Monday, November 09, 2009

Book Review: The Undercover Philosopher

If there is one book everyone should take time to read it is Michael Philips' The Undercover Philosopher: A Guide to Detecting Shams, Lies, and Delusions. Despite the common Christian claim to search for the truth, many Christians (along with the rest of humanity) fall prey to poor thinking.

In a wonderfully written book, Philips explores the human tendency to see what isn't there and remember what never happened; badly assess probabilities; favour our existing beliefs; only look for evidence that confirms what we want to believe; different thinking styles; rely on emotions for assessing truth; and so on.

The ways that we can be taken in are numerous and Philips provides up-to-the-minute examples of the way people have been deceived by all sorts of shams, lies, and delusions. In the closing chapters, Philips discusses more theoretical issues in relation to thinking that provides an excellent overview of the philosophical issues related to thinking. The book closes with a chapter on the process of deciding what to believe and how to go about considering evidence for belief and the ethics of belief.

One of the most distinctive aspects of The Undercover Philosopher is the author's balanced approach. He recognises that we cannot provide complete evidence for all of our beliefs. And we each have differences in the way we think and evaluate our beliefs. He also acknowledges that we may choose to believe certain things without evidence.

The ultimate point is that, knowing the pitfalls of thinking and how we can be taken in, allows us to choose our beliefs with a realistic assessment of the evidence in support of them. Noone suggests we shouldn't be allowed to believe what we want to believe. But to do so fully informed and cognisant of whether we are being taken in is important because it may have implications for how we live and how those beliefs affect others.

The Undercover Philosopher is a great book that is well crafted and fresh in its approach. If you want to be a better thinker then make sure you read it! Check out the video below for a sample of the author's work...


What others are saying...

A magnificent book – a user’s guide to one’s own brain. He details the insidious tricks our brains play on us and how to guard against them. As a scientist, I found humbling, but right on target, his assessment of the sociological limitations on our search for Truth. His writing is compact, clear, and delightfully free of academic jargon.” Steven N. Austad, author of Why We Age: What Science Is Discovering about the Body's Journey Through Life

“A great book! Writing with clarity and good humour, Michael Phillips reminds me of a great philosophical collector, an Aristotle of errors, as he enthusiastically categorizes specimens of every kind of mistake, con and self-deception and describes how we can guard against them.” Rick Lewis, Editor of Philosophy Now

Here's a link to the author's blog.

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