On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not

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Macmillan, Mar 17, 2009 - Medical - 272 pages
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You recognize when you know something for certain, right? You "know" the sky is blue, or that the traffic light had turned green, or where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001--you know these things, well, because you just do.

In On Being Certain, neurologist Robert Burton shows that feeling certain—feeling that we know something--- is a mental sensation, rather than evidence of fact. An increasing body of evidence suggests that feelings such as certainty stem from primitive areas of the brain and are independent of active, conscious reflection and reasoning. In other words, the feeling of knowing happens to us; we cannot make it happen.

Bringing together cutting-edge neuroscience, experimental data, and fascinating anecdotes, Robert Burton explores the inconsistent and sometimes paradoxical relationship between our thoughts and what we actually know. Provocative and groundbreaking, On Being Certain challenges what we know (or think we know) about the mind, knowledge, and reason.

 

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Contents

The Feeling of Knowing
1
How Do We Know What We Know?
7
Conviction Isnt a Choice
21
The Classification of Mental States
35
Neural Networks
41
Modularity and Emergence
55
When Does a Thought Begin?
66
Perceptual Thoughts A Further Clarification
81
The Pleasure of Your Thoughts
86
Genes and Thought
102
Sensational Thoughts
124
The Twin Pillars of Certainty Reason and Objectivity
140
Faith
177
Mind Speculations
198
Final Thoughts
216
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About the author (2009)

ROBERT BURTON, M.D. graduated from Yale University and University of California at San Francisco medical school, where he also completed his neurology residency. At age 33, he was appointed chief of the Division of Neurology at Mt. Zion-UCSF Hospital, where he subsequently became Associate Chief of the Department of Neurosciences. His non-neurology writing career includes three critically acclaimed novels. He lives in Sausalito, California.

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