Simplicity And Complexity In Games Of The Intellect

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"If it were necessary, for some curious legal reason, to draw a clear line between human and nonhuman--for example, if a group of australopithecines were to appear and one had to decide if they were to be protected by Fair Employment Laws or by the ASPCA--I would welcome them as humans if I knew that they were seriously concerned about how to bury their dead." In this witty and wise way, Lawrence Slobodkin takes us on a spirited quest for the multiple meanings of simplicity in all facets of life.

Slobodkin begins at the beginning, with a consideration of how simplicity came into play in the development of religious doctrines. He nimbly moves on to the arts--where he ranges freely from dining to painting--and then focuses more sharply on the role of simplicity in science. Here we witness the historical beginnings of modern science as a search for the fewest number of terms, the smallest number of assumptions, or the lowest exponents, while still meeting criteria for descriptive accuracy. The result may be an elegant hypothetical system that generates the apparent world from less apparent assumptions, as with the Newtonian revolution; or it may mean deducing non-obvious processes from everyday facts, as with the Darwinian revolution.

Slobodkin proposes that the best intellectual work is done as if it were a game on a simplified playing field. He supplies serious arguments for considering the role of simplification and playfulness in all of our activities. The immediate effect of his unfailingly captivating essay is to throw open a new window on the world and to refresh our perspectives on matters of the heart and mind.

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Editorial Reviews

Santa Barbara University of California
This is a timely book. In an age of specialization--a tendency that bewilders most citizens, and in the long run threatens intellectual activity in our civilization--Slobodkin is able to write about the connections between science, art, games, and dining in an important and entertaining way. I think it will be a classic.
— Daniel B. Botkin
University of California, Santa Barbara - Daniel B. Botkin
This is a timely book. In an age of specialization--a tendency that bewilders most citizens, and in the long run threatens intellectual activity in our civilization--Slobodkin is able to write about the connections between science, art, games, and dining in an important and entertaining way. I think it will be a classic.
Library Journal
These ``notes'' concerning ``simplicity and complexity and what their intellectual role is and has been'' are not very systematic but are wide in scope: they address psychology, art, evolution, metaphysics, and dining. In them, Slobodkin makes a number of serious points about the relations between intuition and analysis and of the importance of simplification to understanding. These occur, however, amidst many more modest, even confusing passages. Furthermore, many of the author's points have been made before, and many of them more eloquently developed in the works of Nelson Goodman ( Of Mind & Other Matters , Harvard Univ. Pr., 1984). So although the book is not without merit and occasionally entertaining, it cannot be highly recommended for purchase.-- Bruce Umbaugh, Univ. of Maryland, College Park
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674808263
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 7/16/1993
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 276
  • Product dimensions: 0.62 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence B. Slobodkin is Professor of Biology at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He is also a research scientist and past president of the American Society of Naturalists and the General Systems Research Society.
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Table of Contents

The Opening

1. Sense, Sensibility, and Self: The Peculiar Humanity of Stories

2. Simplifying Religious Revolutions: The Birth of Doctrine

3. The Great Intellectual Playing Field: In Praise of Games

4. Three Dinner Parties

5. A Matter of Taste: Minimalism and the World of Art

6. To Science Is Human: Factual Pleasures

7. Explaining the Whole Universe: Motion, Velocity, and Direction

8. Explaining the Rest of the Universe: Darwinian Insight

9. Virtue and the Simple Life

10. Masters of Reality





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