8 books directly related to rationality 📚

All 8 rationality books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth

The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth

By Jonathan Rauch

Why this book?

If humans are the rational animal, why does the world seem to be losing its mind? Why the fake news, the conspiracy theories, the post-truth rhetoric? Rauch explains that truth is a precious commodity, which none of us is smart enough to discover on our own. We depend on institutions and norms – like science, with empirical testing, and journalism, with editing and fact-checking, and democracy, with checks and balances, and academia, with peer review and freedom of inquiry – to make us collectively smarter than any of us is individually. This infrastructure of truth is constantly being corroded –…
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The best books on rationality and why it matters

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Book cover of Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty

Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty

By Gerd Gigerenzer

Why this book?

Gigerenzer is in some ways the un-Tversky-and-Kahneman, emphasizing the ways in which humans are more rational than they seem, and the ways that difficult problems can be made intuitive. This lively collection explains the surprisingly deep and perplexing question of what “probability” even means, and presents many puzzles form everyday reckoning of risk, including: What does the weathercaster mean when she says “There’s a 30 percent chance of rain”?
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The best books on rationality and why it matters

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Book cover of A Treatise of Human Nature

A Treatise of Human Nature

By David Hume

Why 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.
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The best books on rationality and why it matters

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Book cover of Rational Choice in an Uncertain World: The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making

Rational Choice in an Uncertain World: The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making

By Reid Hastie, Robyn M. Dawes

Why this book?

This is technically a textbook, and isn’t marketed as a book you bring to the beach. But sometimes it’s more satisfying to have the big ideas on a topic patiently explained to you in an orderly fashion than to try to pick them up from stories and arguments. This paperback, coauthored by one of my graduate school teachers (Hastie), explains the famous discoveries by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman on biases in human reasoning, which Kahneman presented in his bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow (too obvious for me to include on my list). It also explains lesser-known but still fascinating…
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The best books on rationality and why it matters

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Book cover of The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

By Keith E. Stanovich

Why this book?

Stanovich is a cognitive psychologist who showed that rationality is related, but not identical, to intelligence. In this timely book he shows that smart people, and everyone else, are victims of a powerful bias to show that our own tribe is virtuous and wise and knowledgeable and the other tribe is evil and stupid and ignorant. Needless to say it explains a lot about our current moment.
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The best books on rationality and why it matters

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Book cover of The Robot's Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin

The Robot's Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin

By Keith E. Stanovich

Why this book?

Stanovich takes his title from the very last sentence in Richard Dawkin’s book The Selfish Gene, “We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.” In his book, Stanovich shows how human beings are able to rebel against those selfish replicators – our genes. It involves exercising, in Kahneman’s terminology, our ‘system two’ and exercising tenacity and self-discipline in bringing to bear logic and rationality in our decisions. This book is not an easy read, but it is a fascinating account of why human thinking is different and of what such differences might in principle enable…

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The best books to learn how to argue well

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Book cover of The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason

The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason

By Mark Johnson

Why this book?

When I was a musician encountering theory in cognitive science for the first time, this book really moved me. I was searching for conceptual lenses on cognition in instrumental practice and this book is aimed at grounding the study of cognition in the body. I can still see myself sitting at a huge ugly desk under a tiny window thoroughly absorbed in this thrilling page-turner in the philosophy of mind. The book moved me so profoundly that I cried when I approached the last page, and gently closed the back cover. It is a precious book. It changed my world. 

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The best books on how we “make ourselves” through meaningful engagement with objects and people

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Book cover of The Horned Man

The Horned Man

By James Lasdun

Why this book?

Such a peculiar book. The Horned Man is not for those who want answers or resolutions. By the time the final page is turned you'll find yourself with more questions than you had at any other point in the book. It takes the Unreliable Narrator device to the extreme, to the point where you don’t really believe anything from the get-go, a unique way to tell a story, but it works here. This book is dark, smart, uncomfortable, and it is unlike anything you'll ever read. Lasdun’s prose is also exceptional, and I’ve often found myself getting lost in his…

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The best books that leave you questioning identity (and maybe reality, too)

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