100 books like Understanding Ignorance

By Daniel R. DeNicola,

Here are 100 books that Understanding Ignorance fans have personally recommended if you like Understanding Ignorance. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Climate Change

Steve Vigdor Author Of Signatures of the Artist: The Vital Imperfections That Make Our Universe Habitable

From my list on science that should inform public policy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been passionate about science as a way of learning how nature works and approaching truth since I was a pre-teen. After five decades of basic research, teaching, and management in physics, I can distinguish good science from pseudoscience even beyond my own areas of expertise. I am greatly disturbed by attempts to undermine science in public policy-making when its findings conflict with ideology, religious beliefs, or business bottom lines. My passion project, via my blog debunkingdenial.com, is to explain to teachers and the public the underlying science and the flaws in science denial across a wide range of topics at the interface with public policy. 

Steve's book list on science that should inform public policy

Steve Vigdor Why did Steve love this book?

I love this book because its exposé makes me indignant about a handful of rogue scientists who created an industry of science denial in the service of polluting industries and political ideology. They amplified their voices by setting up dozens of “astroturf think tanks” around the U.S. to reinforce their flawed arguments opposing regulation of companies contributing to the dangers of tobacco smoke, acid rain, ozone layer depletion, and climate change.

I see their playbook to sow doubts about well-established science at work today in all sorts of politically motivated science denial and the spread of viral misinformation. 

By Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Merchants of Doubt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The U.S. scientific community has long led the world in research on such areas as public health, environmental science, and issues affecting quality of life. Our scientists have produced landmark studies on the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, acid rain, and global warming. But at the same time, a small yet potent subset of this community leads the world in vehement denial of these dangers. Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific…


Book cover of Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

Darius Foroux Author Of The Stoic Path to Wealth: Ancient Wisdom for Enduring Prosperity

From my list on investing for beginner and intermediate investors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Darius Foroux (pronounced Dare-eus For-oe), and thanks for exploring my recommendations. As a former mutual funds advisor, I understand the complexity of finance, a lesson driven home when I lost two-thirds of my investment in 2007. Not wanting to repeat my costly mistakes, I earned degrees in business and finance, launched a business, and continuously educated myself on investing. The biggest thing I learned? Investing and wealth-building aren’t logical but emotional. I'm passionate about helping others achieve financial independence and live on their terms. My book empowers you to manage your emotions, build wealth, and enjoy life, regardless of the stock market's ups and downs.

Darius' book list on investing for beginner and intermediate investors

Darius Foroux Why did Darius love this book?

This book taught me a great deal about how managing risk differed between modern and past times. This helped me to spot whether a “prediction” is likely to happen. (In investing, plenty of “experts” often like to predict a crash, a bull market, or a bubble).

Humanity used to rely on oracles and soothsayers to have a clearer vision of what the future would bring. Questions like: What jobs would be in demand in X years? What kind of risks should we prepare for in our lives and careers? Which companies would grow or go bust? With the right mindset and risk management tools, I’ve learned to answer these questions better.

By Peter L. Bernstein,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Against the Gods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Business Week, New York Times Business, and USA Today Bestseller "Ambitious and readable ...an engaging introduction to the oddsmakers, whom Bernstein regards as true humanists helping to release mankind from the choke holds of superstition and fatalism." -The New York Times "An extraordinarily entertaining and informative book." -The Wall Street Journal "A lively panoramic book ...Against the Gods sets up an ambitious premise and then delivers on it." -Business Week "Deserves to be, and surely will be, widely read." -The Economist "[A] challenging book, one that may change forever the way people think about the world." -Worth "No one…


Book cover of Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies

Michael Smithson Author Of Uncertainty and Risk: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

From my list on ignorance, uncertainty, and risk.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in ignorance and uncertainty was sparked when I was an undergraduate mathematics student. I was taking my first courses in probability and then reading about Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, realizing that even mathematics contains untamed unknowns. Later, as a PhD student in sociology I read theories about how knowledge is socially constructed, the foundation of the “sociology of knowledge”. I wondered why there wasn’t also a “sociology of ignorance”. That ignited my interest, and the social construction of ignorance became my life-long research topic. I have since seen it grow from my solo efforts in the 1980s to a flourishing multidisciplinary topic of research and public debate.  

Michael's book list on ignorance, uncertainty, and risk

Michael Smithson Why did Michael love this book?

Ignorance studies arrived full-blown with the first edition of this Handbook in 2015, and the second edition is even better, both in breadth and in depth. 

