Daniel Kahneman on Thinking, Fast and Slow

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12.12.2011

In this UNCUT interview, Nobel laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman talks with Steve Paulson about his latest book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. 

The conversation meanders through ways of thinking, writing about psychology, and the role of memory in building habits.

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After reading the review of Daniel Kahneman's new book, by Freeman Dyson, in The New York Review, Dec 22, 2011, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/dec/22/how-dispel-your-ill...
I was left to wonder about why Dyson finds it 'regrettable' that Kahneman failed to mix the literary art of Freud with his own scientific research. Dyson says "Anyone who strives for a complete understanding of human nature has much to learn from both of them." He may well have said, '...from the three of them,' since Dyson also draws a brief comparison to Williams James's writing later in the review. Dyson notes the huge differences between James and Freud, and Kahneman, the deepest of which is that Freud and James were artists, Kahneman is scientific.
Dyson, not short on praise for Kahneman in the review, says, "The scope of Kahneman's psychology is necessarily limited by his methods. His method is to study the metal processes that can be observed and measured under rigorously controlled experimental conditions." He is quick to credit Kahneman with making psychology an "experimental science with experimental results." Following his scientific methods, Kahneman has "revolutionized psychology" adds Dyson. But in the end, Dyson tempers the compliments by adding, Kahneman is an explorer of our more hum-drum cognitive process, and this too seems a curious observation on Dyson's part, since he goes on at great lengths about what he does like in Kahneman book.
In saying, "Admirers of Freud and James may hope that the time may come when they stand together with Kahneman as three great explorers of the human psyche." Dyson is commenting that Freud and James are no longer in fashionable, and that Kahneman methods cannot currently handle the "violent and passionate manifestations of human nature." Dyson deems emotion and feelings to be the "territory of Freud," and presumable James. But is it? Kahneman has, in the past, touched on feelings like happiness and suffering without needing to mention Freud, or James. (The Riddle of Experience and Memory, TED). Perhaps in the near future new scientific methods will continue to allow others, like Kahneman, to remake psychology into a science. For now it is left up to others of mixing science with art, and not Kahneman. And this is as it should be.

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