Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters
Can 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.
Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker is an exploration of the nature of rationality and its importance in human life. Pinker argues that rationality is a natural human capacity that is rooted in our evolutionary history. He also discusses the various factors that can lead to irrationality, such as emotion, prejudice, and cognitive biases.
Pinker's book is a comprehensive and thought-provoking examination of rationality. He draws on evidence from a wide range of fields, including psychology, economics, and philosophy, to make his case. He also provides a detailed account of the history of rationality, from the ancient Greeks to the present day.
Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters is an essential read for anyone who is interested in understanding the nature of human thought and behavior. It is a challenging book, but it is also highly rewarding. Pinker's writing is clear and engaging, and he does an excellent job of explaining complex concepts in a way that is accessible to non-specialists.
Here are some of the key themes that Pinker explores in the book:
- The definition of rationality: Pinker argues that rationality is the ability to think clearly and logically about the world around us. He distinguishes rationality from mere intelligence, arguing that it is possible to be intelligent but not rational.
- The importance of rationality: Pinker believes that rationality is essential for human progress. He argues that it allows us to solve problems, make better decisions, and live more fulfilling lives.
- The scarcity of rationality: Pinker notes that rationality is often in short supply. He argues that this is due to a number of factors, including emotion, prejudice, and cognitive biases.
- The history of rationality: Pinker provides a detailed account of the history of rationality, from the ancient Greeks to the present day. He argues that rationality has made significant progress over time, but that there is still much work to be done.
Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters is a landmark work that has changed the way we think about rationality. It is a must-read for anyone who is interested in understanding the nature of human thought and behavior.