Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press
How We Reason

How We Reason

by Philip Johnson-LairdPhilip Johnson-Laird


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Good reasoning can lead to success; bad reasoning can lead to catastrophe. Yet, it's not obvious how we reason, and why we make mistakes - so much of our mental life goes on outside our awareness. In recent years huge strides have been made into developing a scientific understanding of reasoning. This book by one of the pioneers of the field, Philip Johnson-Laird, looks at the mental processes that underlie our reasoning. It provides the most accessible account yet of the science of reasoning.

We can all reason from our childhood onwards - but how? 'How We Reason' outlines a bold approach to understanding reasoning. According to this approach, we don't rely on the laws of logic or probability - we reason by thinking about what's possible, we reason by seeing what is common to the possibilities. As the book shows, this approach can answer many of the questions about how we reason, and what causes mistakes in our reasoning that can lead to disasters such as Chernobyl. It shows why our irrational fears may become psychological illnesses, why terrorists develop 'crazy' ideologies, and how we can act in order to improve our reasoning. The book ends by looking at the role of reasoning in three extraordinary case histories: the Wright brothers' use of analogies in inventing their flyer, the cryptanalysts' deductions in breaking the German's Enigma code in World War II, and Dr. John Snow's inductive reasoning in discovering how cholera spread from one person to another.

Accessible, stimulating, and controversial, How we Reason presents a bold new approach to understanding one of the most intriguing facets of being human.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780198569763
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 12/14/2006
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 584
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Phil Johnson-Laird was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1936. He left school at the age of 15 and spent ten years in a variety of occupations until he went to University College, London to read psychology. He later gained his Ph.D. there under the supervision of Peter Wason, and he joined the faculty in 1966. In 1971, he was a visiting member of the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, where he began a collaboration with George A. Miller. Subsequently, he held positions at the University of Sussex (1973-1981) and at the Medical Research Council's Applied Psychology Unit (1981-1989) in Cambridge, where he was also a Fellow of Darwin College. He returned to Princeton in 1989 to be a member of the faculty at the University, where he is the Stuart Professor of Psychology. His research concerns thinking, emotions, creativity, and music.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
Part I - The World in our Conscious Minds
2. Icons and Images
3. Models of Possibilities: From Conjuring Tricks to Disasters
Part II - The World in our Unconscious Minds
4. Mental Architecture and the Unconscious
5. Intuitions and Unconscious Reasoning
6. Emotions as Inferences
7. Reasoning in Psychological Illnesses
Part III - How We Make Deductions
8. Only Connections
9. I'm my own Grandpa: Reasoning About Identities and Other Relations
10. Syllogisms and Reasoning about Properties
11. Isn't Everyone an Optimist? The Case of Complex Reasoning
Part IV - How We Make Inductions
12. Modulation: A Step Towards Induction
13. Knowledge and Inductions
14. Sherlock Holmes's Method: Abduction
15. The Balance of Probabilities
Part V - What Makes us Rational
16. Counterexamples
17. Truths, Lies, and the Higher Reasoning
Part VI - How We Develop our Ability to Reason
18. On Development
19. Strategies and Cultures
20. How We can Improve our Reasoning
Part VII - Knowledge, Beliefs, and Problems
21. The Puzzles of If
22. Causes and Obligations
23. Beliefs, Heresies, and Changes in Mind
24. How we Solve Problems
Part VIII - Expert Reasoning in Technology, Logic, and Science
25. Flying Bicycles: How the Wright Brothers Invented the Airplane
26. Unwrapping an Enigma
27. On the Mode of the Communication of Cholera
28. How we Reason

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