Paths of Glory: With Steven Pinker



  • March 31, 2014
  • This event has passed.
  • Offering Format: Public Event
  • Recommended for grade 12 and adults
  • Coolidge Corner Theatre
  • Members, students, and seniors: $9; general admission: $11
  • Associated Persons

    With Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University


Paths of Glory is among the most powerful antiwar films ever made. According to Roger Ebert, it is "the film by which Stanley Kubrick entered the ranks of great directors, never to leave them." Kirk Douglas is Colonel Dax, a World War I commander of a battle-weary regiment of the French army along the Western Front. When French generals order Dax's men on a blatant suicide mission to take an impregnable German position, the attack inevitably fails. To deflect blame, the generals order three arbitrarily selected soldiers to be tried on charges of cowardice. Dax, a criminal lawyer in peacetime, passionately defends the three scapegoats, but unless he can prove that the generals were at fault, nothing will save his clients from execution.

Brilliantly shot in black and white, Paths of Glory is unsparing in its treatment of the absurdity of war and the military machine's capacity for dehumanization.

Experimental psychologist Steven Pinker joins us before the film to discuss human nature, war, and violence and why — as implausible as it may sound — we may be living in the least violent and cruel era in history.

With Science on Screen, the Coolidge Corner Theatre creatively pairs a feature film or documentary with lively presentations by notable figures from the world of science, medicine, and technology. The Science on Screen series is co-presented by the Museum of Science, Boston and supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, with additional support from Gesmer, Updegrove LLP, and Richard Anders.

Photo © United Artists/Photofest

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Additional Information

Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, is one of the world's foremost writers on language, mind, and human nature. He has received seven honorary doctorates, several teaching awards, and numerous prizes for his books The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, and The Blank Slate. His most recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined was published in 2011. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Time, and The New Republic, he has been named to Foreign Policy’s "100 Global Thinkers," and Time magazine's "The 100 Most Influential People in the World Today."