Of course a book recommended by the Underground will take digs at the highbrow (although I can’t claim that this is true throughout the book — I’m pretty sure it isn’t, but I’m only partly through). I picked up The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb while in London, partially because of Silverladder (R.I.P.) and partially because I saw broadsheets about it all over the Underground. I kind of wanted to see what publishing houses were pushing to the general London population.

Anyway, one of Taleb’s issues is with people of my breed, philosophers (especially of language). Within the first chapter he levels his aim at good old Ludwig Wittgenstein himself — something which I found enormously ironic given the reason I picked up the book was an ARG, and my nickname on Unfiction‘s forums is Wittgenstein. It’s also funny that Taleb should greatly admire and draw ideas from Karl Popper. Part of the problem with Taleb’s critique, while I do agree that some of us philosophers of language do get quite caught up in the details, is that the concerns of philosophers (of language, and in general) are exclusively about the minute, which I don’t know if I entirely agree with.

Definitely, the way that we operate — a system of experts — is something I have long been unsettled about, and it’s unfortunate that there isn’t more cross-pollination in the social sciences. I feel like Taleb is looking for a broader indictment of analytic philosophy that he doesn’t quite get to — or gets to via a roundabout circuit, that is, through financial markets. It’s an interesting tack, and I’m definitely intrigued. And maybe a bit miffed. We’ll see.

Advertisements