Have you ever thought about thinking? about how you know what you think you know? about how you arrive at the judgments that you do? about what it means to make good decisions? Moreover, can the quality of your judgments and choices be improved? can you learn to make better decisions? Abundant recent theoretical and empirical work in fields including cognitive science, economics, neuroscience, and psychology has shed light on our mental processes of decision-making. In this course we will consult Daniel Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, and George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By, among others in trying to decide about the nature of decisions. We will also use their theories, concepts, and distinctions regarding reasoning, intuitions, and emotions, in our reading of two very different fictional representations of the complexity of decision-making: Don De Lillo’s White Noise, a caustic portrayal of the anxieties and mysteries that infuse everyday life in an apocalyptic contemporary America, and The Conference of the Birds, a theatrical adaptation of the 12th c. Sufi allegorical fable in which birds, symbolic of our all-too-human foibles, discover the nature of the divine in trying to decide who will be their king. We will see the play performed and throughout the course make some white noise of our own.
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