The Art of Self-Persuasion
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The Art of Self-Persuasion : The Social Explanation of False Beliefs

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In this book Raymond Boudon examines the main theories for the explanation of beliefs, providing a major contribution to the analysis of beliefs and the theory of rationality.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 336 pages
  • 165 x 232 x 18mm | 504g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0745619134
  • 9780745619132
  • 1,881,046

Back cover copy

People of all times and cultures have believed in false and dubiousideas. This is just as true of our modern scientific age as it wasof earlier cultures - we too believe in all sorts of ungroundedcausal statements, like such and such a practice can lead to alonger life, to better health and so on. How can such beliefs beexplained?


Boudon examines the main theories that have been used in the socialsciences and psychology for the explanation of beliefs. He thendevelops a particular model which enables him to show that actorsoften have good reasons to believe in false ideas. The central ideaof this model is that actors often draw controversial conclusionsfrom valid arguments because they introduce implicit statementswhich they do not perceive, since they treat them with good reasonsas self-evident. Hence they can hold doubtful or even falseconclusions and regard them as solidly grounded. Boudon shows thatthis model can be used to reinterpret many findings from thesociology of religion and the sociology of knowledge, as well asfrom cognitive psychology. It can also show how scientificarguments can lead to false or fragile beliefs - in short, beliefsin false ideas are often grounded in serious arguments.


The Art of Self-Persuasion is a major contribution to theanalysis of beliefs. Moreover, through the elaboration of thenotion of 'good reasons', it also makes a significant contributionto the theory of rationality.
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Table of contents

Preface. Part I:. 1. The Powers that Induce us to Agree. 2. Good Reasons for Believing in False Ideas. 3. Simmela s Model. 4. Hyperbole Machines. Part II: . 5. Questions and Answers. 6. No Effect Without Cause. 7. Truth is Unique. 8. Words and Things. Part III:. 9. Reason with a Small. 10. Simmel and the Theory of Knowledge. Notes. Index.
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Review quote

"The simple title of this erudite and eclectic book does not do justice to the complexity or range of phenomena examined by Boudon. Students of the history of science, philosophy of science, sociology of knowledge, and psychology will find this a challenging and well--argued work. Upper--division undergraduate through professional." Choice "This is a well--written volume with wide implications for the sociology of knowledge that should be useful for a variety of advanced courses." BSA Network "Cautious, logical, and fresh ... philosophically, Boudon stands forth as martial voice for social science, ready to defend, from the persistent attacks of antiscientific hyperbole, a sociological tradition won at great cost over the last 100 years." American Journal of Sociology "I hope this book will be followed by a debate about the issues it raises because it deserves that kind of attention." Acta Sociologica
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About Raymond Boudon

Raymond Boudon is one of the leading sociologists in Europe today. His previous books include The Analysis of Ideology (Polity, 1989) and Theories of Social Change (Polity, 1991).
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