Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters (Random House Large Print)

Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters (Random House Large Print)

by Steven Pinker (Author)

“In our uncertain age, which can so often feel so dark and disturbing, Steven Pinker has distinguished himself as a voice of positivity.” – New York TimesCan reading a book make you more rational? Can it help us understand why there is so much irrationality in the world? Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now (Bill Gates’s "new favorite book of all time”) answers all the questions here Today humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding--and also 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, medical quackery, and conspiracy theorizing? Pinker rejects the cynical cliché that humans are simply irrational--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 out the benchmarks for rationality itself.  We actually 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’ve discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others. These tools are not a standard part of our education, 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 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 Pinker’s customary insight and humor, Rationality will enlighten, inspire, and empower.

Explore the Essence of Rationality with Steven Pinker's "Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters"

In his captivating book, "Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters," renowned author and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker delves into the intricate workings of rationality, shedding light on its significance in our decision-making processes. Pinker engages readers in a compelling journey, examining why rationality often appears scarce and emphasizing its profound impact on our lives and society as a whole.

Key Concepts and Insights:

  • Defining Rationality: Pinker unravels the complexities of rationality, providing a clear and comprehensive definition that encapsulates both its cognitive and emotional aspects.
  • Understanding Cognitive Biases: The book delves into the realm of cognitive biases, exploring how these inherent limitations of our thinking can lead to irrational decisions and behaviors.
  • Role of Emotions: Pinker challenges the traditional view that emotions hinder rationality, arguing instead that they play a crucial role in decision-making, providing valuable information and shaping preferences.
  • Historical Perspective: The author takes readers on a historical journey, tracing the evolution of rationality from ancient philosophical debates to contemporary scientific research.
  • Improving Rationality: Pinker offers practical strategies for individuals and institutions to improve their rationality, emphasizing the importance of critical thinking, education, and open-mindedness.

Why Read "Rationality"?

In a world grappling with complex challenges, "Rationality" serves as a beacon of clarity and insight. Pinker's accessible writing style and thought-provoking analysis make the book an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of rational thought.

Relevance to Various Fields:

The concepts explored in "Rationality" transcend disciplinary boundaries, offering valuable insights for individuals from diverse fields, including:

  • Psychology: Psychologists can gain a deeper understanding of cognitive biases and their impact on human behavior.
  • Philosophy: Philosophers can engage in discussions about the nature of rationality and its implications for epistemology and ethics.
  • Economics: Economists can explore the role of rationality in decision-making and market behavior.
  • Political Science: Political scientists can examine the relationship between rationality and political processes, such as voting and policy-making.
  • Education: Educators can find valuable insights for promoting critical thinking and rational decision-making in students.


Steven Pinker's "Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters" is an indispensable resource for anyone seeking to delve into the complexities of rational thought. Its comprehensive exploration of rationality, coupled with Pinker's engaging writing style, makes it an essential read for anyone interested in understanding how we make decisions and how to make better ones.


624 pages