Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking

Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking

Daniel C. Dennett

Language: English

Pages: 512

ISBN: 0393348784

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“The best new book I’ve read.”―Richard Dawkins, New York Times Book Review

Over a storied career, Daniel C. Dennett has engaged questions about science and the workings of the mind. His answers have combined rigorous argument with strong empirical grounding. And a lot of fun.

Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking offers seventy-seven of Dennett’s most successful "imagination-extenders and focus-holders" meant to guide you through some of life’s most treacherous subject matter: evolution, meaning, mind, and free will. With patience and wit, Dennett deftly deploys his thinking tools to gain traction on these thorny issues while offering readers insight into how and why each tool was built.

Alongside well-known favorites like Occam’s Razor and reductio ad absurdum lie thrilling descriptions of Dennett’s own creations: Trapped in the Robot Control Room, Beware of the Prime Mammal, and The Wandering Two-Bitser. Ranging across disciplines as diverse as psychology, biology, computer science, and physics, Dennett’s tools embrace in equal measure light-heartedness and accessibility as they welcome uninitiated and seasoned readers alike. As always, his goal remains to teach you how to "think reliably and even gracefully about really hard questions."

A sweeping work of intellectual seriousness that’s also studded with impish delights, Intuition Pumps offers intrepid thinkers―in all walks of life―delicious opportunities to explore their pet ideas with new powers.

25 illustrations

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matter. We can extrapolate a bit: The author never mentions Sherlock having a third nostril, so we are entitled to assume that he didn’t (Lewis, 1978). We can also agree that he was not a bigamist with one wife in Paris and another in New York. But for many such questions there is no answer: Did he have a mole on his left shoulder blade? Was he a first cousin of Oscar Wilde? Did he own a cottage in Scotland? These questions and kazillions more about any real human being must have true answers,

like fingerprints or other distinguishing characteristics, and cannot be continuously tracked, so the continuing identity of particles does not always make sense, adding another barrier to knowing the facts about the gold. Now whether or not the whole universe is deterministic, computers are designed to be deterministic in the face of submicroscopic noise and even quantum randomness, absorbing these fluctuations by being digital, not analog. (We saw a vivid example of that with Conway’s game of

a single grain. 4. Therefore there are no such things as heaps! Philosophers have written about the sorites paradox and the problems of the vague boundaries of terms (which is what the paradox obviously depends on) for thousands of years, and there is still no resolution of just how to diagnose and avoid the fallacy. (See the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online for an excellent and up-to-the-minute survey.) There are even a few brave philosophers who declare the sorites to be valid, and

assume more understanding than is apt to be present in one’s distinguished audience has an unfortunate by-product: experts often talk past each other. There is no direct cure: entreating all the experts present at a workshop or conference not to under-explain their positions may be met by earnest promises, but it won’t work. If anything it will make matters worse since now people will be particularly sensitive to the issue of inadvertently insulting somebody. But there is an indirect and quite

intentions honorable?”). Here is a sentence to remind you of the differences: A cigarette is not about smoking, or about anything else, in spite of the fact that it is intended to be smoked; a “NO SMOKING” sign is about smoking and hence exhibits intentionality; the belief that there’s a mugger behind that tree exhibits intentionality (it’s about a—possibly nonexistent—mugger), but it is surely not intentional in the ordinary sense (you don’t “believe it on purpose”; it just comes to you);

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