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A Book I Read so You Don’t Have to

January 24, 2009


Actually, I didn’t read the whole thing, I only read half. Although, since half of the last half of the book was acknowledgments, a glossary, footnotes and appendices, it turns out that I read three-quarters. However, I am fairly certain I got the drift of the story. It goes something like this:

“I’ve read a lot of philosophy, and most of it is rubbish. Especially Plato, although I am not really going to bother constructing an argument as to why he is rubbish. Instead I am going to coin a neologism, ‘Platonified,’ to refer to all nerds, i.e. academics with their theories and models that have no relevance to the reality that a hard-nosed banker such as myself deals in. The only decent philosophers are the ones who happen to support my big idea, and the best of them are ones you have probably never heard of. I won’t bother going into too much depth on their ideas – though I will talk about them more in Chapter ??; instead I will regale you with anecdotes about their lives, to demonstrate their humanity, because that is a much more valid way of certifying their ideas are to be trusted. What is my big idea? It is that we are very bad at predicting, and we don’t know how bad we are at predicting, and that anomalous events can have a disproportionately large impact. I’d go into more depth on the subject, but I’d rather spend my time regaling you with tangentially relevant, semi-disguised semi-autobiographical parables that demonstrate my wit and character.”

I’m sure the guy talks a good game at cocktail parties and on the speaking circuit, but in print the whole exercise comes off as presumptuous. And his overwhelming arrogance is just a little repellent.

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