, classical radio stations are dwindling, museums are resorting to blockbuster shows, dance is dying.

in droves = in large numbers

Students are staying away in droves, universities are disinvesting in the arts and humanities.

to disdain = to think that someone or something is not good enough to deserve your respect

Well, the argument in «The Blank Slate» was that elite art and criticism in the 20th century, although not the arts in general, have disdained beauty, pleasure, clarity, insight and style.