As the editors point out, ignorance has become increasingly politically relevant recently, and the book’s chapters reflect this. It’s arranged in five parts, starting with new philosophical insights and perspectives on the study of ignorance, and moving to the manifestations and uses of ignorance in science and technology, politics and law, inter-group relations, and political economy. 

An impressive variety of disciplines and domains is represented, including the arts, social sciences, law, philosophy, and physical and biological sciences. If you desire a deep dive into ignorance then this book is for you, and it’s available as an ebook at a very reasonable price. 

By Matthias Gross (editor), Linsey McGoey (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Once treated as the absence of knowledge, ignorance has now become a highly influential and rapidly growing topic in its own right. This new edition of the seminal text in the field is fully revised and includes new and expanded chapters on religion; domestic law and jurisprudence; sexuality and gender studies; memory studies; international relations; psychology; decision-theory; and colonial history.

The study of ignorance has attracted growing attention across the natural and social sciences where a wide range of scholars explore the social life and political issues involved in the distribution and strategic use of not knowing. This handbook reflects…


Book cover of Knowledge Resistance: How We Avoid Insight from Others

Michael Smithson Author Of Uncertainty and Risk: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

From my list on ignorance, uncertainty, and risk.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in ignorance and uncertainty was sparked when I was an undergraduate mathematics student. I was taking my first courses in probability and then reading about Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, realizing that even mathematics contains untamed unknowns. Later, as a PhD student in sociology I read theories about how knowledge is socially constructed, the foundation of the “sociology of knowledge”. I wondered why there wasn’t also a “sociology of ignorance”. That ignited my interest, and the social construction of ignorance became my life-long research topic. I have since seen it grow from my solo efforts in the 1980s to a flourishing multidisciplinary topic of research and public debate.  

Michael's book list on ignorance, uncertainty, and risk

Michael Smithson Why did Michael love this book?

Don’t be misled by the title: this book will not reassure you that other people resist what you and I know are obvious facts because they’re stupid or irrational. 

We all resist and reject knowledge of various kinds, and this book is a thoughtful investigation into the sociocultural, political, psychological, and biological influences behind that. Klintman’s multi-disciplinary inclusiveness is a refreshing antidote to conventional single-discipline writing on this topic. 

Another aspect of this book dear to my heart is his willingness to examine evidence pointing to the benefits as well as the drawbacks of knowledge resistance, including writings on “rational ignorance”. That said, he also squarely addresses the question of what to do when knowledge resistance causes harm, and why the answer is not simply “more education”. 

By Mikael Klintman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Knowledge Resistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do people and groups ignore, deny and resist knowledge about society's many problems? In a world of 'alternative facts', 'fake news' that some believe could be remedied by 'factfulness', the question has never been more pressing. After years of ideologically polarised debates on the topic, this book seeks to further advance our understanding of the phenomenon of knowledge resistance by integrating insights from the social, economic and evolutionary sciences. It identifies simplistic views in public and scholarly debates about what facts, knowledge and human motivations are and what 'rational' use of information actually means. The examples used include controversies…


Book cover of Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge

Will Kitchen Author Of Film, Negation and Freedom: Capitalism and Romantic Critique

From my list on philosophy books about knowledge, culture, and freedom.

Why am I passionate about this?

My background is in academic film analysis, although this has opened doors to many subjects: literature, music, philosophy, political economy… My students are always encouraged to think beyond their "home" discipline when they come to university. I believe that if you study a subject deep enough, it will lead to all the others. So far, my research has led me from classical music through Hollywood biopics and Romanic philosophy to some of the most fundamental questions about the construction and social organisation of creative labour in the modern world. I find that the most enjoyable books explain the world to us whilst reflecting upon what that act of explanation means. 

Will's book list on philosophy books about knowledge, culture, and freedom

Will Kitchen Why did Will love this book?

The book that made the philosophy of science relevant to everything.

Popper’s rejection of inductive reasoning had fascinating implications for politics, psychology, and (through E. H. Gombrich) art. The simple idea that perception is always predetermined by experience was not new, of course (Popper always credited his predecessors, including Xenophanes), but I find his ability to develop this theme against the contemporary vogue for empirical positivism deeply rewarding.

Popper helped to establish our modern intellectual climate with his most important lesson, adapted from Darwin: Embrace criticism. 

By Karl Popper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Conjectures and Refutations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Conjectures and Refutations is one of Karl Popper's most wide-ranging and popular works, notable not only for its acute insight into the way scientific knowledge grows, but also for applying those insights to politics and to history. It provides one of the clearest and most accessible statements of the fundamental idea that guided his work: not only our knowledge, but our aims and our standards, grow through an unending process of trial and error.


