Why Think?

Why Think? : Evolution and the Rational Mind

3.08 (12 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

In a world where natural selection has shaped adaptations of astonishing ingenuity, what is the scope and unique power of rational thinking? In this short but wide-ranging book, philosopher Ronald de Sousa looks at the twin set of issues surrounding the power of natural selection to mimic rational design, and rational thinking as itself a product of natural selection. While we commonly deem ourselves superior to other species, the logic of natural selection should not lead us to expect that nature does everything for the best. Similarly, rational action does not always promote the best possible outcomes. So what is the difference? Is the pursuit of rationality actually an effective strategy? Part of the answer lies in language, including mathematics and science. Language is the most striking device by which we have made ourselves smarter than our nearest primate cousins. Sometimes the purely instinctual responses we share with other animals put explicit reasoning to shame: the movements of a trained athlete are faster and more accurate than anything she could explicitly calculate. Language, however, with its power to abstract from concrete experience and to range over all aspects of nature, enables breathtakingly precise calculations, which have taken us to the moon and beyond. Most importantly, however, language enables us to formulate an endless multiplicity of values, in potential conflict with one another as well as with instinctual imperatives. In short, this sophisticated and entertaining book shows how our rationality and our irrationality are inextricably intertwined. Ranging over a wide array of evidence, it explores the true ramifications of being human in the natural world.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 200 pages
  • 129.5 x 180.3 x 22.9mm | 272.15g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 019518985X
  • 9780195189858
  • 1,443,719

Review quote

"This book is a tour de force of scholarly insights on one of the most subtle puzzles in cognitive science-the relation between rationality and evolution." -Keith E. Stanovich, author of The Robot's Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin "Why Think? is Ronnie de Sousa at his brilliant best- immensely learned, witty, bold, and a model of clarity. This book is a timely balance to the weight of data emphasizing the emotions and nonconscious processing in decision-making. It weaves coherent story out of a lot of bits and pieces lying about in loose confusion." -Patricia Smith Churchland, President's Professor pf Philosophy, University of California, San Diegoshow more

About Ronald De Sousa

Ronald de Sousa grew up in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. After completing school in France, he obtained a B.A. from Oxford, and a Ph.D. from Princeton. Based at the University of Toronto, he has lectured in over twenty countries on the emotions, philosophy of biology, ethics, and aesthetics. He lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter.show more

Rating details

12 ratings
3.08 out of 5 stars
5 0% (0)
4 33% (4)
3 50% (6)
2 8% (1)
1 8% (1)
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