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Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  3,845 ratings  ·  301 reviews
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 li
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published May 6th 2013 by W. W. Norton Company
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Jul 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: neverfinished
I had to quit after 68 pages. Dennett apparently had a class of freshmen review this book - I wish he would have had a couple actual philosophers review it as well. If you have an understanding of philosophy and basic thinking tools, this book is not for you. If you already are an independent thinker, this book is not for you. If you are easily impressed by name-dropping and misleading examples, this book is for you.

The book starts out poorly with way too much name-dropping and Dennett admitting
Mirek Kukla
May 07, 2013 rated it liked it
"Intuition pumps and other tools for thinking" is a mixed bag of goods. Don’t let the title fool you: this books is less about "thinking tools" than it is about Daniel Dennet's favorite philosophical thought experiments. Dennet devotes a short and wanting section to general 'thinking tools' (think Okham’s razor), but otherwise spends the majority of your time laying out his personal ideas concerning evolution, meaning, mind, and free will.

First, the pros: the subject matter is fascinating, and D
Eric Wurm
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
If you've read other Dennett masterpieces, you come away thinking both that the man is a genius and that he's a genius that tends to ramble on. That is not the case in his latest work. He combines many of his previous ideas and some new thoughts into this volume of brief insightful chapters.

Dennett covers a wide range of philosophy favorites including consciousness, free will, determinism, artificial life, evolution, and meaning. He gives the reader tools to use when thinking about complex prob
Morgan Blackledge
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
An intuition pump is a thought experiment or similar cognitive "device" designed to elicit answers to difficult philosophical problems. In --Intuition Pumps And Other Tools For Thinking-- Dennett uses his favorite intuition pumps to (sort of) dismantle difficult philosophical questions such as: evolution, meaning, mind, and free will.

I avoided Dennett for a long time because he comes off as such a grumpy old dick in his lectures and Ted talks. I am pleasantly surprised to find that his writing i
Alex Borghgraef
Oct 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: a002
It's ironic that Dennett concludes his book with a chapter on why philosophy is still valuable, because halfway through it I was starting to toy with the idea that the world would be better off if philosophy departments all over it were shut down and its inhabitants told to find a real job :-) But first, a disclaimer: I am firmly in the positivist camp, Dan is basically preaching to the choir here. Only he's doing it badly.
But wait! What's this about preaching? Isn't this book about thinking t
May 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
I liked this well enough. Dennett can write clearly and engagingly. But I never got over the nasty taste in my mouth induced by some really mean-spirited drive-by ad hominem assassination of someone I guess Dennett still holds a shiv for -- Stephen Jay Gould. The odd thing is that, on the issues in question, intellectually I would side with Dennett rather than Gould. But continuing to attack an opponent after the person in question is dead and in no position to mount a defence strikes me as bein ...more
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
Reading this book is basically like reading Daniel Dennett in blog format.

I read a lot of Dennett's work as an undergraduate and it had a fairly profound impact on me -- I think the collection "The Mind's I" that he edited with Douglas Hofstadter is essentially my atheist bible. I hadn't realized just how much of his work I had read -- almost nothing in this recent collection was new to me. I guess I hadn't realized (or had forgotten) that Dennett is a big fan of Sturgeon's Law (90% of everythin
Nov 30, 2014 rated it liked it
As clearly advertised on the front cover, this is a book about "tools for thinking"—and, yes, the first 12 chapters, out of 77, are devoted precisely to that.

In contrast, the remaining 65 chapters are summaries, in easy to consume bites, of most of the other books that Dennett has published during the last 20 or 30 years, on the topics of meaning and content, evolution, consciousness, and free will—each updated with relevant new results and references. As such, he presents, and effectively argu
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book, though Dennett could certainly have stood to tighten up the prose and organize it better. I think the title also doesn't reflect the contents of the book very well. The book describes Dennett's theories of the philosophy of mind, using what he calls "intuition pumps". An intuition pump is basically a thought experiment, designed to poke/pump your intuitions about a topic, like Einstein's clock thought experiments or Searle's Chinese Room argument. I sort of dislike the t ...more
Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great primer to philosophy to the novice. Dennett uses some clever thinking tools to cut to the heart of some classic problems in philosophy. I especially liked his take-down of the idea that free will depends on non-determinism.
Alfingen Dodür
Didn't finish bc tons of unnecessary acerbic ad hominem attacks on Gould started to get very annoying. Superficial otherwise too. ...more
Apr 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-read
Daniel C. Dennett cites himself a lot. Just sayin'.

