Another unexpected spiritual insight from Pinker's How the Mind Works is that it almost exactly reproduces Richard Rose's general view of human psychology. People usually think of themselves as a single person, making decisions consistently in their own rational self-interest. Rose, however, noted that if you observe the proceedings of your own mind through introspection, and observed the behavior of people in general, it made a lot more sense to think of the mind as a collection of people: a bunch of Mini-Mes, often coalesced around desires and fears that competed with each other for control of the body.
It's not hard to persuade people of a multiple-self model – it pops up all over the place in our language and culture. Cartoon characters, when facing a moral dilemma, often have little angel and devil versions of themselves sitting on either shoulder, whispering in their ears. An overweight person wakes up determined to stick to a diet, and then ends the day eating a piece of chocolate cake – behaving almost exactly like two completely separate people with contradictory goals.
Based on this observation of the multiplicity of selves, Rose's advice to spiritual seekers was half common-sense folk wisdom and half mystical philosophy:
Become aware of the contradictory thought and behavior in yourself, though introspection, meditation, journaling, and through the objective observations of peers.
Try to establish a single consistent arbiter of behavior – what he called an "Umpire" – to rule the other contradictory elements in the mind and keep the person focused on the highest goals one could conceive.
Once contradictory, self-defeating, and destructive behaviors have been eliminated, the more-or-less unified personality can focus its energy on resolving the larger question of selfhood: who are you, really? Who is it that witnesses the multiplicity of selves, and chooses between them? What is the nature of your consciousness, which seems to be at the center of selfhood?
Rose's model of psychology came out of his own observation, and the pastiche of pop psychology, folk wisdom, and plain old superstition. Pinker's model has a much more scientific providence, but essentially confirms the same observations. A major theme of How the Mind Works is that human intelligence is not some undifferentiated blob of reasoning stuff, but rather a collection of discrete tools for cognition, each with its own programming and often leading the organism to differing conclusions. Pinker recognizes that each human emotion is a separate set of programming, to cope with different situations, and that they often contradict each other. He goes a few steps further and even demonstrates that because of the multiplicity of modules, evolution has designed certain emotions to override reason and seize control of the organism, so that other humans could count on a consistent reaction from someone regardless of the turn-over of motivations and rationales (e.g. marital infidelity will be consistently met with murderous rage). And, like Rose, Pinker sees consciousness as the mystery sitting in the middle of it all, the one begging to be explained.
You're probably right. You've read and listened to Pinker more than I have, so you would probably know. I was so frustrated by other cognitive scientists misconstruing what consciousness was, or even insisting that it didn't exist, that I was thrilled to read someone who at least understood that it was an entirely different question than most other questions of cognitive science.