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

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Macmillan, Mar 17, 2009 - Medical - 272 pages
6 Reviews

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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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - chaosmogony - LibraryThing

Excellent summary of "the feeling of knowing", the neurological factors that make us feel as if we're correct -- even if the facts say otherwise. This should be mandatory reading before posting on the internet. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rypotpie - LibraryThing

This book can be summed up by the popular bumper-sticker "don't believe everything you think". It provides plenty of memorable evidence that human beings can strongly feel they are correct while being ... Read full review

Selected pages

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
Copyright

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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. At age thirty-three, 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, CA.

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