Right, so his thing is that free will and determinism are not incompatible. He's really big into non-incompatibles. the idea that you can predict the choice someone will make does not effect his ability to make that choice. So, its predictable that i would write this... but i still also made a choice to write it. i really hope he explains how this is so because i still don't get it.

I had no idea this book would be so much about rhetoric, linqui
Michael Huang
First off, the title is a misnomer -- a clickbait of sorts. The discussion on intuition pumps lasts 40 pages (more on that later). The rest of it is tearing apart often ridiculous (to me at least) philosophical positions other philosophers had such as insisting on consciousness and free will are a black and white thing (false dichotomy). For instance, here is one on "understanding", which is a center piece target of Dennett's criticism and is the so-called Chinese Room thought experiment.

Spencer Fancutt
Jul 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I stayed with it until Consciousness, where I lost mine several times before limping to the end. The title is a misnomer; it is not a handy guide to navigating your decisions in life, etc, or even a practical 80 steps to improving your mind. It is a series of short chapters of philosophical tidbits designed to introduce as much of Dennett's own nomenclature as possible to see what sticks (immortality!), and in the meantime showing how terribly misguided his fellow philosophers are, supported by ...more
Paul Gibson
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very interesting and clever book. Critics will complain the author has an agenda. Others will recognize this agenda as narrative. The author does an excellent job choosing intuition pumps to make his point while providing a narrative to tie it all altogether in a readable package. You don't have to believe it, you can simply regard it as information. But you could also re-frame your current beliefs by devaluing their truth while regarding them simply as information too. Throughout this ...more
Alex Shenton
Summary: There's a lot of interesting stuff here if you can struggle through it and are prepared to put in some hard thinking time over it (which you should be, if you're reading a book on philosophy). It's like taking a journey which you have heard is arduous but rewarding. However in this case the journey is also uneven and sometimes tedious, and your companion won't stop playing a Spice Girls medley on the kazoo.

In a bit more detail:

First off, this is a hard book. It wants you to think and it
May 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Favorite sections include all/most of Section II: A Donzen General Thinking Tools - a clear set of tools to go out into the world with. "Rather"|"Surely" (ding!) And the following favorite chapters include: Murder in Trafalgar Square, Manifest Image and Scientific Image, The Intentional Stance, The Sorta Operator, The Library of Mendel: Vast and Vanishing, The Zombic Hunch, Zombies and Zimboes, and Heterophenomenology. Dennett is a writer that leads me to believe that I have some kind of adult/r ...more
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a mind... Dennett is that rarest of beings: a philosopher who presents his ideas undumbed down, and with crystal clarity, for a lay readership. Not only does he respect his untrained readers, he genuinely strives to educate them and to spur their own deeper learning and inquiry. The long and the short is this: every time I finish one of his books, I am (I think) smarter than I was when I began. It's amazing how much food for thought Dennett packs between the covers of each, and how artfully ...more
Jul 31, 2013 rated it liked it
I won't plagiarize another reviewer by pointing any prospective reader of Dennett's book to Sturgeon's Law, but for those listening: consult Sturgeon's Law.

10% of this book is extremely interesting - which for a 500 page book can seem reasonable and tiring on the same plane. Cf. every book Dennett has ever written on consciousness if you want to avoid the hassle (it's the topic he has theorized on tenaciously during his 30-year career as a mainstream philosopher). You'll notice he conveniently
Date first finished: 21 September 2013
Date second finished: 19 January 2014

This is an excellent book that gives a good introduction to some of the ways of doing philosophy. The first section has perhaps some of the most valuable advice for engaging with ideas and their proponents, and is something I will probably return to again and again to sharpen my tools for evaluating claims. The very first thing that Dennett encourages is for thinkers to make mistakes. It is important not to be afraid of m
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: autodidactic

(NOTE: I received my copy of the book from the GoodReads giveaways.)

