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 listeners 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 listeners 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.
©2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc. (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
“A philosopher of rare originality, rigor, and wit.” (Jim Holt, Wall Street Journal)
Dennett starts off with some simple and obvious propositions. Then things get complicated. This is probably an interesting and book to read but to listen to? Fuggedaboutit. Books like this I want to go back and reread a section, ponder a thought, etc. If you are momentarily sidetracked while gardening, driving, etc., you’ll probably lose the thread. I did. Audible should consider a warning label books of this ilk: Caution – deep thinking required, cannot be listened to while doing anything else.
This is not the book for listening. It requires a lot of concentration and moving to and fro both within and across chapters, which you can't do with an audio book. Perhaps it was the subject matter that made me feel that the narration was a tad fast. Should perhaps get a text version if you are interested in this.
The book begins with a quote that says “you can’t do much carpentry with bare hands and you can’t do much thinking with your bare brain.” The first chapter catalogues some “tools” of philosophy designed to help thinking such as reductio ad absurdum, Occam’s Razor, and other useful ones that Dennett and his colleagues have invented more recently. These tools may have originated with philosophers, but they have application outside the world of philosophy and are generally helpful “tools” for critical thinking.
But after this short introduction, Dennett primarily focuses on debates native to academic philosophy. He does so using “intuition pumps,” i.e., thought experiments. Just a fair warning: these are tools for thinking about specific puzzles in academic philosophy. Unlike a concept such as reductio ad absurdum, these intuition pumps really aren’t transportable outside of the specific philosophical puzzles they are designed to explore. So, the book’s title, “Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking,” should have a subtitle: “…about Certain Problems in Academic Philosophy.”
Topics explored include: meaning, evolution, the nature of consciousness/materialism (including extensive discussion of the Chinese room and Mary in the black and white room); and free will. Dennett seems to presume some familiarity with these topics. And, it’s hard to imagine that a reader would really enjoy the discussion without some prior interest or background. As an undergraduate and graduate student (years ago), I read many of the papers Dennett discusses.
This is dense and challenging listening, but well worth the reward -- if it's your thing. I usually have a few audible books going at one time, and I found myself choosing to listen to this one over the others. I did make a conscious effort to avoid listening when distracted or tired because it is more demanding than other audiobooks.
In the wrong hands, I fear this narration could have been trouble, but I cannot say enough good things about this heroic narrator, Jeff Crawford. His voice crackles with intelligence, clarity, and playfulness too. While a lot of that is Dennett shining through, Crawford must share the credit. This is dense stuff, but Crawford never sounds weighted down. When I finished this book, the first thing I did was to look up the other books Crawford has narrated. I'm sad to see he has only narrated a handful of others and nothing else like this.
l'enfer c'est les autres
This book reads more like a science book than a philosophy book. The author, a philosopher, uses the tools of philosophy to fill in the blanks about how we proceed with science.
The book starts off by how we sometimes can be mislead by 'intuition pumps", thought experiments, and how we should correctly use them. He sets up the listener in how to think about problems and then delves into some big problems, such as design within the universe and what does it mean, and what is consciousness and how to think about it.
The author is a philosopher but is much more interested in understanding the scientific method as opposed to the meaning of words.
I've listened to most of the science books audible has available and a book like this helps me see beyond just the science but also how to think about the science.
This author had a theme throughout this whole book. That the start of all understanding first comes about by realizing the role of evolution in the design of all non-trivial systems.
I will read more of this author's work.
In this book Dennett writes about tools for thinking rather than about specific topics. He does, however, use his usual topics as examples. As a book on thinking tools, it is interesting, but not great. As an introduction to Dennett's thinking, it is a great book. You get an easy and entertaining summary of the thoughts of one of the most important philosophers of our time. If you have already read a number of his books, this one might serve to remind you, but will not contribute much new and original thought.
In the top 20
The most challenging.
The author - he is a character
I did algebra in my head just to relax after reading.
Through some un-natural selection I got Dennett’s book and I must say I admire it’s intelligent design.
It is, however, a bit like parallel parking a train….in a blizzard….on a hill. I thought of myself as a philosophic thinker but I renewed my subscription to Mad Magazine because I just realized that my brain never left 5th grade. I’m betting that Dennett’s thoughts actually have measurable mass and gravity and will likely speciate at some point.
This is the most challenging book I’ve read/listened to in recent memory. I don’t know if it would be any easier in material form, as some reviewers have suggested. Considerable portions of the book are devoted to everything that has ever been uttered (plus Dennett’s thoughts) on natural selection. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that experienced Dennett readers will be using the 30 sec advance button. The 20 or so unfamiliar with Dennett will be using the 30 sec rewind. It’s not a hike, but rather a vertical climb, with one arm asleep (if you’re me).
This is a book best read, not heard. Perhaps with the book open on the lap, but I doubt it.
No, but I will be careful about getting to technical a book in audio.
"Excellent Tools For Thinking"
Geeky, Detailed, A-ha
To long for one sitting. I think it should be read with time to reflect on chapters, especially as the tools become more specific at the end of the book.
It was very well narrated but I would have loved it to have been read by the author.
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