What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

Daniel Dennett Will Teach You How To Use Your Brain

August 4, 2013, 12:00 AM

Daniel Dennett is a philosopher and cognitive scientist who works out of Tufts University. He is famous for, among other things, his outspoken atheism, his belief that the mind is entirely physically explained, and his belief that free will is compatible with a world determined by physical laws.

The most important idea he promotes is that the tools of philosophy are the tools of everyday life.

His latest book, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, chronicles tools, tricks, arguments, and other so-called "brain hacks" which philosophers use, but which are just as useful and applicable for anyone. Each of these things, alone, is not a big idea, but together they represent Dennett's biggest idea: Bringing high level thought down from the ivory tower.

Dennett, himself a hugely eminent philosopher, has long been a critic of the typical behaviors and interests of academic philosophers in general. In particular, he believes that the work of philosophers of mind and of cognitive scientists are not fundamentally distinct. In his estimation, the biggest questions about perception and consciousness remain open only because philosophers stop at the line of what they think is "in the realm of science" and scientist stop at what they think is "in the realm of philosophy". 

That brings us back to the tools of philosophy, and why Dennett's idea that they are also tools for everyday life is such a big one. Basically, the tools that philosophers use exploit or employ the cognitive functions, idiosyncrasies failings, or skills of the human brain.

As a student of both cognitive science and of philosophy, Dennett simply asks: Why don't these tools apply wherever and whenever our experience is guided by the characteristics of the human brain?

It so happens that everywhere and always is where and when our experiences are guided by the characteristics of the human brain, so Dennett sees fit to apply them as broadly as possible.

For an example of these tools for thinking, check out the video below. Much more will be available in an upcoming Big Think Mentor workshop with Dennett.


Daniel Dennett Will Teach Y...

Newsletter: Share: