Books that will expand your mind

Because the world isn't always what we see
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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

by Italo Calvino

About the book:  Italo Calvino imagines a novel capable of endless mutations in this intricately crafted story about writing and readers. If on a Winter's Night a Traveler turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author, and each interrupted at a moment of suspense. Together they form a labyrinth of literatures, known and unknown, alive and extinct, through which two readers, a male and a female, pursue both the story lines that intrigue them and one another.


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Metamagical Themas: Questing For The Essence Of Mind And Pattern

by Douglas Hofstadter

About the book:  Hofstadter’s collection of quirky essays is unified by its primary concern: to examine the way people perceive and think.


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The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail--but Some Don't

by Nate Silver

About the book:  "Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise is The Soul of a New Machine for the 21st century." —Rachel Maddow, author of DriftNate Silver built an innovative system for predicting baseball performance, predicted the 2008 election within a hair’s breadth, and became a national sensation as a blogger—all by the time he was thirty. He solidified his standing as the nation's foremost political forecaster with his near perfect prediction of the 2012 election. Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.com.Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. Most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. Both experts and laypeople mistake more confident predictions for more accurate ones. But overconfidence is often the reason for failure. If our appreciation of uncertainty improves, our predictions can get better too. This is the “prediction paradox”: The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in planning for the future.In keeping with his own aim to seek truth from data, Silver visits the most successful forecasters in a range of areas, from hurricanes to baseball, from the poker table to the stock market, from Capitol Hill to the NBA. He explains and evaluates how these forecasters think and what bonds they share. What lies behind their success? Are they good—or just lucky? What patterns have they unraveled? And are their forecasts really right? He explores unanticipated commonalities and exposes unexpected juxtapositions. And sometimes, it is not so much how good a prediction is in an absolute sense that matters but how good it is relative to the competition. In other cases, prediction is still a very rudimentary—and dangerous—science.Silver observes that the most accurate forecasters tend to have a superior command of probability, and they tend to be both humble and hardworking. They distinguish the predictable from the unpredictable, and they notice a thousand little details that lead them closer to the truth. Because of their appreciation of probability, they can distinguish the signal from the noise.With everything from the health of the global economy to our ability to fight terrorism dependent on the quality of our predictions, Nate Silver’s insights are an essential read.


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Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto)

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

About the book:  Antifragile is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, and The Bed of Procrustes.Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the bestselling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost thinkers of our time, reveals how to thrive in an uncertain world.   Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, and rumors or riots intensify when someone tries to repress them, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls “antifragile” is that category of things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish.    In The Black Swan, Taleb showed us that highly improbable and unpredictable events underlie almost everything about our world. In Antifragile, Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner. The antifragile is beyond the resilient or robust. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better.   Furthermore, the antifragile is immune to prediction errors and protected from adverse events. Why is the city-state better than the nation-state, why is debt bad for you, and why is what we call “efficient” not efficient at all? Why do government responses and social policies protect the strong and hurt the weak? Why should you write your resignation letter before even starting on the job? How did the sinking of the Titanic save lives? The book spans innovation by trial and error, life decisions, politics, urban planning, war, personal finance, economic systems, and medicine. And throughout, in addition to the street wisdom of Fat Tony of Brooklyn, the voices and recipes of ancient wisdom, from Roman, Greek, Semitic, and medieval sources, are loud and clear.   Antifragile is a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world.   Erudite, witty, and iconoclastic, Taleb’s message is revolutionary: The antifragile, and only the antifragile, will make it.Praise for Antifragile  “Ambitious and thought-provoking . . . highly entertaining.”—The Economist   “A bold book explaining how and why we should embrace uncertainty, randomness, and error . . . It may just change our lives.”—Newsweek   “Revelatory . . . [Taleb] pulls the reader along with the logic of a Socrates.”—Chicago Tribune   “Startling . . . richly crammed with insights, stories, fine phrases and intriguing asides . . . I will have to read it again. And again.”—Matt Ridley, The Wall Street Journal   “Trenchant and persuasive . . . Taleb’s insatiable polymathic curiosity knows no bounds. . . . You finish the book feeling braver and uplifted.”—New Statesman   “Antifragility isn’t just sound economic and political doctrine. It’s also the key to a good life.”—Fortune   “At once thought-provoking and brilliant.”—Los Angeles TimesFrom the Hardcover edition.


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The Outer Limits of Reason: What Science, Mathematics, and Logic Cannot Tell Us (MIT Press)

by Noson S. Yanofsky

About the book:  Many books explain what is known about the universe. This book investigates what cannot be known. Rather than exploring the amazing facts that science, mathematics, and reason have revealed to us, this work studies what science, mathematics, and reason tell us cannot be revealed. In The Outer Limits of Reason, Noson Yanofsky considers what cannot be predicted, described, or known, and what will never be understood. He discusses the limitations of computers, physics, logic, and our own thought processes.Yanofsky describes simple tasks that would take computers trillions of centuries to complete and other problems that computers can never solve; perfectly formed English sentences that make no sense; different levels of infinity; the bizarre world of the quantum; the relevance of relativity theory; the causes of chaos theory; math problems that cannot be solved by normal means; and statements that are true but cannot be proven. He explains the limitations of our intuitions about the world -- our ideas about space, time, and motion, and the complex relationship between the knower and the known.Moving from the concrete to the abstract, from problems of everyday language to straightforward philosophical questions to the formalities of physics and mathematics, Yanofsky demonstrates a myriad of unsolvable problems and paradoxes. Exploring the various limitations of our knowledge, he shows that many of these limitations have a similar pattern and that by investigating these patterns, we can better understand the structure and limitations of reason itself. Yanofsky even attempts to look beyond the borders of reason to see what, if anything, is out there.


