Irrational with Respect to What?

In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman draws on a lot of empirical studies where subjects make clearly irrational decisions.  A choice throws an exception in an otherwise functional heuristic, and the subject takes an action that doesn't promote his or her stated goal.  But one of the studies Kahneman cites doesn't seem to fit into this model.In the experiment, subjects placed a hand into painfully cold water and had to keep it there for 60 seconds.  After a break, they put their ot … [Read more...]

Quasi-Transhumanist Charismatic Christians

This post is part of Patheos's book club for T.M. Luhrmann's When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. I recieved a review copy free of charge.This was a fascinating book to read right on the heels of Thinking Fast and Slow, because both books seemed to be mostly about changing our intuitions and heuristics. Luhrmann is embedded in a charismatic sect of Christianity.  No snake-handling, but plenty of two-way dialogue with Jesus and what Luhrmann calls … [Read more...]

When Do You Reject Your Intuitions?

knee reflex

A while ago, a commenter emailed me to ask if I could recommend any books to read on human cognitive bias, and now that I've finished Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I can, with great enthusiasm.  When we study flaws in human reasoning, we usually start with glaring ones, and find out that they're just the most obvious examples of a broader problem (and the subtler errors are the more pernicious ones).  In the book, Kahneman has a really interesting riff on the Müller-Lyer il … [Read more...]

Well, you asked for me to blockquote things I agreed with…

Mere Christianity

People who commented on this post last week might want to be careful what they wish for.   I'm going to keep an eye out for blogposts where I can highlight a pull-quote and have something positive to add, but I figured I could practice by blogging through a book that I agree with quite a bit.  (I already enjoyed doing this with Granny Weatherwax from Discworld).So here comes a series of posts (probably one a week) on a book that made me feel just as this quote from The History Boys puts i … [Read more...]

Granny Weatherwax and Discworld [Index Post]

weatherwax wednesday

When I first started this blog, I was casting about for a few types of post I could repeat every week in order to get on a regular schedule.  The one that felt the most natural was a feature I named "Weatherwax Wednesdays" where I used a quote from Terry Pratchett's Discworld, usually involving the character Granny Weatherwax, as a jumping off point to talk about moral philosophy.Introducing Weatherwax Wednesday -- Who is Granny Weatherwax, and why do I love her so?"It’d be in me li … [Read more...]

Caution! Philosophy in Progress.

Remember you can vote once per day for the About.com Atheism Awards.  I’m one of five nominees for Best Atheist Blog.  More details here.Last year, Theatre J sold out its run of New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza, so if you're in the DC area and I didn't successfully drag you to the show this past Wednesday, you had best get your tickets soon. The play is inspired by the excommunication of Baruch Spinoza by his synagogue and spins out a confrontation between him, a Chris … [Read more...]

Epistemology Thought Experiment on Prime Time TV

redblue_pill

Remember you can vote once per day for the About.com Atheism Awards.  I’m one of five nominees for Best Atheist Blog.  More details here.Last night I caught the series premiere of Awake on Hulu and I found it captivating.  The basic setup: Detective Michael Britten (played by Jason Isaacs -- Lucius Malfoy) is in a terrible car accident.  After the crash his life bifurcates.  In one reality, his wife died in the crash.  In the other, he lost his son.  He lives a full day in one world, goes to … [Read more...]


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