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Stop Being Reasonable: six stories of how we really change our minds

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The version of the titular 'reasonableness' in the crosshairs at all times remains nebulous despite the philosophical namedropping (many such names themselves recognize that reason is not a mere logical monolith, but nevermind). The push to "stop being reasonable" thankfully ends up not as a push to a do-and-say-whatever-you-want set of norms but a pull away from an exaggerated or aloof ideal of what reason-theater looks and feels like. Another useful test for whether to pass on upsetting information is to ask what would change if the person knew. Not “would they want to know”, because people want to know all kinds of things. Would keeping quiet mean you were helping sustain something that shouldn’t be sustained? And as you think through whether to pass on the insult, I think it’s important to keep that diagnosis in mind. Alzheimer’s can unravel a person’s edges and can make them say horrendously cruel things. I will soon have to tell my wife that her mother texted, and that she has Alzheimer’s. Do I also have to tell her about the part with the letters? Or, for the sake of peace, can I skip that part? I don’t feel comfortable with it, but I don’t want my wife to be hurt again. Su’s clear lectures and availability to students outside of the classroom won praise. Wrote one student, “Aaron’s ability to be precise, sensible and approachable while thoughtfully answering my questions in office hours challenged me to think more critically about each of my course assignments and the way I approach anthropological writing more broadly.” William Wen

There are too many to name but Rae Langton, who spent a lot of time in Australia, is a huge inspiration for me, and I like to think about how to precissify Robert Adams’ remark which seems to me to get to the heart of moral philosophy: “we ought, in general, to be treated better than we deserve”. It’s not that you got the decision “right”, just that once you’ve made it, you can finally cease looking at life with evaluative eyes, and live it instead. That’s what gets you to part two; finding equilibrium with the remainder. Even when we’ve put serious elbow grease into making a life we’re proud of, there will be moments of loneliness and grief and worry. They may even be frequent. It can be tempting then to abandon the changes we’ve made, thinking “why bother?” – as though the things we fill our life with have betrayed us if we still don’t feel full. Resist that temptation as much as you can. Pain is an inevitable part of living; by staying engaged with the world and other people we can come to see that feeling as a companion to joy instead of a threat. Stop Being Reasonable. It’s a series of true stories about how we change our minds in high-stakes moments and how rarely that measures up to our ideal of rationality. Each chapter features interviews I conducted with someone about a moment in their life that they changed their mind in a really drastic way: a man who left a cult, a woman who questioned her own memory of being abused, a man who changed his mind about his entire personality after appearing on reality TV, someone who learned their family wasn’t really their family, and so on. Each story highlights a sometimes-maligned strategy for reasoning that many of us turn out to use all the time, especially when it really matters: believing other people, trusting our gut, thinking emotionally, and so on. The book is a plea for a more capacious ideal of rationality, such that these things ‘count’ as rational thinking as well as the emotionless first-principles reasoning we usually associate with that term. Let’s finish up close to home. What does ethics mean to you? Everyone I know is irrational, and I want to fix them. (c) An expo on rationality, its uses and misuses.A third-year Ph.D. student in politics, William Wen was recognized for his work as a preceptor in “Introduction to Quantitative Social Science.” “He was always enthusiastic, warm and effortlessly professional with the students and with me,” said Marc Ratkovic, an assistant professor of politics. I've never read anything quite like this book; it is empathetic, sharply intelligent, and accessible.' — Ellen Cregan, Kill Your Darlings The awardees are Eleanor Gordon-Smith from the Department of Philosophy, Nicolas Hommel from the Department of Economics, Hannah McLaughlin from the Department of Music, Evelyn Navarro Salazar from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Calvin Spolar from the Department of Chemistry, Aaron Su from the Department of Anthropology, William Wen from the Department of Politics, and Jessica Ye from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute.

I'm not sure Stop Being Reasonable tells me a lot about my own situation, though I could no doubt think that through more carefully to get some insights. Either way, it's well-written, accessible, engaging and yet at the same time not at all dumbed down in how it presents its case, drawing on a seamless collection of contemporary and canonical philosophy, popular culture, journalism et al. What its argument boils down to is that conventional rationality is not sufficient (or even adequate) to explain why people change their minds, using a quite varied set of empirical case studies to support the argument. The people concerned have changed their minds in quite dramatic - but not conventionally rational - circumstances. This then has implications for how people can be persuaded to change their minds by others, and therefore it is significant to politics, public education campaigns etc. A rigid gendered framework tends to become not only a set of beliefs, but a set of perceptions. It affects how we see people, almost literally what we hear or who we will listen to. It alters not only the positions in certain debates, but what is up for debate, and who can contribute. That’s a lot harder to deal with.I'll save some space on my first comments, since others say very similarly to my own initial impressions. I wanted to like this book more than I do, and there are parts in the middle that I find interesting. The interviews are certainly the more valuable and entertaining sections. I obviously misunderstood. I thought I was invited to dinner, but it turned out to be a late afternoon tea. Instead of a 3 course dinner I was given a cup of tea and a plate of Tim Tams. How do I give up that interest without resentment of a level that would, I am quite certain, very negatively affect the relationship? I can’t see any other hobby to pursue . I’m also not prone to obsessive interests for short periods of time so this interest is not a passing fad. It seems to be a lose-lose situation. Where’s the win-win? I cannot see a happy compromise or middle ground for either of us.

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