Source of book image: http://store.43folders.com/books-3-1400063515-The_Black_Swan_The_Impact_of_the_Highly_Improbable
This is part entertaining rant and part serious epistemology. I’ve finished 9 of 19 chapters so far–almost all of my reading time spent smiling.
Historians of Greek philosophy used to tell the story of one of the first philosophers, Thales of Miletus, that he once was watching the stars, and fell into a well. The citizens of Miletus made fun of him being an impractical philosopher. To prove them wrong, he used his knowledge to corner the market in something, and made a fortune.
Not a very plausible story, but appealing to us philosophers. (Like Thales, we like to think we could all be rich, if we didn’t have higher goals.)
Well apparently Taleb is the real Thales. He wanted to be a philosopher, got rich on Wall Street using his epistemological insights, and is now using his wealth to finance his musings on whatever he cares to muse on.
Here’s an amusing sentence that broadened my grin. (It was even more amusing, and profound, in context, but I don’t have time to type in the context for you.)
(p. 87) If you are a researcher, you will have to publish inconsequential articles in "prestigious" publications so that others say hello to you once in a while when you run into them at conferences.
Reference for the book:
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. New York: Random House, 2007.
I heard a great Bertrand Russell quote, a couple of days ago. (Sometime I’ll try to verify it.) It is:
"Some people would rather die, than think. And they do."
(attributed to Bertrand Russell)
Source of book image: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0226556638/sr=8-1/qid=1153708722/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-2835260-2878345?ie=UTF8
Deirdre McCloskey’s unfashionable, contrarian and compelling manifesto in favor of what she calls the bourgeois virtues starts with an uncompromising "apology" for how private property, free labor, free trade and prudent calculation are the fount of most ethical good in modern society, not a moral threat to it.
The intelligentsia — in thrall for centuries to religion and now to socialism — has for a long time snobbishly despised the bourgeoisie that practices capitalism. Ms. McCloskey calls such people the "clerisy." Their values and virtues, like those of the proletariat and the aristocracy, are widely admired. But almost nobody admires the bourgeoisie. Yet it was for anti-bourgeois ideologies, she notes, that "the twentieth century paid the butcher’s bill."
As Ms. McCloskey explains: "Anyone who after the twentieth century still thinks that thoroughgoing socialism, nationalism, imperialism, mobilization, central planning, regulation, zoning, price controls, tax policy, labor unions, business cartels, government spending, intrusive policing, adventurism in foreign policy, faith in entangling religion and politics, or most of the other thoroughgoing nineteenth-century proposals for government action are still neat, harmless ideas for improving our lives is not paying attention." By contrast, she argues, "capitalism has not corrupted our souls. It has improved them."
For the full review, see:
MATT RIDLEY. "Capitalism Without Tears; Fashionable thinkers sneer at the free market and its practitioners, but economic liberty may actually be a force for personal goodness." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., July 22, 2006): P10.
(Note: in the passage above, I took the liberty of correcting a misspelling of "Deirdre.")
The full citation to the McCloskey book is:
McCloskey, Deirdre N. The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. (616 pages, $32.50)