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László Mérö: Uj Észjárások (Habits of Mind - The Power and Limits of Rational Thought)

390 pages (Hungary, 2001)

"It is rational that human thinking is not rational," writes László Mérö in his recent book, Moral Calculations, where the diversity of human thinking and the nature of rationality were treated from the perspective of John von Neumann's game theory. The present book examines this topic primarily from the aspect of cognitive psychology and cognitive science. Familiarity with Moral Calculations is not necessary for understanding this book, and there is little overlap between the two.

Habits of Mind is divided into four parts.
The first introduces the diversity of rational human thinking in an easy, humorous style, and it sets the stage for the more thorough investigation to come. The reader will meet the methods of logical, scientific thinking, and also those profoundly intuitive thought processes that are manifested mostly in so-called altered states of consciousness (meditation, dreams, hypnosis) but that are also active in the waking state. László Mérö shows that these methods are also effective and valuable means of cognition.

The second part introduces the reader to the most recent findings of cognitive psychology and cognitive science, which have cast new light on the nature of human thinking. The presentation in this part is somewhat more formal than that of the others, although it is not in the least technical, nor is the reader assumed to have any specialized background.

The third part discusses the different stages of development of expertise in a field, whether it be playing chess or making puff pastry -from beginner to grandmaster. In this part the style is again informal and provocative. Here are examined the characteristics of different stages of learning and the nature of intuitive thinking and talent.

The picture that has been sketched in the first three parts becomes a finished portrait in part four. The author concludes that while purely rational thought is simpler than intuitive thinking by about an order of magnitude, it has the advantage that its conclusions (for example, scientific knowledge) can be easily communicated, learned, taught and its claims tested. Intuitive thinking enables us to deal with a considerably greater degree of complexity, yet it operates on a foundation based in knowledge acquired by rational means. A full chapter deals with the nature of mystical thinking. Learning more about the power and limits of rational thought leads to a deeper understanding of our own thinking and also helps us to become more aware of habits of mind that are different from ours and to utilize their results effectively in solving our own problems.

The style of Habits of Mind is similar to that of Moral Calculations: A broad public will be able to understand and enjoy it. Material of a scientific nature is made interesting and easily understandable to the nonspecialist reader with the help of examples taken from everyday life, with plenty of humor stirred into the mix at no extra charge. Like Moral Calculations, Habits of Mind is enlivened by Miklós Miltényi's brilliant and witty drawings.

Kritiken / Reviews:

reviews still to come

More works of this writer:

Az elvek csapodár természete (I Have My Principles!)
Mindenki másképp egyforma (Moral Calculations)
A pénz evolúciója (The Evolution of Money)
Az Érzelmek Logikája (The Logic of the Emotions)

<-- László Mérő