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Publisher's Summary

Reason, we are told, is what makes us human, the source of our knowledge and wisdom. If reason is so useful, why didn't it also evolve in other animals? If reason is that reliable, why do we produce so much thoroughly reasoned nonsense?

In their groundbreaking account of the evolution and workings of reason, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber set out to solve this double enigma. Reason, they argue with a compelling mix of real-life and experimental evidence, is not geared to solitary use, to arriving at better beliefs and decisions on our own. What reason does, rather, is help us justify our beliefs and actions to others, convince them through argumentation, and evaluate the justifications and arguments that others address to us. In other words, reason helps humans better exploit their uniquely rich social environment.

This interactionist interpretation explains why reason may have evolved and how it fits with other cognitive mechanisms. It makes sense of strengths and weaknesses that have long puzzled philosophers and psychologists-why reason is biased in favor of what we already believe, why it may lead to terrible ideas and yet is indispensable to spreading good ones.

©2017 Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber (P)2017 Tantor

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Wayne
  • Matthews, NC
  • 05-22-18

Interesting, but boringly redundant

Let's start with narration which is not very good. On the other hand I doubt that any other narrator could have done better with the circular redundancy of this book. There really is nothing new here. The final chapter which is 20 minutes in length summarizes the authors' positions on reason and reasoning well and is adequate. Worthwhile? Yes, but more so with far less verbiage.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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reason is flawed but purposefully so

the authors make a solid case for the bias and laziness of reason to have evolved with the purpose of homo sapiens need to argue and defend their actions to others. since homo sapiens live in a highly social environment, reason should be considered another of the items in the toolbox that led to large-scale organization. beyond that, the authors convincingly portray reason as largely misunderstood and place it in its proper evolutionary perspective.

29 of 32 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Reason after the fact

I believe there is a slow consensus developing in Cognitive Science as to how Reason fits in to our daily life, and it is contrary to the long assumed belief that reason is a precursor to a decision.

In this book the author further develops the theory that we all for the most part use reason to justify an action, and there is good evidence that even long thought out Arguments are biased, and reason is only used after the fact to justify ones position.

Very, very interesting indeed!

35 of 40 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Sal
  • deerfield beach, fl United States
  • 04-13-18

The case for Reason as an evolved module

I liked the depth the book gives to different psychological studies about how humans reason. How it explains reasoning with comparisons and it’s possible evolutionary path.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to understand why we can disagree even when undeniable facts are shown to us.

I gave it a 4 star rating because the first half of the book had what seemed to me as a complicated background. Necessary though, but a bit difficult for me maybe because I’m an engineer an not a psychologist. But after the foundations are laid, the books walks and guides you through the reasoning path with ease, while being very entertaining. the

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Cath
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • 07-01-18

the narrator ruins it for me

This book seems like it has an interesting premise but the narrator is really hard to listen to. I'm not sure if there are too many exclamation points or not enough. I couldn't make it through an hour of this one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An alternative to Kahneman's Thinking Fast & Slow

Like many others, I loved Kahneman's book and the System 1 & 2 approach, but Mercier & Sperber punctuates the theory quite effectively, and offers a convincing alternative, based on the theory of evolution. Their model will have a huge impact, not the least in education, business, and AI. It's a fascinating read.

14 of 21 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

I'm a software engineer who is interested in neuroscience. The way this book presents the understanding of reason and logic as "modules" is an interesting approach that I haven't seen elsewhere. I appreciate how the authors present the understanding of the material, almost always acknowledging alternative research or counter arguments. I also feel that this book has given me a deeper appreciation for why people think a certain way, even after being proven factually wrong (or at least given a solid argument against their belief).

Liam Gerrard is an amazing narrator in the audiobook.

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Unique book I have ever read (listened)!!!

Has deep psychological analysis of human reasoning.
For sure not a casual read.
Leaves you with lots of thoughts to munch on and improves you Reasoning abilities

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Eye Opener

This book is a must read/listen!! One never questions our faculty of reason or objectively reasons about reason. I’m this book the authors do just that. They surgically use reason to operate upon reason. Then they put into words many of the things you perhaps already know and experience but never quite know how to objectify those experiences.

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Dense

While the material itself was good - but incredibly dense - I was eager to be *done* with the narration.

The early chapters made me feel like I was ill equipped to hear this book w/o an undergraduate degree in logic.

The narration was grating on my last nerve. In a book like this, the authors describe negation quite often. And someone narrating with a supremely proper Oxford English accent never says "at all," but more like "a toll." Tolls are paid on roads. They are not a linguistic negation. Pauses were just a bit too long and made the train of thought hard to follow (even on 1.25 speed). 14hrs of this ultra thick Oxford accent made yearn for just a smidge of some Murica Redneck narration.