Department of Educational Psychology


Date of this Version



Published in Human Development 61 (2018), pp 60–64.

DOI: 10.1159/000484448


Copyright © 2018 S. Karger AG, Basel. Used by permission.


In 2011, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber published an influential article [Mer­cier & Sperber, 2011] arguing that human reasoning evolved for the purpose of argu­mentation and serves that purpose well. Additional publications followed and now, in The Enigma of Reason, Mercier and Sperber [2017] flesh out their theory. Indi­vidual reasoning is often fallacious, in their view, because it applies reasoning beyond the scope of its evolutionary purpose. Logic, rather than a basis for reasoning, is a formalized system developed by logicians that has little connection to actual human reasoning.

This is a rich and readable book that presents many intriguing studies from the literature of human reasoning and addresses diverse philosophical and theoretical conceptualizations of human rationality. In the end, however, I believe it has two se­rious, and closely related, flaws: it ignores development and, as a result, misunder­stands the nature of logic and its role in reasoning.