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The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (Incerto #3)

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,485 Ratings  ·  251 Reviews
The Bed of Procrustes is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, and Antifragile.

By the author of the modern classic The Black Swan, this col
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published November 30th 2010 by Random House (first published 2010)
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PGR Nair
Mar 01, 2015 PGR Nair rated it really liked it
Aphorisms Galore!

If for any literary fan, the country Lebanon brings to mind the tender, lyrical and mystical poet Khalil Gibran, we have another compatriot from Lebanon to remember for his scathing, caustic, intelligent and often cynical observations on our society. He is none other than Nicholas Nassim Taleb, the Lebanese American essayist and scholar whose main works focus on problems of randomness, probability and uncertainty.

His 2007 book “The Black Swan “was described in a review by Sunda
Jon Cone
Feb 09, 2011 Jon Cone rated it did not like it
This book of aphorisms has an introduction, in which the myth of Procrustes is told, and concludes with an essay which begins, "The general theme of my work is the limitation of human knowledge." Both introduction and concluding essay strike me as special pleading. Aphorisms need no defending. They stand on their own, if they are good. Too often Taleb's aphorisms fail because they lack the necessary iron, fire, mystery. They seldom surprise. In this book, Taleb accepts the traditional concerns o ...more
Sabra Embury
Dec 28, 2010 Sabra Embury rated it really liked it
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 kno
Sep 09, 2014 Santhosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nassim Taleb is definitely not the sort I'd like to get to know personally as I don't agree with about half of his life philosophies. However, in my best Voltaire voice, while I disapprove of what he says, I will defend to the death his right to print it in books and make millions off them. As with such collections, there is a mix of some fantastic and deep aphorisms while there were also a few that made me go 'meh'. Overall though, once you overcome the fact that he keeps calling everyone incom ...more
Yash Sinojia
This was a book having a Postface instead of a Preface.. A beautiful book full of Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms.
The story of 'The Bed of Procrustes' (a Greek myth) is metaphorized in every aphorism in this book.

We humans, facing limits of knowledge, and things do not observe, the unseen and the unknown, resolve the tension by squeezing life and the world into crisp commoditized ideas, reductive categories, specific vocabularies, and prepackaged narratives, which, on the occasion, has exp
Apr 29, 2011 Marcus rated it liked it
Taleb is fascinating. How does a guy who relentlessly attacks the credibility of economists and academics get invited to speak in front of them so often? He's utterly arrogant and abrasive, yet he has a certain appeal that is difficult to explain. Part of it undoubtedly stems from his main idea that revolves around "how we deal, and should deal, with what we don't know." It is interesting and applicable to so many aspects of life; investing, politics, literature, philosophy and more and since it ...more
Nirav Savaliya
Aug 10, 2015 Nirav Savaliya rated it really liked it
A Book full of thought provoking aphorisms, makes you think more and more on all the random activities (which you think are random but to some extent aren't!) that takes place around you everyday. This book changes how you look at people, government, organizations in a completely different way. Absolutely amazing finale, explains you why this book is called "The Bed of Procrustes" and why it matters!

Some of his ideas are quiet contradictory with mine and at some point I realized that he thinks h
The Bed of Procrustes is a beautiful collection of aphorisms, best absorbed if already familiar with Nassim Nicholas Taleb through some of his other books. They all touch upon uncertainty and the limitations of knowledge (and the qualities of the unknown) but this one is special. This is the treat, the one you'll want to read over and over and ponder. While there is little to ponder in Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (it is either true - hence, to be ab ...more
May 15, 2013 Richard rated it it was ok
I liked two other Taleb books, so naturally I expected to like this book as well. And I did for the first 8 pages or so with aphorisms like "Procrastination is the soul rebelling against entrapment" and "If your anger decreases with time, you did injustice; if it increases, you suffered injustice".

But then it went slowly downhill, devolving into the catty (We should make students recompute their GPAs by counting their grades in finance and economics backwards), the dubious (When a woman says abo
Dec 05, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing
A rare book. It probably has the highest usefulness to character ratio of any book I've found. Not to say that it's super useful, but it is very short.

