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The Why of Things: Causality in Science, Medicine, and Life Hardcover – August 20, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0231164726 ISBN-10: 0231164726 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 1 edition (August 20, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231164726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231164726
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,186,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Peter Rabins shows incredible breadth of knowledge and his thesis--that there are three distinct approaches to causation, appropriate for different types of questions--is compelling. His writing is engaging, and the subject matter is deeply relevant.

(Simon Levin, Princeton University, author of Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons)

Peter Rabin's book draws upon science, statistics, philosophy, and religion to stretch readers' thinking about the 'why' and 'how' of what happens. It provides a remarkably lucid synthesis of diverse ideas about causality based on superb scholarship and is always entertaining. I heartily recommend it.

(David Reuben, MD, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles)

From the two year old child's endlessly nested 'why' questions to the Old Testament and the modern scientist, and through many philosophers in between, Peter Rabins takes us on a fascinating quest in search of answers to that seemingly simplest of all questions: Why? Simple but enigmatic because, like the two year old, how do we know when to be satisfied and how do we know when we know? Throughout The Why of Things, Rabins examines fundamental aspects of how we know--or don't. In his erudite yet accessible book, readers will learn everything from philosophical categorization to nonlinear dynamics in a way that will suddenly make sense, even if they never do find out exactly why.

(Stuart Firestein, Columbia University, author of Ignorance: How It Drives Science)

if you're looking to learn how to better reason things out through logic and comparative analysis, then this one may be for you.

(Lifelong Dewey Blog)

Quite simply, wow. This is one of the most complex, mind-boggling and ultimately satisfying books I have read in a very long time.

(The Garden Window Blog)

About the Author

Peter Rabins is the Richman Family Professor and director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neuropsychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Johns Hopkins Berman Bioethics Institute. He has devoted his career to studying psychiatric disorders in the elderly and is the author or editor of eight books and coauthor of the landmark title The Thirty-Six-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for Persons with Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementing Illnesses, and Memory Loss in Later Life.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book analyzes the different ways to think about causality. He introduces a rather complex way to look at causality that involves multiple facets and layers and then spends the rest of the book applying this conceptual model to various examples - both complex and simple.

I was a little unsure of this book at the beginning but it soon picked up and became quite interesting. This book has the Amazon "Look Inside" feature and I suggest you take a look at the table of contents and review the text before purchasing so you will know what you are getting into.

The bottom line in this book is that in the complex world with complex issues causality is often difficult to determine and requires multiple kinds of analysis that converge on the most likely cause or causes. I was a little disappointed that the author included a chapter on "Ecclesiastic" causes which is what everyone else calls religion or god. I didn't think it belonged in a book that otherwise is all about reason.

This book is definitely not for everyone and will probably be of interest to those people interested in thinking about thinking or who are particularly interested in how we determine what causes what.

Recommended but only if you know what you are getting into. Definitely not for everyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Wylie on September 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book is exactly what I have been searching for. I am a psychiatrist, who was brought up on the great psychiatric thinkers of the 20th Century. Since the "decade of the brain" starting in 1990, psychiatry has turned exclusively to brain science. What Dr. Rabins calls "narrative truth: the empathetic method," is what psychoanalytic theory is based on, but it is now all but ignored. However, brain science is in its infancy and no biological mechanisms for any mental illnesses are in sight. Dr. Rabins gives us a very timely reminder that empirical knowledge is but one of several time-tested avenues to the truth. In rigorous but crystal clear prose, he describes a three-facet approach to determining the "why of things," including, "cause in the ecclesiastic tradition." This book is a must for anyone feeling oppressed from seeking a wider scope of knowledge than by the restrictions imposed by the small corner of reality circumscribed by experimental science.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dr. Rabbis surveys the history and current status of causality with attention to the emerging models of complex diseases and the search for more effective prevention and treatment strategies. Blinded randomized clinical trials, the currently accepted standard, are given an interesting summary and historical treatment, as are a model of predisposing precipitating etc and narrative approaches to identify probabilistic causality within the biomedical enterprise. Unfortunately the possibility of more effectively integrating these is a missed opportunity.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. V. Robinson on February 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Altogether overwritten The author has a good basis for a two or three page paper that he has padded out to be a book
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More About the Author

Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H., is a professor of psychiatry, with joint appointments in medicine, mental health, and health policy and management, co-director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neuropsychiatry, and director of the T. Rowe and Eleanor Price Teaching Service of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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The Why of Things: Causality in Science, Medicine, and Life
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