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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

[Praise for Daniel Dennett's Freedom Evolves]: This is a serious book with a brilliant message (Matt Ridley Sunday Telegraph)

Dennett has produced the most powerful and ingenious attempt at reconciling Darwinism with the belief in human freedom to date (John Gray The Independent)

An outstandingly good book. There is no better philosophical exponent of what evolutionary biology really means (The Times) --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

Présentation de l'éditeur

Thinking is hard - yet barely a waking moment passes when we're not labouring away at it. A few of us may be natural geniuses, able to work through the toughest tangles in an instant; others, blessed with reserves of willpower, stay the course in the dogged pursuit of truth. Then there's the rest of us. Not prodigies and a little bit lazy, but still aspiring to understand the world and our place in it. What can we do?In Intuition Pumps, Daniel Dennett, one of the world's most original and provocative thinkers, takes us on a profound, illuminating and highly entertaining philosophical journey. He reveals a collection of his favourite thinking tools, or 'intuition pumps', that he and others have developed for addressing life's most fundamental questions. Along with new discussions of familiar moves - Occam's Razor, reductio ad absurdum - Dennett offers cognitive tools built for the most treacherous subject matter: evolution, meaning, consciousness and free will. In his genial style, Dennett guides readers around the pitfalls in arguments, and reveals easier ways to better understand the world around us and our place in it.An enlightening and practical store of knowledge, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking will teach you to think truly independently and creatively.[Praise for Daniel Dennett's Freedom Evolves]: 'This is a serious book with a brilliant message' Matt Ridley, Sunday Telegraph'Dennett has produced the most powerful and ingenious attempt at reconciling Darwinism with the belief in human freedom to date' John Gray, The Independent'An outstandingly good book. There is no better philosophical exponent of what evolutionary biology really means' The TimesDaniel Dennett is one of the most original and provocative thinkers in the world. A brilliant polemicist and philosopher, he is famous for challenging unexamined orthodoxies. His books include Brainstorms, Brainchildren, Elbow Room, Consciousness Explained, Darwin's Dangerous Idea and Freedom Evolves. He lives in North Andover, Massachusetts. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 102 commentaires
170 internautes sur 181 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Pumps, razors, brooms and other vices and virtues of thinking 5 mai 2013
Par Ash Jogalekar - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
If you have enjoyed any of Daniel Dennett's other books you will enjoy this. It is a pleasing, humorous and insightful journey into a gallery of mundane and profound thinking tools drawn from a wide-ranging set of disciplines, from literature and science to psychology and philosophy. It's worth noting that this is not really a "how to" book. Instead it's more like a survey of common as well as uncommon tools that human beings consciously and unconsciously use to both understand the world better and communicate and empathize with each other. Not surprisingly, given Dennett's profession, the bent is slightly more philosophical although the book is easy to read and appreciate.

The book starts with the simplest of tools, such as making mistakes. Dennett illuminates how making mistakes is not just ok but desirable since it's perhaps the only way to hone a system of thinking into a useful device. Other parts of the book cover concepts like reductio ad absurdum, Occam's Razor and the wittily-named Occam's Broom which is sometimes used nefariously to sweep arguments under the rug. There's a fair amount of ground Dennett covers before he gets to the concept stated in the book's name - intuition pumps. Intuition pumps refer to anything - from thought experiments to linguistic devices - that somehow make us bypass the process of rigorous thinking and reach a revelation primarily through intuition. One of the virtues of the book is how it describes examples of both good and bad intuition pumps including sleights of hand used by politicians and pseudoscientists. I was quite impressed by Dennett's attention to even very simple tools invoked through common expressions; for instance one of the fallacies he describes is the use of the word "rather" that's routinely used to set up a false dichotomy.

