“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.
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.
This book is a great introduction to the theories proposed by Daniel Dennett and all of the ideas are presented in an accessible way.