Book Review

Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking

by Denise Wong



Title: Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking
Author: Daniel C. Dennett
Publisher: Penguin Group
Price: $21.00
Available at Penguin Books and Kinokuniya.

Reckoned as one of the four horsemen of New Atheism, philosopher and writer Daniel Dennett has penned a new book in a field of knowledge that he knows best – thinking.

Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking considers the various thought experiments and thinking tools, otherwise coined as ‘intuition pumps’ by Dennett, which help readers hone their intuition to think better about thinking itself.

Derived from a series of lectures he conducted to a group of undergraduate philosophy students, this book condenses 77 intuition pumps that address some of life’s thorniest issues – evolution, meaning, consciousness and free will – in just over 400 pages.

Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking may perhaps be a little more welcoming to people who are naïve and unschooled in art of philosophy. Dennett’s witty commentary mixed in with his whimsical anecdotes in an altogether light-hearted manner helps steer readers through philosophical stumbling blocks and the really hard questions in life.

Some of the tools introduced in this volume may be all too familiar, such as Occam’s Razor, Reductio ad Absurdum and making mistakes.

Considered as the true opportunity for learning, making mistakes can make solutions to problems all the more apparent and clear-cut. While it is deemed as possibly one of the most constructive empirical tools, it is also one of the most painful to utilise. Despite it being so, it is only human nature to love identifying errors, especially when it is worth correcting.

As the book delves deeper, Dennett argues and exposes the good intuition pumps from the “flawed” – the ones that prompts us to believe in erroneous illusional concepts or those that are seemingly irrational.

Although a challenging and fun read, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking should be read through sceptical lenses. Be unafraid to gush over Dennett’s brilliant insights and disagree with his bias reasoning.

Above all, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking has a little piece to share with everyone. Even a non-materialist could benefit from a thinking tool or two.

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