My rational thinking books of the year (Part 2)

3 Jan

I’ve been thinking for some time about trying to codify my thoughts on teaching rational thinking into a coherent curriculum, and in researching the idea I came across a new book by one of my academic heroes, Jim Flynn.


‘How to improve your mind’ is let down by a cover that makes it look like a dreadful self-help manual, when it actually contains Flynn’s views on the concepts for intelligence growth that first appeared in his 2007 work ‘What is Intelligence ?’. The twenty key concepts that Flynn identifies provide a powerful basis for teaching rational thinking.

For those who might have only read Flynn’s works on Intelligence ‘What is Intelligence’ and ‘Are we getting smarter ?’ might be surprised by the tone of the book. Those two books draw very heavily on the available data with pages of tables and references, whereas ‘How to Improve Your Mind’ reads much more like a conversation with Jim Flynn in that it written in a precise but occasionally acerbic style.

I’d recommend the book for anyone considering teaching rational thinking although I’m not sure about using as a textbook for a rational thinking course. Flynn himself suggests that his key concepts ought to be taught to final year undergraduates, and I can see that the book might appeal to students at that level. However, for the 1st year undergraduates that I teach the book might be pitched slightly to high.

One final word of warning, Jim Flynn has a particular liberal world-view that comes across vigorously in this book. If you object to liberal politics you might want to avoid his work. (That said, if you’ve read this far you probably won’t have any problem with his views !!)

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