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Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking Hardcover – May 6, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (May 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393082067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393082067
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Dennett declares that his aim in Intuition Pumps is to lay out devices by which we might think more clearly, or with more insight, about a host of thorny topics—which might be boiled down to those many areas in which we errantly or too hastily assume we have a solid sense of the right and wrong answers. The sheer number of these thought experiments, geared to reveal how thoroughly incorrect our assumptions might be, is daring itself. The most provocative comprise consciousness, free will, and our own sense of what we mean by meaning and intend by speaking of intentionality—in other words, the philosophical terrain Dennett has explored extensively in his prior books. —Eric Banks


“Our best current philosopher. He is the next Bertrand Russell. Unlike traditional philosophers, Dan is a student of neuroscience, linguistics, artificial intelligence, computer science, and psychology. He’s redefining and reforming the role of the philosopher.” (Marvin Minsky)

“One of the most original thinkers of our time.” (Michael Shermer - Science)

“The sharpest, cleverest, most stylish prober of how issues of human consciousness interconnect today with evolutionary theory.” (Carlin Romano - Philadelphia Inquirer)

“Once in a blue moon an analytic philosopher comes along who redeems his subdiscipline by combining professional persnicketiness with a romantic spirit, a vivid imagination, and a sense of humor…One of our most original and most readable philosophers.” (Richard Rorty)

“Cloaked in the breezy, familiar trappings of a self-help book, Intuition Pumps is in actuality a dark mirror of that genre—a field of rabbit holes designed to leave the reader with more questions than answers, and wiser for the long and indirect journey.” (Jason Gots, author of BigThink)

Customer Reviews

Overall, the book was very well written, concise, and full of humor.
Tim K
IT ALSO CONTAINS NEW MATERIAL (about 25% of the book) drawn from his new papers and articles.
Unlike actual experiments, these thought experiments may or may not actually prove anything.
Atlanta native

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

165 of 175 people found the following review helpful By Ash Jogalekar VINE VOICE on May 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have enjoyed any of Daniel Dennett's other books you will enjoy this. It is a pleasing, humorous and insightful journey into a gallery of mundane and profound thinking tools drawn from a wide-ranging set of disciplines, from literature and science to psychology and philosophy. It's worth noting that this is not really a "how to" book. Instead it's more like a survey of common as well as uncommon tools that human beings consciously and unconsciously use to both understand the world better and communicate and empathize with each other. Not surprisingly, given Dennett's profession, the bent is slightly more philosophical although the book is easy to read and appreciate.

The book starts with the simplest of tools, such as making mistakes. Dennett illuminates how making mistakes is not just ok but desirable since it's perhaps the only way to hone a system of thinking into a useful device. Other parts of the book cover concepts like reductio ad absurdum, Occam's Razor and the wittily-named Occam's Broom which is sometimes used nefariously to sweep arguments under the rug. There's a fair amount of ground Dennett covers before he gets to the concept stated in the book's name - intuition pumps. Intuition pumps refer to anything - from thought experiments to linguistic devices - that somehow make us bypass the process of rigorous thinking and reach a revelation primarily through intuition. One of the virtues of the book is how it describes examples of both good and bad intuition pumps including sleights of hand used by politicians and pseudoscientists. I was quite impressed by Dennett's attention to even very simple tools invoked through common expressions; for instance one of the fallacies he describes is the use of the word "rather" that's routinely used to set up a false dichotomy.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Alberto Cairo Touriqo on May 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
If you have read Dennett's previous books, particularly 'Freedom Evolves', and 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea', some portions of this book will sound very familiar, as it is largely based on previously published chapters, papers, and articles. That said, this is a very enjoyable read, an excellent guide to clear thinking based on more than 70 conceptual tools. It is to be praised that Dennett always strive for clarity and concision, even working in a field so prone to obscurity.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Conan on June 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I've come a long way with Dennett. As a philosopher at U Penn in the '80s I had the chance to hear him speak at colloquia many times. He was indefatigable and an enjoyable, remarkably pleasant person. His collection, The Mind's I, made a tremendous impression upon me as did Consciousness Explained. His penchant for atheism is consistent with his materialism and comes as no surprise. His long-standing squabbles with Searle and Nagel ("What is it like to be a bat?") are some of the better battles in the recent history of philosophy. Personally I find Dennett a much more enjoyable read than the dense analytic philosophy I must spend time with. He really is a remarkably wide-ranging thinking, unusual for a philosopher and for that reason alone to be appreciated. As an aside I would like to offer the following ancedote. My mother and father were traveling by train in England sometime ago. They happened to be in a compartment with Dennett, who they said was a most gracious and helpful individual, helping them with their luggage, advice and so on. When they told him their son was a philosopher he offered his card and told them to have me call him. I still have the card, but I never made the call.
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192 of 247 people found the following review helpful By Real Name on May 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Daniel Dennet, like his theory of consciousness, is all about cerebral celebrity. From his origins as a philosopher in academic halls, he has become an intellectual public icon, attracting masses of curious thinkers to his speaking engagements. He writes crisply with large helpings of humor that bite just hard enough to dent the surface without offending too much. I mostly enjoy his style. It's entertaining. This book offers a group of critical thinking tools in the first part, and then a rehashing of Dennett's philosophical positions in the latter part. If you have read all of Dennett's past work, then there is little reason to read this book. As I have only read a small sample of his older work, I bought this book for a more complete picture of his thoughts.

I was jarred by his repetitive use of the so-called sorta "operator", a neologism that Dennet believes does explanatory work, but appears to function mostly as a smoke screen that hides the complexity of what he is trying to explain. To Dennett, when he places the word sorta in front of an object, action, or almost anything at all, it (the word sorta) meaningfully transforms that thing into something else. For example, there are monkeys, and then there are sorta monkeys. Sorta monkeys fall short of being monkeys in some way--they are different than monkeys--but Dennett demands that this difference, while actual, cannot be made rigorous. There is no systematic, logical dividing line between monkeys and sorta monkeys, yet somehow we all know the difference.
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