The Moments of Insight That Shape Our World

Book - 2015
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"Why do "aha moments" strike us suddenly? Why do they so often come to us when we are focused on something completely unrelated? And when great ideas "come to" us, where do they come from? In Aha!: The Moments of Insight that Shape Our World, philosopher William B. Irvine explores these epiphanies, from the minor insights that strike us all daily, to the major realizations that alter the course of history. Focusing on aha moments as they take place in five different domains--religion, morality, science, math, and art--Irvine provides case studies that shed light on the different ways epiphanies happen in the different domains, and on their differing social impact. Along the way, he describes some of the great aha moments in history, from ancient times to the present day. We like to think that our greatest thoughts are the product of our conscious mind. Irvine demonstrates, though, that it is our unconscious mind that is the source of our most significant insights, and that the role the conscious mind plays in eliciting these insights is to try, unsuccessfully, to solve certain problems. Only if the conscious mind is willing to do this--and thereby experience considerable frustration--is the unconscious mind likely to reward it with a breakthrough insight--that the conscious mind will then take credit for. Irvine explores not only the neuroscience of aha moments but also their personal and social ramifications. How does a person respond to having a breakthrough insight that goes against a dominant paradigm? And how does the world respond when she shares that insight? He shows that in many cases, what is most remarkable about those who have had the great insights of human history is not their but their courage and perseverance in fighting for the world to accept them"--
Publisher: New York, NY :, Oxford University Press,, [2015]
ISBN: 9780199338870
Branch Call Number: 153.4 IR
Characteristics: x, 362 pages ; 19 cm


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May 12, 2019

"Aha! The Moments of Insight That Shape Our World" is a great blend of tales of eccentric and uber-interesting real life events, and the author's hypothesis about the origin, evolution, and appearance of Aha moments! I was initially skeptical about the author's decision to categorize Aha moments into their prevalence in five fields - religion, morality, Science, Mathematics, and art, but after reading the individual sub-sections, I was completely in unison about the same! It just made total sense to split the Aha moments that way, and then analyze them separately, for they have many threads in common.

Author has done a lot of research and put ample effort in collecting various interesting stories, from art to Mathematics to morality. Except for the story of Andrew Wiles' quest about proving Fermat's Last Theorem,pretty much all others were new to me! The stories of struggle of Lynn Margul, Kerouac's tryst with benzedrine while writing On the Road, Stan Ulam's spirals, Rota's unique bibliography that included people who were never part of the book, the duel of Math prodigy Evarista Galois, Gerald Guralnik's unpublished version of Higgs-Boson, Penzias and Wilson's success in supporting the CMB claims, etc were all jus fascinating to read.

Although the author does not conclusively offer any proof or argument to support his hypotheses from a neurological basis, the hypotheses themselves are very intriguing and worth pondering over. Overall, this was an intellectually stimulating read that was also teeming with trivia.


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