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The Big questions: tackling the problems of philosophy with ideas from mathematics, economics and physics

Author: Landsburg, Steven E. Publisher: Free Press, 2009.Language: EnglishDescription: 267 p. : Graphs/Ill./Photos ; 23 cm.ISBN: 9781439148211Type of document: BookBibliography/Index: Includes bibliographical references and index
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Item type Current location Collection Call number Status Date due Barcode Item holds
Book Europe Campus
Main Collection
Print B110.33 .U7 L36 2009
(Browse shelf)
Available 32419001254181
Total holds: 0

Includes bibliographical references and index


The Big questions Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics and Physics Contents Introduction: The Beginning of the Journey How this book came to be, and what it's about. xi PART I REALITY AND UNREALITY 1 On What There Is Why is there something instead of nothing? The best answer I have: Mathematics exists because it must and everything else exists because it is made of mathematics. With an excursion into artificial intelligence. 1 3 2 Unfinished Business: Going Bananas Unfinished business from Chapter 1: the nature and purpose of economic models. 21 3 How Richard Dawkins Got It Wrong: The Case Against God Why Dawkins's argument against Intelligent Design can't be right--and a mathematical analysis of the arguments for the existence of God. 29 PART II BELIEFS 4 Daydream Believers Most beliefs are ill-considered, because most fake beliefs are costless to hold. The next several chapters will explore the consequences of this observation, before we return to the question of where our beliefs and knowledge come from. 39 41 5 Unfinished Business Unfinished business from the preceding chapter: how color vision works, sound and water waves, the sheer craziness of economic protectionism. 45 6 What Do Believers Believe? Our ill-considered beliefs about religion. Why I believe that almost nobody is deeply religious. 55 7 On What There Obviously Is Our ill-considered beliefs about free will, ESP, and life after death. 67 8 Diogenes' Nightmare How is legitimate disagreement possible? If you're arguing with someone who is as intelligent and informed as you are, shouldn't you put just as much weight on your opponent's arguments as on your own? The fact that we persist in disagreeing is strong evidence that we don't really care what's true. 75 PART III KNOWLEDGE 9 Knowing Your Math Where mathematical knowledge comes from, and why evidence and logic are not enough. 87 89 10 Unfinished Business: Hercules and the Hydra Unfinished business from the preceding chapter: the tale of Hercules and the hydra, with an excursion into the lore of very large numbers. 99 11 Incomplete Thinking Gödel's incompleteness theorem, and what it doesn't say about the limits of human knowledge. 105 12 The Rules of Logic and the Tale of the Potbellied Pig The power of logical thought, with an excursion into the most counterintuitive theorem in all of mathematics. 111 13 The Rules of Evidence What we can and can't learn from evidence, with excursions into the value of preschool and how Internet porn prevents rape. 123 14 The Limits to Knowledge What physics does and doesn't tell us about what we can and cannot know. Understanding Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. 135 15 Unfinished Business: Quantum Entanglement The oddness of the quantum world, and why it matters to game theorists. 143 PART IV RIGHT AND WRONG 16 Telling Right from Wrong Some hard questions about right and wrong, and about life and death. 151 153 17 The Economist's Golden Rule A rule of thumb for good behavior. 163 18 How to Be Socially Responsible: A User's Guide to the Economist's Golden Rule Putting the rule of thumb into practice. 171 181 191 19 On Not Being a Jerk Goofus and Gallant on immigration policy. 20 The Economist on the Playground Our ill-considered beliefs about fairness in the marketplace and in the voting booth, contrasted with our carefully considered beliefs about fairness on the playground. 21 Unfinished Business: Let the Rabbi Split the Pie How ancient Talmudic scholars anticipated modern economic theory. 205 PART V THE LIFE OF THE MIND 22 How to Think Some basic rules for clear thinking, mostly about economics, but also about arithmetic, neurobiology, sin, and eschewing blather. 215 217 23 What to Study: Some Advice to College Students Advice to college students: Stay away from the English department and approach the philosophy department with caution. With an excursion into the remarkable life of Frank Ramsey. 237 Appendix Acknowledgments Index 249 257 259

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