Latest Issue

The faculty “doesn’t work like we want it to.” Review: The Enigma of Reason by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber

Reason is more likely to confirm things that we want to be true, or which we already believe. So why does it exist? A new book provides the answer

By Alex Dean   July 2017

The Enigma of Reason by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber (Allen Lane, £25)

Reason is the faculty through which we make logical sense of the world, and is a central part of what makes us human. This has been the settled position of many great thinkers over the centuries: the 17th-century philosopher René Descartes, to name just one. It is troubling, therefore, to discover that “reason” doesn’t work in the way we might want it to.

As the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber argue in their new book, The Enigma…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect