The Best Books On Understanding And Shaping Reality

The Books I Picked & Why

World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence

By Stephen C. Pepper

World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence

Why this book?

Stephen Pepper’s central insight is that philosophical systems cluster around a few core models, or "world hypotheses," drawn from common sense. He ignores details and personalities, and uses very little quotes and citations. Instead, he presents the central tenets of each world view using his own terms. His style permits an understanding of the grand scheme of philosophy, abstracted from the details of particular positions. The book is like a series of colored spotlights cast on a complicated scene. Irrelevant details of various philosophical positions disappear like so many shades of blue under a blue spotlight. Fundamental differences leap out, now from one angle, now from another.


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Walden Two

By B. F. Skinner

Walden Two

Why this book?

An intellectual hero to many thousands of people (including myself), B. F. Skinner took weeks out of his schedule as a young academic to write a novel. But it wasn’t just any novel – it was a story that showed why he believed that highly precise work with nonhuman animals about how environmental contingencies altered action, might be used as a means of producing human progress and well-being.

At the time this book was written, basic behavioral principles were still not yet used frequently to improve people’s lives. There was no such area as evidence-based psychotherapy, nor a robust field of organizational behavior change. This book was an aspirational answer from a man who would one day, about 20 years from the publication of this book, be the best-known scientist on the planet. Skinner said that if behavioral science keeps its eyes on the prize, one day soon it might be used by the public to foster human prosperity.


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Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life

By Eva Jablonka, Marion J. Lamb, Anna Zeligowski

Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life

Why this book?

In a highly influential volume, Jablonka and Lamb divided the process of evolution into four dimensions: genetic, epigenetic, behavioral, and symbolic. These dimensions are useful analytic tools that help us understand more of how to predict and influence behavior. By thinking of evolution in multidimensional terms, we can better appreciate its systemic and interactive nature. Especially the epigenetic dimension is rapidly coming to be widely known. Epigenetics refers to biological processes other than the sequence of DNA nucleotides, that regulate gene activity, expression, transcription, and function. Almost every day an important new study appears showing that experience alters genetic expression, often in long lasting ways, through epigenetic processes. Jablonka and Lamb disassemble this process, and show what really matters in heredity.


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Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think about Our Lives

By David Sloan Wilson

Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think about Our Lives

Why this book?

We can’t understand ourselves, unless we understand our evolutionary history. In his book Evolution for Everyone, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson outlines the principles behind our biology, history, culture, and morality. In order to understand how these processes came to be, we must view evolution through a multi-level and multi-dimensional lense, which is not only central to our modern understanding of evolution, but provides an extended evolutionary synthesis that allows evidence-based psychotherapists to view themselves as applied evolution scientists. David Sloan Wilson describes these processes and more in an accessible and engaging manner – all inside this volume.


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The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes

By Donald Hoffman

The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes

Why this book?

The most important source of conflict is the unwarranted idea that language maps on to “reality” – and that we can test the degree to which it does by the correspondence between our ideas and the organization of the “real world.” In that frame, differences in perception devolve to who is right and who is wrong, and intellectual or actual fighting is not far away. But this idea about “truth” is unjustified and wrong. What Donald Hoffman has done in this book is to show that our common sense understanding that our sensory and perceptual systems evolved to correspond to the world is a delusion. And when you appreciate that evolutionary epistemology does not support delusion, then you are much more able to cut yourself loose from unnecessary ontological assumptions and can instead focus on how to use your life to interact with this one world in ways that are successful for yourself and those you love.


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