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Thoughtless Thinking


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I'd like to take a shot at neutralizing the disservice your reviewer may have done to thoughtful readers with last week's remarkably obtuse hit piece on Daniel Kahneman's Thinking: Fast and Slow . (In Review, April 5)

I've been a fan of Kahneman and Tversky's unexpected insights for years, so of course I bought the book when it was announced late last year. I've been enjoying going through it very slowly (generally one or two of its short chapters at a time), certainly not because the writing isn't clear, but because I want to savor and digest each pregnant implication before moving on. To that end, I've been using post-it stickers to mark passages I expect to want to check out again -- a device I often use for particularly thought-provoking books. I'm up to page 362 with 19 of these tags sticking out, which is a new record.

The review opens with the comment that this book "got a lot of attention, partly because the author won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on decision-making." If this is meant to suggest that all this attention stems from celebrity-fawning rather than the book's significance, let's turn that around and wonder why the Nobel in economics went (that time only, I've heard) to a psychologist rather than an economist? Might that imply that the psychological insights Kahneman and Tversky discovered and explicated undermine certain shaky pillars of academic economics and are therefore quite probably worth understanding if psychology or economics interests you?

The review closes with: "Despite the fulsome praise by academic heavyweights displayed on its back cover. . ."  In fact the back cover is chock full of 14 laudatory comments ranging from a line to a paragraph. Pick up a copy and look at that cover before you let this one dyspeptic review misdirect you from a real, eye-opening treat.

(By the way, "fulsome" means "offensive; disgusting; esp., offensively excessive or insincere" -- Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 1936. I doubt that's what the reviewer meant to say. Google "fulsome praise" and read the first few entries for clarification and usage advice.)

Mark Drake, Fortuna


Upon reading William Kowinski's review of Thinking, Fast and Slow, I  was reminded of the story of the mathematician, the engineer, and the statistician. A mathematician, an engineer, and a statistician were given the problem: What is 2 plus 2?
The mathematician said, "If it is precisely 2 plus precisely 2, the answer is precisely 4."
The engineer said, "I'll have to go out and take some measurements and get back to you."
The statistician said, "What do you want it to be?"

Sandy Walsh, Eureka



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