Book cover of A Treatise of Human Nature

Steven Pinker Author Of Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters

From my list on rationality and why it matters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Harvard professor of psychology and a cognitive scientist who’s interested in all aspects of language, mind, and human nature. I grew up in Montreal, but have lived most of my adult life in the Boston area, bouncing back and forth between Harvard and MIT except for stints in California as a professor at Stanford and sabbatical visitor in Santa Barbara and now, Berkeley. I alternate between books on language (how it works, what it reveals about human nature, what makes for clear and stylish writing) and books on the human mind and human condition (how the mind works, why violence has declined, how progress can take place).

Steven's book list on rationality and why it matters

Steven Pinker Why did Steven love this book?

When I wrote Rationality, I mentioned Hume 32 times. He didn’t think of everything, but he explained an astonishing range of topics related to rationality, including causation versus correlation, is versus ought, and individual versus collective self-interest.

His follow-up, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, explained why we shouldn’t believe in miracles. He explored all of these topics with clarity and wit, putting modern academic writing to shame.

By David Hume,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Treatise of Human Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"One of the greatest of all philosophical works, covering knowledge, imagination, emotion, morality, and justice." — Baroness Warnock, The List
Published in the mid-18th century and received with indifference (it "fell dead-born from the press," noted the author), David Hume's comprehensive three-volume A Treatise of Human Nature has withstood the test of time and has had enormous impact on subsequent philosophical thought. Hume — whom Kant famously credited with having "interrupted my dogmatic slumber and gave my investigations in the field of speculative philosophy a quite new direction" — intended this work as an observationally grounded study of human nature.…


Book cover of Critique of Pure Reason

Adrian Johnston Author Of Zizek's Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity

From my list on understanding the work of Slavoj Žižek.

Why am I passionate about this?

Thanks to developing interests in both psychoanalysis and German idealism during my time as a student, I came across Slavoj Žižek’s writings in the mid-1990s. Žižek immediately became a significant source of inspiration for my own efforts at interfacing philosophies with psychoanalysis. By the time I began writing my dissertation – which became my first book, Time Driven: Metapsychology and the Splitting of the Drive – I had the great fortune to meet Žižek. He soon agreed to serve as co-director of my dissertation and we have remained close ever since. I decided to write a book demonstrating that Žižek is not dismissible as a gadfly preoccupied with using popular culture and current events merely for cheap provocations.

Adrian's book list on understanding the work of Slavoj Žižek

Adrian Johnston Why did Adrian love this book?

In Žižek’s view, philosophy as we know it today does not well and truly begin until the late-eighteenth century, with Kant’s critical-transcendental “Copernican revolution.” The Critique of Pure Reason inaugurates this revolution. It insists on the ineliminable centrality of the structures and dynamics of minded subjectivity for the constitution of what we experience as objective reality. Moreover, on Žižek’s psychoanalytic rereading of Kant’s epoch-making 1781/1787 masterpiece, Kant anticipates, among many other things, Lacan’s idea of an internally divided subject as the ultimate unconscious condition of possibility for how we humans register and understand ourselves and our world. Moreover, the Kant of the first Critique is crucial for Žižek as the inspiration for the entire tradition of post-Kantian German idealism so central to Žižek’s own philosophical program.

By Immanuel Kant, Paul Guyer (translator), Allen W. Wood (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Critique of Pure Reason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This entirely new translation of Critique of Pure Reason is the most accurate and informative English translation ever produced of this epochal philosophical text. Though its simple and direct style will make it suitable for all new readers of Kant, the translation displays an unprecedented philosophical and textual sophistication that will enlighten Kant scholars as well. This translation recreates as far as possible a text with the same interpretative nuances and richness as the original. The extensive editorial apparatus includes informative annotation, detailed glossaries, an index, and a large-scale general introduction in which two of the world's preeminent Kant scholars…


Book cover of The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1

Charles P. Webel Author Of The World as Idea: A Conceptual History

From my list on how the world may or may not be what you think it is.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a lifelong student with what I sometimes call “a multidisciplinary disorder,” I have been intrigued both about “the outer world,” or the “external environment of life on planet Earth, and “the mind that knows the world.” Hence, as a teenager in New York City, I read voraciously books in philosophy, history, and the social and natural sciences to learn what “great minds” have thought about “the world.” Much later, as an “academic” researcher and writer, I scoured the shelves of university libraries to examine what I considered the strengths and weaknesses of the academic disciplines that addressed our “knowledge of the world,” and their applications for “changing the world for the better.” My book The World as Idea is the first volume of a projected trilogy modestly entitled The Fate of This World and The Future of Humanity. I’m now working on the second volume, The Reality of This World.