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Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized

by James Ladyman,Don Ross

About the book:  Every Thing Must Go aruges that the only kind of metaphysics that can contribute to objective knowledge is one based specifically on contemporary science as it really is, and not on philosophers' a priori intuitions, common sense, or simplifications of science. In addition to showing how recent metaphysics has drifted away from connection with all other serious scholarly inquiry as a result of not heeding this restriction, they demonstrate how to build a metaphysics compatible with current fundamental phsyics ("ontic structural realism"), which, when combined with their metaphysics of the special sciences ("rainforet realism"), can be used to unify physics with the other sciences without reducing these sciences to physics intself. Taking science metaphysically seriously, Ladyman and Ross argue, means that metaphysicians must abandon the picture of the world as composed of self-subsistent individual objects, and the paradigm of causation as the collision of such objects. Every Thing Must Go also assesses the role of information theory and complex systems theory in attempts to explain the relationship between the special sciences and physics, treading a middle road between the grand synthesis of thermodynamics and information, and eliminativism about information. The consequences of the author's metaphysical theory for central issues in the philosophy of science are explored, including the implications for the realism vs. empiricism debate, the role of causation in scientific explanations, the nature of causation and laws, the status of abstract and virtual objects, and the objective reality of natural kinds


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The Truth About Everything: An Irreverent History of Philosophy : With Illustrations

by Matthew Stewart

About the book:  Throughout history, well-known theories of reality, knowledge, mind, and most particularly the "professional" philosophers who rely on them for their intellectual existence, have sought to isolate universal truths and structure the history of philosophy to distinguish schools and movements that seek a comprehensive understanding of our world. But in this well-intended pursuit of truth, have we lost sight of what philosophy is? Matthew Stewart believes we have.His rowdy guided tour of the search for truth romps through traditional histories of philosophy using parables, imaginary dialogues, and illustrations to demonstrate that knowing theories, recognizing revered schools, and distinguishing the views of the great philosophers isn't what philosophy should be about. Once removed from the clutches of historicism, the compulsion for universal answers, and the perception that reason is a peculiarly Western possession, the nature of philosophy can be seen as a genuine human disposition to love and respect knowledge coupled with a desire for critical thinking.


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A History of Western Philosophy

by Bertrand Russell

About the book:  Hailed as “lucid and magisterial” by The Observer, this book is universally acclaimed as the outstanding one-volume work on the subject of Western philosophy.Considered to be one of the most important philosophical works of all time, the History of Western Philosophy is a dazzlingly unique exploration of the ideologies of significant philosophers throughout the ages—from Plato and Aristotle through to Spinoza, Kant and the twentieth century. Written by a man who changed the history of philosophy himself, this is an account that has never been rivaled since its first publication over sixty years ago. Since its first publication in 1945, Lord Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy is still unparalleled in its comprehensiveness, its clarity, its erudition, its grace, and its wit. In seventy-six chapters he traces philosophy from the rise of Greek civilization to the emergence of logical analysis in the twentieth century. Among the philosophers considered are: Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, the Atomists, Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Cynics, the Sceptics, the Epicureans, the Stoics, Plotinus, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Benedict, Gregory the Great, John the Scot, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Occam, Machiavelli, Erasmus, More, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, the Utilitarians, Marx, Bergson, James, Dewey, and lastly the philosophers with whom Lord Russell himself is most closely associated—Cantor, Frege, and Whitehead, coauthor with Russell of the monumental Principia Mathematica.


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How to Win Every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic

by Madsen Pirie

About the book:  In the second edition of this witty and infectious book, Madsen Pirie builds upon his guide to using - and indeed abusing - logic in order to win arguments. By including new chapters on how to win arguments in writing, in the pub, with a friend, on Facebook and in 140 characters (on Twitter), Pirie provides the complete guide to triumphing in altercations ranging from the everyday to the downright serious. He identifies with devastating examples all the most common fallacies popularly used in argument. We all like to think of ourselves as clear-headed and logical - but all readers will find in this book fallacies of which they themselves are guilty. The author shows you how to simultaneously strengthen your own thinking and identify the weaknesses in other people arguments. And, more mischievously, Pirie also shows how to be deliberately illogical - and get away with it. This book will make you maddeningly smart: your family, friends and opponents will all wish that you had never read it.Publisher's warning: In the wrong hands this book is dangerous. We recommend that you arm yourself with it whilst keeping out of the hands of others. Only buy this book as a gift if you are sure that you can trust the recipient.


