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The Undercover Philosopher

A Guide to Detecting Shams, Lies and Delusions

A captivating guide to the mistakes, lies, and delusions that rule the world and how to avoid them.

What caused the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986? Why were thousands of parents wrongly accused of child sex abuse in the 1990s? Why do law courts throughout the world rely on a process that is next to useless? And why do people entrust millions of dollars each year to hedge-funds that economists agree use flawed financial models?

The answer is failure. Not just any failure; but failure of knowledge. In this gripping and controversial book, Michael Phillips outlines all the reasons we don’t know what we think we do, and the devastating consequences this can have. From false memories to fraudulent experts, Phillips treads in the footsteps of Descartes to reveal why we must be more careful in what we believe and how we think. Spanning psychology, philosophy, science, and sociology, this unique exploration of why we get things wrong, and how to guard against it, is an essential read for anyone seeking to make sense of the chaotic world in which we live.

Michael Philips taught philosophy at American and Canadian universities for more than thirty years. Professor emeritus, performance artist, and author of numerous books and scholarly articles, he has written for publications ranging from Mind and Philosophy Now to the New York Times.

"A great book! Writing with clarity and good humour, Michael Phillips reminds me of a great philosophical collector, an Aristotle of errors, as he enthusiastically categorizes specimens of every kind of mistake, con and self-deception and describes how we can guard against them." Rick Lewis, Editor of Philosophy Now"A magnificent book - a user's guide to one's own brain. He details the insidious tricks our brains play on us and how to guard against them. As a scientist, I found humbling, but right on target, his assessment of the sociological limitations on our search for Truth. His writing is compact, clear, and delightfully free of academic jargon." Steven N. Austad, author of Why We Age: What Science Is Discovering about the Body's Journey Through Life

"A great book! Writing with clarity and good humour, Michael Phillips reminds me of a great philosophical collector, an Aristotle of errors, as he enthusiastically categorizes specimens of every kind of mistake, con and self-deception and describes how we can guard against them."

– Rick Lewis - Editor of Philosophy Now

"After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, we went through a sleep of reason: invalid arguments were accepted uncritically; weak and worthless evidence was often taken as compelling. Philips is here to wake up our critical faculties. An excellent little book."

– Edward Erwin - Professor of Philosophy at Miami University and editor of The Freud Encyclopedia</