Charles' book list on how the world may or may not be what you think it is

Charles P. Webel Why did Charles love this book?

Schopenhauer is one of the 19th century’s most important, and frequently overlooked, thinkers.

His multivolume work, translated as The World as Will and Representation, or The World as Will and Idea, has had the single greatest impact on my own thinking about “the world,” and as clearly written as a German philosopher can make it, this multi-volume, sometimes appearing as one-volume abridged edition, should be on every educated reader’s bucket list.

By Arthur Schopenhauer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Arthur Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung is one of the most important philosophical works of the nineteenth century, the basic statement of one important stream of post-Kantian thought. It is without question Schopenhauer's greatest work. Conceived and published before the philosopher was 30 and expanded 25 years later, it is the summation of a lifetime of thought.
For 70 years, the only unabridged English translation of this work was the Haldane-Kemp collaboration. In 1958, a new translation by E. F. J. Payne appeared that decisively supplanted the older one. Payne's translation is superior because it corrects nearly 1,000…


Book cover of Thinking About Statistics: The Philosophical Foundations

Michael Anthony Lewis Author Of Social Workers Count: Numbers and Social Issues

From my list on quant geeks.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've had a long-time interest in two things: mathematics and social issues. This is why I got degrees in social work (Masters) and sociology (PhD) and eventually focused on the quantitative aspects of these two areas. Social Workers Count gave me the chance to marry these two interests by showing the role mathematics can play in illuminating a number of pressing social issues.

Michael's book list on quant geeks

Michael Anthony Lewis Why did Michael love this book?

Jun Otsuka, a philosopher who also has training in statistics, zooms in on their philosophical foundations.

His book discusses the metaphysical, epistemological, and semantic assumptions on which Classical statistics, Bayesian statistics, predictive/classification AI models, and causal inference are based.

For those interested in these disciplines but who're also sensitive to the philosophical issues they raise, Otsuka's book is simply amazing. Run out and get a copy as soon as possible.   

By Jun Otsuka,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thinking About Statistics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Simply stated, this book bridges the gap between statistics and philosophy. It does this by delineating the conceptual cores of various statistical methodologies (Bayesian/frequentist statistics, model selection, machine learning, causal inference, etc.) and drawing out their philosophical implications. Portraying statistical inference as an epistemic endeavor to justify hypotheses about a probabilistic model of a given empirical problem, the book explains the role of ontological, semantic, and epistemological assumptions that make such inductive inference possible. From this perspective, various statistical methodologies are characterized by their epistemological nature: Bayesian statistics by internalist epistemology, classical statistics by externalist epistemology, model selection by pragmatist…


Book cover of The Problems of Philosophy

Scott Soames Author Of The World Philosophy Made: From Plato to the Digital Age

From my list on western philosophy: what it is and how to do it.

Why am I passionate about this?

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, I was educated at Stanford and MIT. I taught for four years at Yale and 24 years at Princeton before moving to USC, where I am Chair of the Philosophy Department. I specialize in the Philosophy of Language, History of Philosophy, and the Philosophy of Law. I have published many articles, authored fifteen books, co-authored two, and co-edited two. I am fascinated by philosophy's enduring role in our individual and collective lives, impressed by its ability to periodically reinvent itself, and challenged to bring what it has to offer to more students and to the broader culture.

Scott's book list on western philosophy: what it is and how to do it

Scott Soames Why did Scott love this book?

In this book, one of the great philosophers of the first half of the 20th century sketches his take on two central philosophical tasks -- explaining what kinds of things exist in reality, and how they are related, and delineating what we can know and how we know it.  In so doing, Russell illustrates the new method of logical and linguistic analysis he used in The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1918), to lay the foundations of an epistemological and metaphysical system rivaling the great systems of the past. A key transitional figure linking the history of the subject to contemporary concerns, he raised logic and language to central subjects of philosophical study in their own right, without losing sight of their relevance for more traditional philosophical quests.

By Bertrand Russell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Problems of Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Immensely intelligible, thought-provoking guide by Nobel Prize winner considers such topics as the distinction between appearance and reality, the existence and nature of matter, idealism, inductive logic, intuitive knowledge, many other subjects. For students and general readers, there is no finer introduction to philosophy than this informative, affordable and highly readable edition.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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