Book Summary: Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking

Book: Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking

Author: Daniel C. Dennett

Key takeaways: Even for someone who is interested in the topic, the book was a hard slog, interspersed by just a few good points. I don’t know whether I can recommend it to an avg. person like me, because unless you’re taking good notes and thinking hard, it’s hard to recall what a given chapter was even about.

Thinking is hard:

  • “The stony path to truth is competing with seductive, easier paths that turn out to be dead ends.”
  • History of philosophy is in large measure the history of very smart people making some very tempting mistakes, and if you don’t know the history, you are doomed to make the same mistakes again.
  • Often no one know what the right questions are, forget the right answers.
  • Interesting anecdote: physicist Wolfgang Pauli once expressed his contempt for work of a colleague as “not even wrong”.

Interesting Concepts:

  • Occam’s Razor: the famous law of parsimony.
  • Occam’s Broom: the process in which inconvenient truths are whisked under the rug by an intellectually dishonest champion of a theory.
  • “Daddy’s a Doctor” : A young child is asked about what his father does, and he answers “Daddy’s a Doctor” but does he really believe it. What does the child need to know to be able to say this with certainty? Similarly, we should be able to convey the gist of a topic that goes beyond “Daddy’s a doctor”.

… and that’s where my key takeaways end.

Random Interesting Tidbits:

  • Mitochondrial Eve: she must have had at least two surviving daughters (if she had only one, that daughter would be the Mitochondrial Eve.
  • Clapgras delusion: people suffering from the delusion suddenly believe that a loved one (usually a lover or parent) has been replaced by a replica impostor, and they maintain this belief with such confidence that in some cases they kill or seriously harm the “impostor”.
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