Given Dennett's other writings, it's not surprising to find him often refer to evolution as a rich mine for many of the tools. Variation, making mistakes, and generating lots of ideas to pick the best ones are all traits of the evolutionary process. Dennett also draws on work by diverse thinkers, from Wittgenstein to Stephen Jay Gould to Douglas Adams, to illustrate the power and pitfalls of language and thought. His trademark subtle (and not so subtle) wit and familiarity with a vast amount of pop culture and science is clearly apparent in the writing. The book will definitely reward those who like to think about thinking, and it's one I can definitely see myself periodically savoring like a plate of diverse appetizers.
49 internautes sur 52 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A good primer on clear thinking 3 mai 2013
Par Alberto Cairo Touriqo - Publié sur
Format: Relié
If you have read Dennett's previous books, particularly 'Freedom Evolves', and 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea', some portions of this book will sound very familiar, as it is largely based on previously published chapters, papers, and articles. That said, this is a very enjoyable read, an excellent guide to clear thinking based on more than 70 conceptual tools. It is to be praised that Dennett always strive for clarity and concision, even working in a field so prone to obscurity.
51 internautes sur 56 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
the long road 13 juin 2013
Par Conan - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I've come a long way with Dennett. As a philosopher at U Penn in the '80s I had the chance to hear him speak at colloquia many times. He was indefatigable and an enjoyable, remarkably pleasant person. His collection, The Mind's I, made a tremendous impression upon me as did Consciousness Explained. His penchant for atheism is consistent with his materialism and comes as no surprise. His long-standing squabbles with Searle and Nagel ("What is it like to be a bat?") are some of the better battles in the recent history of philosophy. Personally I find Dennett a much more enjoyable read than the dense analytic philosophy I must spend time with. He really is a remarkably wide-ranging thinking, unusual for a philosopher and for that reason alone to be appreciated. As an aside I would like to offer the following ancedote. My mother and father were traveling by train in England sometime ago. They happened to be in a compartment with Dennett, who they said was a most gracious and helpful individual, helping them with their luggage, advice and so on. When they told him their son was a philosopher he offered his card and told them to have me call him. I still have the card, but I never made the call.
198 internautes sur 254 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Sorta Thinking 18 mai 2013
Par Real Name - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Daniel Dennet, like his theory of consciousness, is all about cerebral celebrity. From his origins as a philosopher in academic halls, he has become an intellectual public icon, attracting masses of curious thinkers to his speaking engagements. He writes crisply with large helpings of humor that bite just hard enough to dent the surface without offending too much. I mostly enjoy his style. It's entertaining. This book offers a group of critical thinking tools in the first part, and then a rehashing of Dennett's philosophical positions in the latter part. If you have read all of Dennett's past work, then there is little reason to read this book. As I have only read a small sample of his older work, I bought this book for a more complete picture of his thoughts.

I was jarred by his repetitive use of the so-called sorta "operator", a neologism that Dennet believes does explanatory work, but appears to function mostly as a smoke screen that hides the complexity of what he is trying to explain. To Dennett, when he places the word sorta in front of an object, action, or almost anything at all, it (the word sorta) meaningfully transforms that thing into something else. For example, there are monkeys, and then there are sorta monkeys. Sorta monkeys fall short of being monkeys in some way--they are different than monkeys--but Dennett demands that this difference, while actual, cannot be made rigorous. There is no systematic, logical dividing line between monkeys and sorta monkeys, yet somehow we all know the difference. Dennett is doing little more than appealing to a mysterious intuition (or capacity) when using sorta in front of words, and he attempts to hide this mysterian tendency by calling sorta an operator, trying to get us to confuse his fluffy sorta with the rigorously defined operators in mathematics and physics. The derivative d/dx is an operator; sorta is an expression in everyday speech that we use to create ambivalent meaning--I sorta like peanut butter ice cream, meaning, I don't really like it all that much but it's not bad but not great and I eat it sometimes. Dennett's use of sorta is sorta helpful in explaining things, but not really.

Dennett has obviously thought long about the various thought experiments he creates and criticizes, and I found his discussion about the Chinese room argument particular enlightening. Of course Dennett can be criticized for his uncritical use of metaphors as well. For instance, Dennett calls DNA a recipe for an organism. This metaphor is so common among philosophers and scientists that it is rarely questioned, but if we take Dennett's call to analyze metaphors, we find that this metaphor is weak. A recipe for making something tells the person following that recipe the precise ingredients and steps needed to create that something. My stripped-bass with homemade stuffing recipe tells me to fillet a 4-5lb bass, gather toasted wheat bread (crumbled), herbs, mushrooms, shallots, butter, wine, parmesan cheese, and to sauté these together, then layer the stuffing between the two fillets and place the stack in the oven for 45 minutes, and to occasionally marinate with the juices. It's delicious. Now, I can read DNA, and all I see are a sequence of nucleotides--it doesn't tell me to do anything. Even if I recognized the DNA strand as hippopotamus DNA, I still would not know how to make a hippopotamus by reading the DNA strand. Perhaps you say that is an unfair comparison; the full metaphor implies that DNA is a recipe to be read by other things in the cell and not intended for a person. Very well. DNA is transcribed into RNA by RNA polymerase, which produces a complementary RNA strand. DNA is not a recipe for the organism; it is a recipe, if anything, for RNA. And RNA is not a recipe for the organism, but a recipe for perhaps proteins or other cellular components. Proteins are not recipes for the organism, but rather serve particular functions within and between cells.

