The Fool's Dilemma

The Fool from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck.

The Fool from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck.


Bertrand Russell said, "the trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure, while the intelligent are full of doubt". Recent research in psychology suggests that our confidence often exceeds our competence. Our brains, researchers claim, take shortcuts and jump to conclusions that flatter us. Can we accurately assess what we know, or are we all subject to the fool's dilemma? Author Laura Penny talks to psychologists and writers about new perspectives on the age-old philosophical problem of human ignorance and self-delusion.

Laura Penny is an Assistant Professor of Contemporary and Early Modern Studies at University of King's College, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

She is also the author of: Your Call is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit and
More Money Than Brains: Why School Sucks, College is Crap and Idiots Think They're Right.

Participants in the program:

Scott Bakker
is the author of the novels The Darkness That Comes Before; The Warrior-Prophet; The Thousandfold Thought; Neuropath; The Judging Eye; Disciple of the Dog; and The White-Luck Warrior. He lives in London, Ontario, and maintains a blog called Three Pound Brain.

David Dunning is Professor of Psychology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is the author of numerous articles available on his Cornell web page.

Dan Gardner is a political commentator and columnist for The Ottawa Citizen and the author of Risk and Future Babble. You can find him on Twitter

Maggie Toplak is Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Training for the Clinical-Developmental Program in Psychology at York University in Toronto, Ontario. A list of her articles is available at at here.

Reading List

Self-Insight:Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself by David Dunning.

A Mind of It's Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives by Cordelia Fine.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought by Keith Stanovich.

Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? by Philip E. Tetlock.

Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments by  David Dunning & Justin Kruger.

Wishful Seeing: More Desired Objects Are Seen as Closer by Emily Balcetis & David Dunning.

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