Cover: The Enigma of Reason, from Harvard University PressCover: The Enigma of Reason in HARDCOVER

The Enigma of Reason

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Product Details


$29.95 • £23.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674368309

Publication: April 2017


408 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

10 halftones, 7 line illustrations, 2 tables

North America only

Original, persuasive, and deftly argued, The Enigma of Reason puts forward a new and rather surprising thesis that the proper (evolutionary) functioning of reasoning is to persuade others via argumentation. This book will challenge your preconceptions about the mind’s internal logic and why it exists. A compelling read and a novel contribution to the literature on reasoning.—Clark Barrett, University of California, Los Angeles

This is a terrific book. The best thing I have read about human reasoning. It is extremely well written, interesting, and very enjoyable to read.—Gilbert Harman, Princeton University

As evolutionary psychologists, Mercier and Sperber ask what might have been adaptive for our ancestors and thus built into our brains. Some have argued for modules specialized for reasoning about particular topics. But Mercier and Sperber argue for a single module that can frame an argument and its conclusion: the former aids cooperation and the latter communication. So, the ultimate goal of reasoning is persuasion. It’s an extraordinarily ambitious theory presented with brilliant insights, profound scholarship, and entertaining anecdotes.—Philip Johnson-Laird, Princeton University