janet grau

Reason's Muscle

Reason’s Muscle

Performance for video, digital experiment, 2021

Reason’s Muscle is a performance that playfully explores two questions: 1) Is the world getting better or worse? 2) What drives moral progress, empathy or reason?

The piece stages a dialogue between the cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker and his wife, the renowned philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. This dialogue, which is based on their writings and research, explores questions of philosophy, morality and human nature.

During the COVID pandemic, I staged the performance for video, playing all the characters. I also created an online ‘scrollytelling’ version (no longer available).

The performance script quotes, with kind permission, Steven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein in The Long Reach of Reason (TED2012).

"When our great-grandchildren look back at us, will they be as appalled by some of our practices as we are by our slave-owning, heretic-burning, wife-beating, gay-bashing ancestors?"

 "I'm sure everyone here could think of an example."

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