Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking

( 9 )

Overview

“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 ...

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Overview

“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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

There are philosophers who ruminate and there are philosophers who grapple. Daniel C. Dennett (Science and Religion; Breaking the Spell; Darwin's Dangerous Idea) belongs distinctly to the latter group. With explorations informed by recent findings in evolutionary biology and cognitive science, he has even evoked cheers and boos as one of the "Four Horsemen of New Atheism" (the other horsemen are Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens). In this new collection of essays, he focuses on topics including mind, meaning, evolution, free will, and artificial intelligence.

Publishers Weekly
A grab-bag of metaphors and thought experiments, some more enlightening than others, structure this scattershot treatise on the philosophy of mind. Tufts philosophy professor Dennett (Consciousness Explained) rehashes favorite themes from previous works: how consciousness arises from the brain’s decentralized information-processing; how Darwinian natural selection explains the development of complex structure from simple origins in innumerable contexts; how computers and artificial intelligence make potent explanatory models of the mind; the existence of free will in a deterministic universe. Opening with an engaging tutorial on argumentative strategies from reductio ad absurdum to Occam’s Razor to rhetorical questions, Dennett expounds his ideas through a series of “intuition pumps,” his term for the hypothetical scenarios philosophers contrive to explore difficult concepts. Some of these, like conceiving of the body as a robotic survival vehicle for the genes, or the brain as a clueless man trapped in a sealed chamber, are evocative. Others, like an obscure meditation on a vending machine that accepts Panamanian balboas instead of U. S. quarters, are not. In his loose-limbed excursions Dennett presents compelling expositions of provocative ideas, spars with rival thinkers and, sometimes, bogs down in long-winded belaborings of tiresome points. The result is an intellectual smorgasbord with dishes both tasty and indigestible. 31 illus. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc. (May)
Jason Gots
“Cloaked in the breezy, familiar trappings of a self-help book, Intuition Pumps is in actuality a dark mirror of that genre—a field of rabbit holes designed to leave the reader with more questions than answers, and wiser for the long and indirect journey.”
Richard Rorty
“Once in a blue moon an analytic philosopher comes along who redeems his subdiscipline by combining professional persnicketiness with a romantic spirit, a vivid imagination, and a sense of humor…One of our most original and most readable philosophers.”
Marvin Minsky
“Our best current philosopher. He is the next Bertrand Russell. Unlike traditional philosophers, Dan is a student of neuroscience, linguistics, artificial intelligence, computer science, and psychology. He’s redefining and reforming the role of the philosopher.”
Science - Michael Shermer
“One of the most original thinkers of our time.”
Philadelphia Inquirer - Carlin Romano
“The sharpest, cleverest, most stylish prober of how issues of human consciousness interconnect today with evolutionary theory.”
Marvin Minsky
“Our best current philosopher. He is the next Bertrand Russell. Unlike traditional philosophers, Dan is a student of neuroscience, linguistics, artificial intelligence, computer science, and psychology. He’s redefining and reforming the role of the philosopher.”
Kirkus Reviews
A famous thinker demonstrates how he does his job. Thinking is hard, writes Dennett (Philosophy/Tufts Univ.; Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, 2006, etc.), who then proceeds to explain how to do it right. He stresses that history's philosophical giants have relied on vivid, although not necessarily accurate, thought experiments, which he dubs "intuition pumps" (Plato's Cave, Descartes' evil demon, Kant's categorical imperative). Dennett begins with a dozen general-purpose tools, from the popular reductio ad absurdum (examine a statement for preposterous implications) to a warning to watch out for the deepity, a proposition that seems profound only because it's ambiguous ("Love is just a word"). Having delivered these devices, he goes on to show how they illuminate or, equally often, shoot down arguments on great philosophical subjects such as consciousness, evolution and free will, as well as revealing the thought processes of philosophers themselves, with emphasis on those with whom Dennett disagrees. A well-known materialist, he has no patience with explanations that involve "magic," whether it is a god who creates everything, an evolutionary structure too complex to result from a natural process or a human mind with secrets beyond the reach of science. Those who deny that one can compare the brain to a gigantic computer don't understand how computers work. Much of their operation appears genuinely magical but isn't. Despite a generous helping of wit and amusing anecdotes, this is not Philosophy for Dummies. Many of the short chapters require close attention and rereading, but those willing to work will come away with a satisfying understanding of how deep thinkers think.
Boston Globe
“An excellent introduction to Dennett’s body of thought.”
New York Times
“Perhaps America’s most widely read (and debated) living philosopher. . . . [Intuition Pumps is] a lively primer on the radical answers Mr. Dennett has elaborated to the big questions in his nearly five decades in philosophy”
Nature
“A philosopher’s box of tools for the musing mind.”
Daily Beast
““[Dennett] is a master at inventing tools for thought—
metaphysical jokes, fables, parables, puzzles, and zany
Monty-Python-like sketches that can help thinkers feel their way forward.”
Nature
“A philosopher’s box of tools for the musing mind.”
Michael Shermer - Science
“One of the most original thinkers of our time.”
Carlin Romano - Philadelphia Inquirer
“The sharpest, cleverest, most stylish prober of how issues of human consciousness interconnect today with evolutionary theory.”
Library Journal
Dennett (philosophy, Tufts Univ.; Consciousness Explained) thinks of intuition as ideas that have a central place around which other ideas hang. His phrase, "intuition pumps," refers to the philosopher's tools used to push such ideas to their limits. He argues that intuitions are either pushed aside and replaced with new ones, or they survive and become even more firmly rooted. According to Dennett, some of these tools are formal (the reductio ad absurdum), others are informal (various rhetorical fallacies), and still others resemble thought experiments. He introduces these general philosophical tools and then moves to a discussion of topics in which he is well known, such as evolution, consciousness, free will, etc. The author's weakness is lack of analysis; however, the concept of intuition pumps is in general provocative and makes for an entertaining intellectual appetizer. VERDICT Dennett shows himself again to be both avuncular to the curious and confrontational with opposing scholars. General readers and professionals should find him most engaging.—James Wetherbee, Wingate Univ. Libs., NC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393082067
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/6/2013
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 604,986
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel C. Dennett is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University and the author of numerous books including Breaking the Spell, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, and Consciousness Explained.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2013

    A book about thinking by one of our great thinkers. Interesting

    A book about thinking by one of our great thinkers. Interesting read, and a must if you already enjoy Dennett's work.

    Disclaimer: I have not read it (YET), but hate seeing negative 'reviews' like that posted on May 7th. This is to balance it out.

    4 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    highly recommend

    Very well written and good explanations of each of the thinking tools. I'm enjoying reading it.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2013

    Great book

    I notice that all of the people here havnt read the book but intend on giving this book a review. Having not read the book here is my review.. I have bought this book in hardcover and am impressed with its idea. Trust me when i say this is a book that every aspiring reader should look into. Ive reviewed this book and read the first 30 pages or so. Its a solidly written book.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2013

    Sounds fascinating can not wait to read it.

    Sounds fascinating can not wait to read it.

    1 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2013

    Someone should read it

    I haven't read this book yet, but my friend is eager to read it.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2013

    I'm very excited about this book and I am definitely going to re

    I'm very excited about this book and I am definitely going to read it

    0 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2013

    I'm just not all that excited about this book so I decided not t

    I'm just not all that excited about this book so I decided not to read it. I recommend that you don't read it eather.

    0 out of 57 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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