Cover: Lessons from an Optical Illusion in PAPERBACK

Lessons from an Optical Illusion

On Nature and Nurture, Knowledge and Values

Add to Cart

Product Details

PAPERBACK

$36.50 • £29.95 • €33.00

ISBN 9780674525412

Publication Date: 03/25/1997

Short

288 pages

5-5/8 x 8-3/4 inches

16 halftones, 11 line illustrations

World

Facts are facts, we often say with certainty; but values—well, they’re relative. But every day we are confronted with situations where these simple distinctions begin to blur—whether our concerns are the roots of crime and violence, the measure of intelligence, the causes of disease, the threat and promise of genetic engineering. Where do our “facts” end and our “values” begin?

Recent developments in neuroscience have begun to shed light on this confusion, by radically revising our notions of where human nature ends and human nurture begins. As Edward Hundert—a philosopher, psychiatrist, and award-winning educator—makes clear in this eloquent interdisciplinary work, the newly emerging model for the interactions of brain and environment has enormous implications for our understanding of who we are, how we know, and what we value.

Lessons from an Optical Illusion is a bold modern recasting of the age-old nature–nurture debate, informed by revolutionary insights from brain science, artificial intelligence, psychiatry, linguistics, evolutionary biology, child development, ethics, and even cosmology. As this radical new synthesis unfolds, we are introduced to characters ranging from Immanuel Kant to Gerald Edelman, from Charles Darwin to Sigmund Freud, from Jean Piaget to Stephen Hawking, from Socrates to Jonas Salk. Traversing the nature-nurture terrain, we encounter simulated robots, optical illusions, game theory, the anthropic principle, the prisoner’s dilemma, and the language instinct. In the course of Hundert’s wide-ranging exploration, the comfortable dichotomies that once made sense (objectivity–subjectivity, heredity–environment, fact–value) break down under sharp analysis, as he reveals the startling degree to which facts are our creations and values are woven into the fabric of the world. Armed with an updated understanding of how we became who we are and how we know what we know, readers are challenged to confront anew the eternal question of what it means to live a moral life.

Awards & Accolades

  • Honorable Mention, 1995 Association of American Publishers Professional/Scholarly Publishing Award, Psychology Category
Selected Titles on Making Modern South Asia [abstract yellow and green flowers]

Recent News

From Our Blog

Jacket: The Number of the Heavens: A History of the Multiverse and the Quest to Understand the Cosmos, by Tom Siegfried, from Harvard University Press

Q&A with Tom Siegfried, author of The Number of the Heavens: A History of the Multiverse and the Quest to Understand the Cosmos

In The Number of the Heavens, Tom Siegfried, the award-winning former editor of Science News, shows that one of the most fascinating and controversial ideas in contemporary cosmology—the existence of multiple parallel universes—has a long and divisive history that continues to this day. We spoke to him about the possible existence of a multiverse and the co

‘manifold glories of classical Greek and Latin’

The digital Loeb Classical Library (loebclassics.com) extends the founding mission of James Loeb with an interconnected, fully searchable, perpetually growing virtual library of all that is important in Greek and Latin literature.