Rationality

Rationality

What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters

Summary

A TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2021

'Punchy, funny and invigorating ... Pinker is the high priest of rationalism' Sunday Times


'If you've ever considered taking drugs to make yourself smarter, read Rationality instead. It's cheaper, more entertaining, and more effective' Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind


In the twenty-first century, humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding - and at the same time appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that discovered vaccines for Covid-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, quack cures and conspiracy theorizing?

In Rationality, Pinker rejects the cynical cliché that humans are simply an irrational species - cavemen out of time fatally cursed with biases, fallacies and illusions. After all, we discovered the laws of nature, lengthened and enriched our lives and set the benchmarks for rationality itself. Instead, he explains, we think in ways that suit the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning we have built up over millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, causal inference, and decision-making under uncertainty. These tools are not a standard part of our educational curricula, and have never been presented clearly and entertainingly in a single book - until now.

Rationality matters. It leads to better choices in our lives and in the public sphere, and is the ultimate driver of social justice and moral progress. Brimming with insight and humour, Rationality will enlighten, inspire and empower.

'A terrific book, much-needed for our time' Peter Singer

Reviews

  • Steven Pinker is the high priest of rationalism ... [This book] is an impassioned and zippy introduction to the tools of rational thought ... Pinker wants probability theory and psychological biases to be taught in schools and universities. Punchy, funny and invigorating, this could be the textbook.
    James McConnachie, Sunday Times

About the author

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker is an experimental cognitive scientist. Currently Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, he has also taught at Stanford and MIT. He has won many prizes for his research, teaching, and his eleven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and Enlightenment Now. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Humanist of the Year, a recipient of nine honorary doctorates, one of Foreign Policy's 'World's Top 100 Public Intellectuals' and Time's '100 Most Influential People in the World Today'.
Learn More

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more