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

$37.50 • £30.95 • €34.00

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
Common Reads: First-Year Experience [picture of open book]

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Jacket: The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, by Lindsay Chervinsky, from Harvard University Press

Why You Should Participate in an (Online) Book Club

Online book clubs can be a rewarding way to connect with readers, Lindsay Chervinsky discovered, when she was invited to join one to discuss her book, The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution. Since my book was published in April 2020, I’ve discovered that my work appeals to three main audiences. First, the general readers who are enthusiastic about history, attend virtual events, and tend to support local historic sites. Second, readers who are curious about our government institutions and the current political climate and are looking for answers about its origins. And third, history, social studies, and government teachers