We're all hypocrites. Why? Hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind.
Robert Kurzban shows us that the key to understanding our behavioral inconsistencies lies in understanding the mind's design. The human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection. While these modules sometimes work together seamlessly, they don't always, resulting in impossibly contradictory beliefs, vacillations between patience and impulsiveness, violations of our supposed moral principles, and overinflated views of ourselves.
This modular, evolutionary psychological view of the mind undermines deeply held intuitions about ourselves, as well as a range of scientific theories that require a "self" with consistent beliefs and preferences. Modularity suggests that there is no "I." Instead, each of us is a contentious "we"a collection of discrete but interacting systems whose constant conflicts shape our interactions with one another and our experience of the world.
In clear language, full of wit and rich in examples, Kurzban explains the roots and implications of our inconsistent minds, and why it is perfectly natural to believe that everyone else is a hypocrite.
Robert Kurzban is associate professor of psychology and founder of the Pennsylvania Laboratory for Experimental Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2008, he won the inaugural Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution from the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments ix Prologue 1
Chapter 1: Consistently Inconsistent 4
Chapter 2: Evolution and the Fragmented Brain 23
Chapter 3: Who Is "I"? 45
Chapter 4: Modular Me 57
Chapter 5: The Truth Hurts 76
Chapter 6: Psychological Propaganda 98
Chapter 7: Self-Deception 132
Chapter 8: Self-Control 151
Chapter 9: Morality and Contradictions 186
Chapter 10: Morality Is for the Birds 206
What People are Saying About This
Here is a fun counterpoint to the explosion of examples showing that humans do not act in accordance with the predictions of standard rational models. But Kurzban is no defender of the standard models. Rather he seeks an understanding of why our actions may appear contradictory in particular contexts, but serve us well in others, and why that helps to improve our fitness for decision, if not always for a life of liberty. Vernon L. Smith, Nobel Laureate in Economics
James H. Fowler
In this amazing book, Robert Kurzban carries out a brilliantly thought-provoking conversation with himself that made me think hardand laugh out loud. Using clever examples and a revolutionary scientific approach, he shows that contradiction is truly a fundamental human experience. No wonder, then, that I wanted to share this book with my friendsbut I also wanted to keep it for myself! If you don't read this book, you'll be left wondering what everyone (else) is talking about. James H. Fowler, coauthor of "Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives"
Robert Kurzban is one of the best evolutionary psychologists of his generation: he is distinctive not only for his own successful research and sophisticated understanding of psychology, but also because of his witKurzban is genuinely clever, sly, succinct, and sometimes hilarious. Steven Pinker, Harvard University
Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind 4.5 out of 5based on
EmreSevinc on LibraryThing
More than 1 year ago
This book reminds me a famous quote from Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka' but 'That's funny...'". Kuzban takes the reader on a fantastic tour and explains how the theory of modularity of mind explains lots of mysteries (such as "why do people lock their refrigerators?") related to human cognition. This is a funny book, funny in the Asimov's sense, of course, and yet it does not refrain from strongly arguing for clarification of why modularity of mind makes sense especially from the evolutionary point of view (which is the only scientific point of view when it comes understanding biology).Sometimes the author overuses humor and asks wrong questions such as "Can you beat MS Word in chess?" (this is especially disturbing because a few sentences ago he warns the reader that questions such as "Did you stop beating your wife?" is wrong due to wrong assumptions). Nevertheless his style keeps this very important (and controversial for most of the philosophers as well as laymen) topic alive and pulsating through every page.This book will probably one of the best references I'm going to use when it comes to the mechanisms of mind as well discussions regarding self, illusion of self and consciousness. It is written as a popular science book but it also includes enough pointers to scientific articles with more details and depth. I can assure you that your view of 'being a human and having a single, unified notion of self' will radically change (or at least you'll start to ask some questions) after this scientific gem.