Key Insights per Thinkr:
- We humans are capable of brilliant, incisive thought and also are vulnerable to the oldest tricks in the book.
- Reason is so fundamental to life that you can’t make a case against reason without relying on it.
- When we cannot negotiate and resolve problems with the tools reason provides, society becomes divided and bellicose.
- It is much easier to ground morality in reason than to ground it in God.
- The stock answers to the question, “What is wrong with people?” only scratch the surface.
- Suffering and confusion flourish when mythology oversteps its bounds and masquerades as realism.
1. How Rational an Animal?
2. Rationality and Irrationality
3. Logic and Critical Thinking
4. Probability and Randomness
5. Beliefs and Evidence (Bayesian Reasoning)
6. Risk and Reward (Rational Choice and Expected Utility)
7. Hits and False Alarms (Signal Detection and Statistical Decision Theory)
8. Self and Others (Game Theory)
9. Correlation and Causation
10. What’s Wrong with People?
11. Why Rationality Matters
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think that the very question posed by the division of human behavior into rational and irrational is mainly meaningless. Like all other animals, humans are evolutionary conditioned to act so that it is beneficial either to the survival of an individual or a group this individual belongs to. Therefore, the approach should be not a critic of human irrationality but a search for understanding of action assuming that these actions benefit survival. The seeming irrationality comes from the complexity of human existence, which by far exceeds the complexity of formal analytical tools. Consequently, attempts to analyze human behavior with these formal tools are like measuring a 3-dimensional multifaced figure based on its projection on the plain. The typical example of irrationality discovered by psychologists and behavioral economists is the human tendency to choose A over B, B over C, and C over A. From the point of view of Boolean logic, it is wrong. However, if A, B, and C are multifeatured objects, such choice could be perfectly logical if each object has a combination of at least two features so one can prefer 1 & 2 over 2 & 3. 2 & 3 over 3 & 1. And, finally, 3 & 1 over 1 & 2.
Overall, it is a pretty good compilation, except for a somewhat hilarious part when the author’s light form of Trump derangement syndrome (TDS) causes him to provide some vivid examples of absolutely irrational thinking. However, it is a slight handicap in this generally solid work.