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The Art of Thinking Clearly Hardcover – May 14, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
It is not "art", neither "thinking", neither "clearly". In fact, let me quote from the "Introduction":
"This is not a how-to book. You won't find "seven steps to an error-free life...Although this book may not hold the key to happiness, at the very last it acts as insurance against too much self-induced unhappiness...If we could learn to recognize and evade the biggest errors in thinking...we might experience a leap in prosperity."
So the title should be "How to recognize mistakes that cause us to act irrationally".
Then you would search for the "Art of Recognition". How do I prevent myself from committing these errors, how do I recognize that my thinking is indeed influenced by cognitive errors, fallacies, biases? Here you find no help. Say, you finish reading the book and then face a decision that could be crucial, yet you instinctively sense (gut feeling is at work here) the danger of a thinking error. Would you quickly go over every one of the 99 listed biases to check for these errors? What kind of quick check could you use to ensure you are acting rationally? What would warn you? What is the art?
Second, let me tell you what this book is:
A list of 99 fallacies, biases that influence our thinking and actions (i.e. "personification, confirmation bias, hindsight bias, etc.) and in fact, if the title would be "Fallacies and biases" I would give it a five star.
But shortly after you start reading this book, you realize that it is indeed "just" a list of errors, with brief explanations of their nature, occurrence and evolution. Yes, there are the stories and facts to back them up. Yet there is not a hint to know or recognize the risk when you face them.
At the end the book is a good read. But the practical use of such lists is quite limited. It is a database, but not an algorithm.
This book is a departure, a welcome departure, from such reads. It is a true "self help" book, with the emphasis on self, because the author does not seek to stuff ideas down your throat. Instead, he presents a series of short, cogent articles that clearly illustrate fallacies and shortcomings in our thinking today. By supporting them with real life examples, he provides the thinking reader with some new ammunition in cutting through some of the "fluff" that defines modern communications.
I have really taken my time reading this book, and now that I am at the end I will start again. Each short chapter deserves your full attention if you are to get the most from it. You will find yourself asking - but how does this idea relate to a previous one that seems, at first glance, to be contradictory? Helpfully, the author calls out any apparent paradoxes and explains their coexistence quite rationally - I found that I was not dissatisfied with any of his explanations.
Back to the "self" aspect - the end of each chapter contains some small advice to assist you in dealing with the fallacy that has been exposed in the chapter, but I find that the greatest value is in relating the subject matter of the chapter to your own experience before reading the advice - you will get much more out of it that way.
My final piece of advice? Read this book like a child using a playground - dip in again and again and again. You are never really finished reading it - instead I recommend turning it into a habitual read - something you continually refer back to.
I am looking forward to being able to see more clearly as a result of applying the lessons in this book.
1. The chapter explaining Base Rate Bias (which says we systematically fail to account for the base rate of an event's occurrence) uses the example of Mike, a fan of Mozart. Is Mike more likely to be a truck driver or an English professor? If you said "professor" you're wrong because you fell victim to the "base rate bias." Hahahaha. Isn't irrationality funny? There are 100 times more truck drivers than English professors so it's statistically more likely that Mike is a truck driver, right? WRONG. We actually don't know the answer. This example succumbs to the very bias it ostensibly reveals. Mike-is-a-truck-driver makes sense as an answer only if the incidence of Mozart-liking in English Professors is less than 100 times greater than the incidence of Mozart-liking in truck drivers. In other words, we cannot say whether Mike is more likely to be a truck driver unless we know the BASE RATE of Mozart-liking. If the incidence of Mozart-liking in English professors is 75% but only .001% in truck drivers, it's more likely that Mike is an English professor even if there are 100 times as many truck drivers as English professors. Yet, the author sticks by his "rational" conclusion that Mike is more likely to be a truck driver.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
I purchased this book in an airport in India. My flight was just over an hour and when I read a few chapters, I liked the short two and three page essays on various aspects of... Read morePublished 5 days ago by unlimited_09
great info for contemplating how things are done great book highly recommended you will find things you may not agree with but he explains things wellPublished 1 month ago by Leo da Silva
Left me a tad disappointed. Not that the knowledge in there is wrong or displayed arrogantly, but it's superficial and rather gimmicky. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Benoit Lelievre
I bought this book a few years back, and recently gave it to my grandfather as a gift. He read it (and loved it) so he gave it to a friend who then ordered two copies for his... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jacob Erez
Great read for people interested in psychology, economics, business, or even if you just want to live more deliberately in your day to day. Read morePublished 3 months ago by ChorgiMom