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Brought to you by Penguin.
Can reading a book make you more rational? Can it help you understand why there is so much irrationality in the world? These are the goals of Rationality, Steven Pinker's follow-up to Enlightenment Now.
In the 21st century, humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding - and, at the same time, appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that developed vaccines for COVID-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, quack cures and conspiracy theorising?
Pinker rejects the cynical cliché that humans are an irrational species - cavemen out of time saddled with biases, fallacies and illusions. After all, we discovered the laws of nature, lengthened and enriched our lives and set the benchmarks for rationality itself. Instead, he explains that we think in ways that are sensible in the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning we have built up over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation and decision-making. These tools are not a standard part of our educational curricula and have never been presented clearly and entertainingly in a single book - until now.
Rationality also explores its opposite: how the rational pursuit of self-interest, sectarian solidarity and uplifting mythology by individuals can add up to crippling irrationality in a society. Collective rationality depends on norms that are explicitly designed to promote objectivity and truth.
Rationality matters. It leads to better choices in our lives and in the public sphere, and is the ultimate driver of social justice and moral progress. Brimming with insight and humour, Rationality will enlighten, inspire and empower.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.
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- Joe Cincotta
An excellent book at a time it is needed
This book should be required reading in every first year undergrad course. For every degree. Actually, it should be bedtime reading for your primary school children if they can penetrate the language. They may even acquire a fondness for Yiddish humour.
This book penetrates some of the most challenging and seemingly unrelated subjects of our time and provides a kind of 'cognitive glue' to make sense of them as symptoms of something much more profound. Spoiler alert: it's rationality and our cognitive pitfalls - individually and at scale.
The book itself is a joy to listen to, the narrator channels Pinker's brilliant way of taking a complex subject and delivering it in a totally accessible way. I think you really need to get the PDF illustrations to make the most of the book, especially in probability discussions, however even without this - challenging concepts are broken up with analogies and humorous yet poignant asides.
overall, a highly recommended read.