But suppose I could look at a DNA strand, and knew all of the proteins that are formed from that strand--would I then know the recipe for the organism? I couldn't just throw a bunch of proteins into a pot and expect it to become a living organism. DNA is not even sorta a recipe for an organism. Unlike a recipe that contains explicit instructions or directions in the form of actions--cut the fish, sauté the mushrooms, turn the oven to 400 degrees--DNA does not contain within its "code" any directions for putting an organism together. All of the action happens as a result of basic physical forces when DNA is in an appropriate environment. DNA, if anything like a recipe, is a partial list of constituents of an organism--think of the many vitamins and minerals that are necessary for the organism but must be ingested; these are not listed anywhere within DNA. We might say that DNA in a proper cellular environment is the cause of an organism. We might say that DNA can be used to identify types of organisms and individual organisms, like finger prints and foot prints. But to call DNA a recipe for the organism is a misleading metaphor.

Dennett spends a bit of the book trying to explain how the mind is created by matter, and more generally, how people are material machines like robots. The idea that humans are material machines was argued well by the French physician La Mettrie in his book L'homme Machine (Man, Machine) written in 1748, who said that the human body is a clock, a huge and complex finely designed clock. Dennett, like many today, believes a similair thing--that the mind is a computer, a huge and complex finely designed computer. Dennett explains the mind by appealing to a doctrine of cognitive gradualism--the idea that the mind can be gradually built up by considering individual neurons, then groups of neurons with varying functions, and gradually more complex functions on top of one another until we get something like the mind in all its glory. Marvin Minsky, one of the early pioneers of AI, told a similar and very readable story in his Society of the Mind, which was not mentioned by Dennett.

Dennett's materialism is not so interesting; what is interesting about Dennett is that he is a sorta materialist. He acknowledges the irreducibility of the "intentional stance", that we will always talk "as if" humans have beliefs and desires and so forth, even if we ever explain the mind physically. He thinks concepts like "the center of gravity" refer to real entities in a meaningful way that goes beyond matter at a particular location, and believes free will is an important and actual thing, even in a world ultimately made of matter in motion. I believe Dennett's sorta materialism saves his philosophy from being dogmatic and boring. He has been called a post-analytic philosopher, but I think he is more appropriately a sorta-analytic philosopher, a transition species between analytic philosophers and continental philosophers.
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Danny's Wonderful Tool Box 13 juin 2013
Par L. King - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Professor and philosopher Dennett starts off with the wonderful project of describing a set of techniques for productive reasoning in philosophy, and presumably in other fields as well. Calling them "intuition pumps", they are what physicists "gedanken" (thought) experiments which can be tweaked by changing a limited number parameters which Dennet likens to twisting a few "knobs". The opposite of a pump is called a "boom crutch", which are analogies to be avoided. Intuition pumps can move us forward, boom crutches leave us spinning in circles. In order to keep it simple he disciplined his material by giving it in the form of a course to a group of first year university students, so we are essentially his second class.

The project starts off very well. The first section covers about a dozen different concepts such as the value of Trial and Error (fail rapidly and learn from mistakes), Reductio ad Absurdum, Anatol Rapoport's rules for successful criticism, Sturgeon's Law (90% of everything is crap ), joosting (look at problems by "jumping out of the system", ie: what would happen if one abandoned phlogiston, or what would a Martian think of this problem), rathering (sliding past a false dichotomy), answering rhetorical questions as the answer may surprise, Occam's Razor, Occam's Broom (watch out for sweeping inconsistencies under the rug), the "sorta" operator ( a recommendation against using unnecessary precision) and my favourite, deepidity - a child's neologism for ideas that sound deep ("love" is just a word) but either is or is not. Dennet seems to approach it as a boom crutch, akin to stupidity, but maybe it can be productive of ideas as well.

He then continues with several illustrating scenarios, many of which have to do with the nature of consciousness, for example contrasting the inner and outer reality of what we see, and what do we mean when we ascribe purpose to animals (sphexishness), systems and inanimate objects. Quite a few discussions centre around zombies, robots, replicants and Chinese rooms - if they pass as humans should we truly say that they have an inner life.

However the project suddenly runs off the rails about 100 pages in with a 50 page discussion of Turing machines (which, if you've had it before, he invites you to skip) where he urges the reader to hand simulate a computation. How very 80s! Later on even Conway's Game of Life reappears. This is old material that doesn't tell us much about thought and could have been summarized in much less time. And then he does it again in with longer segments on Borges Infinite Library, comparing it to DNA and then evolution. All very nice but it's like listening to your favorite uncle droning on about the old country and not really why we've come to the party.

So while promising at first, it does disappoint by being a bit long winded. There are some good nuggets here and there such as the impossible metaphor of a sky hook, the parable of analyzing the behaviour of black boxes, the role of knowledge in fairness of lotteries where the winning ticket is decided before or after the tickets have been sold and "qualias" - emotional gestalts associated with colours or objects; tidbits as to why locust population explosions favour prime number intervals and the quasi-myth of "sphexishness".

In summary, it's good at the beginning and beats the averages of Sturgeon's Law, don't be afraid to judiciously skim. A fine toothed rating for me would be 3.7, but of course your mileage may vary.
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