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  • Published: 16 April 2018
  • ISBN: 9780241957851
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $28.00

The Enigma of Reason

A New Theory of Human Understanding



An exploration of human rationality from two ground-breaking thinkers

Reason, we are told, is what makes us human, the source of our knowledge and wisdom. If reason is so useful, why didn't it also evolve in other animals? If reason is that reliable, why do we produce so much thoroughly reasoned nonsense? In their ground-breaking account of the evolution and workings of reason, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber set out to solve this double enigma. Reason, they argue with a compelling mix of real-life and experimental evidence, is not geared to solitary use, to arriving at better beliefs and decisions on our own. What reason does, rather, is help us justify our beliefs and actions to others, convince them through argumentation, and evaluate the justifications and arguments that others address to us.

In other words, reason has evolved to help humans better exploit their uniquely rich social environment. This illuminating interpretation of reason makes sense of strengths and weaknesses that have long puzzled philosophers and psychologists - why reason is biased in favour of what we already believe, why it may lead to terrible ideas and yet is indispensable to spreading good ones. Ambitious, provocative, and entertaining, The Enigma of Reason will spark debate among psychologists and philosophers, and make many reasonable people rethink their own thinking.

  • Published: 16 April 2018
  • ISBN: 9780241957851
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $28.00

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Praise for The Enigma of Reason

'Filled with lively stories and vivid examples (involving ants, monsters, mosquitoes and dust bunnies, as well as paltry humans) ... its central thesis is sharp and convincing ... the argumentative theory of reason makes sense of human irrationality.

Times Literary Supplement

Elegant and compelling ... Mercier and Sperber delight in turning conventional wisdom on its head ... A timely and necessary book

Financial Times

Timely ... an antidote to the dual-process models behind Kahneman's famous Thinking, Fast and Slow. We need a faith in reason, and this book provides strong arguments that such faith is reasonable

Times Higher Education

Reason is more likely to confirm things that we want to be true, or which we already believe. So why does it exist? This new book provides the answer

Prospect

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