Reason and Less Pursuing Food, Sex, and Politics

Format: Paperback
Pub. Date: 2022-02-08
Publisher(s): The MIT Press
List Price: $48.00

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A new, biologically driven model of human behavior in which reason is tethered to the evolutionarily older autonomic, instinctive, and associative systems.

In Reason and Less, Vinod Goel explains the workings of the tethered mind. Reason does not float on top of our biology but is tethered to evolutionarily older autonomic, instinctive, and associative systems. After describing the conceptual and neuroanatomical basis of each system, Goel shows how they interact to generate a blended response. Goel’s commonsense account drives human behavior back into the biology, where it belongs, and provides a richer set of tools for understanding how we pursue food, sex, and politics.
Goel takes the reader on a journey through psychology (cognitive, behavioral, developmental, and evolutionary), neuroscience, philosophy, ethology, economics, and political science to explain the workings of the tethered mind. One key insight that holds everything together is that feelings—generated in old, widely conserved brain stem structures—are evolution’s solution to initiating and selecting all behaviors, and provide the common currency for the different systems to interact. Reason is as much about feelings as are lust and the taste of chocolate cake. All systems contribute to behavior and the overall control structure is one that maximizes pleasure and minimizes displeasure. 
Tethered rationality has some sobering and challenging implications for such real-world human behaviors as climate change denial, Trumpism, racism, or sexism. They cannot be changed simply by targeting beliefs but will require more drastic measures, the nature of which depends on the specific behavior in question. Having an accurate model of human behavior is the crucial first step.

Author Biography

Vinod Goel is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at York University in Toronto and the author of Sketches of Thought (MIT Press).

Table of Contents

Preface xi
Acknowledgements xiii
I The Rational Animal
1 Food, Sex, Politics, and the Rational Animal 3
2 The Enigma of Rationality: Fallen Angel or Risen Ape? 27
II Kinds of Minds 
3 Reflexes, Homeostasis, and the Autonomic Mind 41
4 The Instinctive Mind 49
5 The Associative Mind: More than Instincts, Less than Reason 71
6 The Reasoning Mind: Propositional Attitudes and Coherence 95
III Reasoning with the Cognitive Mind
7 Logical Inference: Heuristic and Analytical Systems 125
8 Conceptual Inference in the Real World: From Science to Politics 143
IV The Tethered Mind 
9 The Instinctive Mind Resurrected: Modularity, Reciprocity, and Blended Response 161
10 Kinds of Brains: Of Mice, Monkeys, and Men 191
11 Feelings: Chocolate, Lust, and Coherence 221
12 Control Structures: Who Is in Charge of the Tethered Mind? 253
V What Color Is Your Bubble? Why Changing Minds Is Hard
13 When Failures of Belief Revision Are Less than Motivated Reasoning or Sloppy Reasoning 281
14 Global Belief Revision Is Constrained by Neural Maturation 309
VI What Follows from the Tethered Mind? 
15 Concerns, Consequences, and Conclusions 331
Notes 341
Bibliography 353
Index 403

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