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Why Think? The Evolution of the Rational Mind Hardcover – June 25, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0195189858 ISBN-10: 019518985X

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019518985X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195189858
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.6 x 4.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,222,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"De Sousa has provided a well-informed and argumentative survey of issues relating to how we do in fact think and how we sometimes fail to get what we have convinced ourselves are the right answers."--Ed Brandon, Metapsychology Online Reviews

"This is a delightful book, in which de Sousa articulates some challenging convictions concerning the role of rationality in human thought, while also retaining and making deft use of some of his longest held views.... Why Think? is an important touchstone in helping us to understand how we can approach rationality as a phenomenon that must ultimately be part of a successful theory of mind."--Craig DeLancy, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"De Sousa remarks: 'When enough people share a delusion, it loses its status as a psychosis and gets a religious tax exemption instead.' At that point, I knew I was going to love this book--and it is indeed a lot of fun. Why Think? is also good and clever. I have always said that the reason why philosophers are so disliked on university campuses is that we are brighter than anyone else and have trouble concealing the fact. Ronnie de Sousa does nothing to change this perception.... This is a great little book that should be read by many people." --Michael Ruse, Florida State University, Literary Review of Canada

"Why Think? is Ronnie de Sousa at his brilliant best-- immensely learned, witty, bold, and a model of clarity. This book is a timely balance to the weight of data emphasizing the emotions and nonconscious processing in decision-making. It weaves coherent story out of a lot of bits and pieces lying about in loose confusion." --Patricia Smith Churchland, President's Professor of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego

"This book is a tour de force of scholarly insights on one of the most subtle puzzles in cognitive science--the relation between rationality and evolution." --Keith E. Stanovich, author of The Robot's Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin

About the Author

Ronald de Sousa grew up in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. After completing school in France, he obtained a B.A. from Oxford, and a Ph.D. from Princeton. Based at the University of Toronto, he has lectured in over twenty countries on the emotions, philosophy of biology, ethics, and aesthetics. He lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on May 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Thinking seems to be a particularly human activity. While the other animals, even at the microbe level, clearly have some decision-making capacity, it appears we are the only species to engage in forms of long-term planning or introspection considering who we are. Or why? All that reflection and expression comes at a price - the organ performing it invests more of your body's resources in its operations than does any other. In this outstanding discussion of the evolutionary roots of human thinking, de Sousa has made a significant contribution to our understanding of ourselves.

What makes us so different from the other animals? What is "rational"? de Sousa asks. One major distinction, the author reminds us, is our social condition. Many species "school" or "herd", but the social interactions of Homo sapiens are far more complex than is the case with herring or wildebeest. We must keep track of what that individual over there has done or might do. Does that hunter owe me a dinner or must I gather up my tools and go provide for him and his family? The expansion of numbers of our species also prompts us to adapt to changing conditions - if the river's level is dropping, do I need to relocate?

Consideration of such questions has led to the idea of "teleology", or "goal-seeking", de Sousa notes. In the pre-Darwin era, it was assumed life had a "goal" - to produce us. Nature leaves the impression that what we see today was "inevitable". As understanding of life grew, teleology was dismissed as a concept. However, he doesn't want to excise the notion completely. Noting that the earlier idea of teleology relied on divine intervention to make life move toward the goals, better understanding shelved that requirement. Evolution could produce without goals.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Insects can see lightwaves that we cannot. Bats have skills in echolocation. Dogs famously can sniff out things that in our noses don't register a bit. But we humans: we think. We even think rationally, at least sometimes. It must do us some good. So just why do we do it? _Why Think?: Evolution and the Rational Mind_ (Oxford University Press) is the answer from philosopher Ronald de Sousa. This is not a lengthy book, but is full of ideas, tightly compressed. It is not easy reading, at least it was not for me; when de Sousa, for instance, starts splitting rationality into the strategic mode and the epistemic mode, it seems that he is using terms familiar to others in his school of thought, and then he introduces the axiological mode. If this is unfamiliar territory, you may well have to read entire pages of de Sousa's pithy prose a couple of times to have it sink in. The rewards are that you might well have a new appreciation for just how special our rational capacities are, just how lucky we are that they work as well as they do, and just how they might have come to be produced by natural selection.

If we are rational, it only came as a process through time. De Sousa looks at this in two ways. There are those who think that the human zygote, the first cell of a human, the union of the sperm and egg, is as much a human being as those folks you see walking on the street. But no one will argue that that teensy zygote, full human or not, is rational. Rationality (however it is to be defined) comes sometime later.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Les Berlot on February 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Why think - Ronald de Souza

Difficult book to get through since it was written in deadly textbook fashion. Occasionally there is clarity and accessibility before he goes off on a tangent. Both title and photo are misleading.
It appears that it is an academic book written as an exercise of publish or perish.
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