Let me begin by saying that this is the first book that I have read by Mr Dennett. I hear him referenced from time to time in books, articles, or lectures (mostly in the area of the philosophy of religion). I wanted to read some of his work, and GoodReads was kind enough to help me with that.

However, I am not sure that this would be the best book for someone to "try out" Mr Dennett's writing. The book is great, to be sure (the p
May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
This introduces itself as a collection of tricks and tips for philosophical reasoning. What is an essay papering over a gap? What makes a good thought experiment? When faced with one of the classic philosopher's parables (the Chinese Room, the Duplicating Teleporter) how do you figure out whether it's leading your intuition in a useful direction or only distracting you from the point?

(Some of these tips are nifty examples of "turning the knobs" on thought experiments, creating variants with diff
Cid Medeiros
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dennett collects in this book an interesting inventory of special thought experiments defined by him as intuition pumps. The definition he proposes goes along with what they really do to you: pump your intuition up. They kind guide your thinking towards the core of the subject matter dealt with.

However, as there are some badly designed thought experiments, this is also true for intuition pumps. Dennets explores the bad ones brilliantly. In some very famous cases, the bad ones hold such strong a
Somehow I didn't enjoy this book nearly as much as I was expecting to. What was I expecting? I dunno... a textbook on critical thinking written from the perspective of a philosopher? A list of important human mental techniques that an ideal AI should contain?

Something was just too folksy-abstract for me to really get into it.

I liked Dennett's books Kinds of Minds: Towards an Understanding of Consciousness and Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind much better.

But on my library's
Stephie Williams
Jan 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As usual Daniel Dennett has written another good book. There's a lot to think about in this one. He covers various ways philosophers use to sharpen their thinking--a very admirable collection. He seemed to use the tools for thought, “intuition pumps” he calls them to make points about some of his favorite topics, such as, consciousness, artificial intelligence, evolution, and free will. I have to say that I disagreed with or had questions about some of what he wrote, which is a good thing to hav ...more
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful little book about how to think. The "turning the knobs" idea is something I've already begun to use.

It's actually a surprisingly nice introduction to computer science if you need it.
Boris Limpopo
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dennett, Daniel C. (2013). Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking. London: Allen Lane. 2013. ISBN 9780141970127. Pagine 458. 14,03 €
Ho incontrato Dan più di 30 anni fa, e da allora ci siamo sempre frequentati, anche se a volte ci siamo persi di vista per lunghi periodi. Me l'aveva presentato Doug Hofstadter, ma poi siamo diventati amici indipendentemente da lui …

Mi piacerebbe poterlo scrivere non soltanto metaforicamente, ma la realtà letterale è che – dopo avere letto God
Teo 2050


Dennett DC (2013) (13:22) Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking


Part I: Introduction: What Is an Intuition Pump?

Part II: A Dozen General Thinking Tools

01. Making Mistakes
02. "By Parody of Reasoning": Using Reductio ad Absurdum
03. Rapoport's Rules
04. Sturgeon's Law
05. Occam's Razor
06. Occam's Broom
07. Using Lay Audiences as Decoys
08. Jootsing
09. Three Species of Goulding: Rathering, Piling On, and the Gould Two-Step
10. The "Surely" Operator: A Mental Bloc
Jay Kamaladasa
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally, a book worth reading and reviewing.

The one thing that I dislike about the book is perhaps the long winded (but playful) narration that seems to be an overkill. Simple concepts that can be explained in a sentence or a paragraph goes on to be chapters. But since Dennett is a philosopher it's all forgiven. If you don't like this playful elongated writing style, and prefer concise and direct communication, it may ruin a perfectly good book.

There are several things I found fascinating abou
Nestor Leal
This book title was a little misguiding. I like thought experiments which are called intuition pumps in here. Turns out only a few pages are dedicated to these thinking tools then they are applied to the concepts of consciousness, free will, determinism, evolution and the mind. I like to think and philosophize about these things too but the book should have been named otherwise. 

Some chapters are boring to people (like me) who already know binary code, assembler language and in general how compu
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Daniel Clement Dennett III is a prominent philosopher whose research centers on philosophy of mind, science, and biology, particularly as they relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Dennett is a noted atheist, avid sailor, and advocate of the Brights move ...more

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