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Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy

by Michael Bruce

About the book:  Does the existence of evil call into doubt the existence of God? Show me the argument. Philosophy starts with questions, but attempts at answers are just as important, and these answers require reasoned argument. Cutting through dense philosophical prose, 100 famous and influential arguments are presented in their essence, with premises, conclusions and logical form plainly identified. Key quotations provide a sense of style and approach. Just the Arguments is an invaluable one-stop argument shop. A concise, formally structured summation of 100 of the most important arguments in Western philosophy The first book of its kind to present the most important and influential philosophical arguments in a clear premise/conclusion format, the language that philosophers use and students are expected to know Offers succinct expositions of key philosophical arguments without bogging them down in commentary Translates difficult texts to core arguments Designed to provides a quick and compact reference to everything from Aquinas’ “Five Ways” to prove the existence of God, to the metaphysical possibilities of a zombie world Visit www.justthearguments.com, the editor's site for students, teachers, researchers, and fans of philosophy


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Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking

by Daniel C. Dennett

About the book:  “The best new book I’ve read.”―Richard Dawkins, New York Times Book Review Over a storied career, Daniel C. Dennett has engaged questions about science and the workings of the mind. His answers have combined rigorous argument with strong empirical grounding. And a lot of fun. Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking offers seventy-seven of Dennett’s most successful "imagination-extenders and focus-holders" meant to guide you through some of life’s most treacherous subject matter: evolution, meaning, mind, and free will. With patience and wit, Dennett deftly deploys his thinking tools to gain traction on these thorny issues while offering readers insight into how and why each tool was built.Alongside well-known favorites like Occam’s Razor and reductio ad absurdum lie thrilling descriptions of Dennett’s own creations: Trapped in the Robot Control Room, Beware of the Prime Mammal, and The Wandering Two-Bitser. Ranging across disciplines as diverse as psychology, biology, computer science, and physics, Dennett’s tools embrace in equal measure light-heartedness and accessibility as they welcome uninitiated and seasoned readers alike. As always, his goal remains to teach you how to "think reliably and even gracefully about really hard questions."A sweeping work of intellectual seriousness that’s also studded with impish delights, Intuition Pumps offers intrepid thinkers―in all walks of life―delicious opportunities to explore their pet ideas with new powers. 25 illustrations


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This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking (Edge Question Series)

by John Brockman

About the book:  Edge.org presents brilliant, accessible, cutting-edge ideas to improve our decision-making skills and improve our cognitive toolkits, with contributions by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Richard Dawkins, Brian Eno, Steven Pinker, and more. Featuring a foreword by New York Times columnist David Brooks and edited by John Brockman, This Will Make You Smarter presents some of the best wisdom from today’s leading thinkers—to make better thinkers out of the leaders of tomorrow.


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The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

by Steven Pinker

About the book:  This New York Times bestseller is an exciting and fearless investigation of language Bestselling author Steven Pinker possesses that rare combination of scientific aptitude and verbal eloquence that enables him to provide lucid explanations of deep and powerful ideas. His previous books?including the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Blank Slate?have catapulted him into the limelight as one of today?s most important popular science writers. In The Stuff of Thought, Pinker presents a fascinating look at how our words explain our nature. Considering scientific questions with examples from everyday life, The Stuff of Thought is a brilliantly crafted and highly readable work that will appeal to fans of everything from The Selfish Gene and Blink to Eats, Shoots & Leaves.


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Ecological Rationality: Intelligence in the World (Evolution and Cognition)

by Peter M. Todd,Gerd Gigerenzer

About the book:  "More information is always better, and full information is best. More computation is always better, and optimization is best." More-is-better ideals such as these have long shaped our vision of rationality. Yet humans and other animals typically rely on simple heuristics to solve adaptive problems, focusing on one or a few important cues and ignoring the rest, and shortcutting computation rather than striving for as much as possible. In this book, we argue that in an uncertain world, more information and computation are not always better, and we ask when, and why, less can be more. The answers to these questions constitute the idea of ecological rationality: how we are able to achieve intelligence in the world by using simple heuristics matched to the environments we face, exploiting the structures inherent in our physical, biological, social, and cultural surroundings.


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The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

by David Deutsch

About the book:  The New York Times bestseller: A provocative, imaginative exploration of the nature and progress of knowledgeIn this groundbreaking book, award-winning physicist David Deutsch argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe—and that improving them is the basic regulating principle of all successful human endeavor. Taking us on a journey through every fundamental field of science, as well as the history of civilization, art, moral values, and the theory of political institutions, Deutsch tracks how we form new explanations and drop bad ones, explaining the conditions under which progress—which he argues is potentially boundless—can and cannot happen. Hugely ambitious and highly original, The Beginning of Infinity explores and establishes deep connections between the laws of nature, the human condition, knowledge, and the possibility for progress.


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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

by Yuval Noah Harari

About the book:  New York Times Bestseller"I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a fun, engaging look at early human history…you’ll have a hard time putting it down."--Bill Gates"Thank God someone finally wrote [this] exact book."--Sebastian JungerFrom a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.


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