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On Being Certain Paperback – March 17, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 116 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“On Being Certain challenges our understanding of the very nature of thought and provokes readers to ask what Burton calls "the most basic of questions": How do we know what we know?” ―Scientific American Mind

“In his brilliant new book, Burton systematically and convincingly shows that certainty is a mental state, a feeling like anger or pride that can help guide us, but that doesn't dependably reflect objective truth… In the polarizing atmosphere of the 2008 election, On Being Certain ought to be required reading for every candidate -- and for every citizen.” ―ForbesLife

“What do we do when we recognize that a false certainty feels the same as certainty about the sky being blue? A lesser guide might get bogged down in nail-biting doubts about the limits of knowledge. Yet Burton not only makes clear the fascinating beauty of this tangled terrain, he also brings us out the other side with a clearer sense of how to navigate. It's a lovely piece of work; I'm all but certain you'll like it. ” ―David Dobbs, author of Reef Madness; Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral

“Burton has a great talent for combining wit and insight in a way both palatable and profound.” ―Johanna Shapiro PhD, professor of Family Medicine at UC Irvine School of Medicine

“A new way of looking at knowledge that merits close reading by scientists and general readers alike.” ―Kirkus

“This could be one of the most important books of the year. With so much riding on ‘certainty,' and so little known about how people actually reach a state of certainty about anything, some plain speaking from a knowledgeable neuroscientist is called for. If Gladwell's Blink was fascinating but largely anecdotal, Burton's book drills down to the real science behind snap judgments and other decision-making.” ―Howard Rheingold, futurist and author of Smart Mobs

“A fascinating read. Burton's engaging prose takes us into the deepest corners of our subconscious, making us question our most solid contentions. Nobody who reads this book will walk away from it and say ‘I know this for sure' ever again.” ―Sylvia Pagán Westphal, science reporter, The Wall Street Journal

“Burton provides a compelling and though-provoking case that we should be more skeptical about our beliefs. Along the way, he also provides a novel perspective on many lines of research that should be of interest to readers who are looking for a broad introduction to the cognitive sciences.” ―Seed Magazine

About the Author

ROBERT BURTON, M.D. graduated from Yale University and University of California at San Francisco medical school. At age thirty-three, he was appointed chief of the Division of Neurology at Mt. Zion-UCSF Hospital, where he subsequently became Associate Chief of the Department of Neurosciences. His non-neurology writing career includes three critically acclaimed novels. He lives in Sausalito, CA.

Product details

  • Item Weight : 12 ounces
  • Paperback : 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 9780312541521
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0312541521
  • Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.68 x 8.25 inches
  • Publisher : Griffin; Reprint Edition (March 17, 2009)
  • ASIN : 031254152X
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 116 ratings

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
116 global ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on March 29, 2016
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Reviewed in the United States on May 20, 2015
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Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2016
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Reviewed in the United States on July 23, 2009
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Reviewed in the United States on May 27, 2009
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Reviewed in the United States on October 15, 2014
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Top reviews from other countries

Lieber Leser
5.0 out of 5 stars Ich bin sicher: ein empfehlenswertes Buch
Reviewed in Germany on April 27, 2012
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6 people found this helpful
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Eric Lawton
5.0 out of 5 stars Certainty is chemistry
Reviewed in Canada on November 1, 2008
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Dave B
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and accessible
Reviewed in Canada on April 27, 2011
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Bill Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Reviewed in Canada on February 14, 2014
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Gord McKenna
2.0 out of 5 stars On writing off the top of your head
Reviewed in Canada on January 29, 2010
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6 people found this helpful
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