Rory Sutherland - Life Lessons from an Ad Man

We philosophers tend to take the etymology of our profession rather seriously: we are sort of obsessed with the love of wisdom. And because wisdom requires knowledge, and knowledge requires truth, we tend to focus on 'objective' truth, the kind of truth whose reality doesn't depend on the vicissitudes of any particular mind. Scientists also tend to fall into the same trap, and for the same reason. As such, we all have a tendency every now and then to ignore an important component of reality: our own subjectivity.

Sure, there are important philosophical and scientific implications here, but there are also important social consequences. We now know, for instance, that many of the presuppositions to come out of the Enlightenment, such as the fact that humans are intrinsically rational agents (over and above biological, psychological or social creatures) is simply false. If we want to succeed at educating the public or at persuading them to accept certain beliefs, we have to move beyond simply presenting the facts: how we present those facts is just as important, if not more so, than the facts themselves. The mind is a very quirky thing that works according to the historical accumulation of evolutionary adaptations, and these are not always consistent with optimal, rational design.

The following presentation by Rory Sutherland presents a fascinating and truly hysterical window into the workings of the mind from the point of view of a marketing expert. The main lesson he presents, and one that will be tough for philosophers, scientists and engineers to swallow, is that sometimes the most efficient solution to a problem could just be a change in our attitude and our perception. Are you wincing already? :)


Would you have ever guessed that philosophers and scientists would have to take lessons from an advertising guru? :)
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