Monday, December 27, 2010

The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms--a review

Nassim Nicholas Taleb received a $4 million advance to write this book of aphorisms as a follow-up to the Black Swan.

Some of my favorites:

Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love; close enough on the surface but, to the nonsucker, not exactly the same thing.

I suspect that they put Socrates to death because there is something terribly unattractive, alienating and nonhuman in thinking with too much clarity.

Education makes the wise slightly wiser, but it makes the fool vastly more dangerous.

If you know in the morning, what your day looks like with any precision, you are a little bit dead--the more precision, the more dead you are.

There is no intermediate state between ice and water but there is one between life and death: employment.

Procrastination is the soul rebelling against entrapment.

They will envy you for your success, for your wealth, for your intelligence, for your looks, for your status--but rarely for your wisdom.

Many of these aphorisms are interesting. A lot of them are specific and esoteric; a retaliation against critics in Academia, economics, the working class and anyone who might think they're smart for getting good grades or scoring high on an IQ test. Taleb's aphorisms are anti-technology, anti-nerd and anti-making a living with a job that draws a salary. The dependence is what he's against, the repetition, an unstimulated life filled with monotonous patterns, notions of false humility, false models, and sports.

Under a section titled ETHICS, Taleb says: Avoid calling heroes those who had no other choice. Some will call him "harsh" for a statement like that; especially firemen, moms who save children from burning buildings, guys who fix flats on the sides of roads for a smile and thank you, and especially Bruce Willis because he's terrible in romantic comedies. Others will say: maybe he's talking about himself and is trying to be humble without seeming humble because he thinks he's saving the world with his intelligence. Those people have too much time, and empathy, on their hands. 

Whatever Taleb is trying to say, and whoever he's trying to say it to, we might never officially know. What we do know is that he has the last laugh receiving $4 million to have a few hundred twitter posts published into a hardcover book of philosophical and political aphorisms. It's a best seller, too. A best seller which I bought, read, and am now writing a review about. Call me a sucker, or call me curious, just please don't call me a hero.

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