The book is the equivalent of poring over Taleb's blog and twitter account for the past 10 years and picking out the stuff that is worth sharing. I can imagine the author's notebook that he kept witty and interesting-to-him stuff marked up, over and over, front and back of every page and margin. I think it would be interesting to read the notes an
Dec 14, 2012 Kim rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
The Bed of Procrustes taught me a great deal about what inspires and angers Taleb, significantly less about what inspires and angers me, and almost nothing at all about the world. (I think "The person you are most afraid to contradict is yourself" is one of the only aphorisms that encouraged, in me, a new way to see things.)

It's not that there weren't interesting ideas in the book. It's just that most of the ideas I found interesting were ones I'd already considered...and I kept getting distract
Wow, what a douche nozzle. This guy claims he has to take a ritual bath after talking with journalists, apparently because journalists are so . . . well . . . not remotely like Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The repeated uses of the terms "sucker" and "loser" also grated. But I suppose a kind and humble person wouldn't have thought of writing a book of aphorisms in the first place.
Feb 05, 2011 Mark rated it it was ok
I am afraid that the difference between this collection of aphorisms and a bowlful of fortune cookies is not so great as the author had hoped. The one aphorism that stuck with me is "What I learned on my own I still remember." If this aphorism is true, however, it follows that I will forget what others have taught me, which makes this book is immediately forgettable.
Apr 28, 2015 Carmen rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
This had a few gems, but the author comes off as full of himself. He hates economists, journalists, nerds, academics, and Harvard professors. He thinks employment is slavery.
Khalid Alnaqbi
May 23, 2016 Khalid Alnaqbi rated it really liked it
Full of wisdom .. and egoism.
Dave B.
Jan 08, 2015 Dave B. rated it really liked it
The Bed of Procrustes was a collection of aphorisms from Taleb that should be read several times before commenting on their insights. (Unfortunately, I am presenting a review after only a single reading, so readers should take my initial review with a grain of salt) Several inserts from Taleb focus on his criticism of the study of economic, impact of modernity and religion/traditionalism.
It appears that the author does not hold value in the economist or intelligence associated with its modern a
Alex Zakharov
May 29, 2012 Alex Zakharov rated it liked it
I like Taleb, I thoroughly enjoyed both his 'Fooled by Randomness' and 'Black Swan' and am very much looking forward to 'Antifragile' due out this November, but this collection of aphorisms left me softly disappointed. Most were sharp, but not razor sharp and all too often the form was compromised. A good aphorism, like a good haiku must follow certain rhythm and tempo without sacrificing the quality and succinctness of thought. Taleb's didn't quite hold it together.

Pure idea wise - there are d
Nada  Abandah
Jan 30, 2012 Nada Abandah rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ala Awaysheh
Shelves: favorite
I picked up this book simply because it was by Nassim Taleb, and I wasn't the least disappointed.

Nassim's ability to articulate things that you already think of and know (but don't know that you know) is simply unmatched. It allows you to look at things you've always seen from a different new prespective that you didn't realize you posses.

The book is not narrative, but it is actually a series of sentences and "quote-like" thoughts that takes you a way.

When I started reading it, I decided to t
Oct 03, 2013 Toros rated it liked it
That Taleb is an incisive thinker, nobody could disagree. Nor could anyone with any familiarity with the aphorism reasonably object to the fact that Taleb uses the form as a launchpad for his own views - after all, this is what the aphorism has been used for for centuries.

My reason for giving the book a middling rating stems from the fact that Taleb does not grasp that the aphorism is as much a means of expressing something well as it is of expressing it briefly. Brevity he is comfortable with,
Jan 21, 2011 Patrick rated it did not like it
If you read this book you are a sucker, or an economist. Don't bother. Taleb is a narcissistic snob.

Amazon Review:
By the author of the modern classic The Black Swan, this collection of aphorisms and meditations expresses his major ideas in ways you least expect.
The Bed of Procrustes takes its title from Greek mythology: the story of a man who made his visitors fit his bed to perfection by either stretching them or cutting their limbs. It represents Taleb’s view of modern civilization’s hubristi
A real disappointment. I enjoyed Taleb's earlier books, Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan - they were both works that really had something to get across. This, however, is an exercise in empty style (or rather an attempt at it) without substance.

The aphorisms which make up the book are simply a lot of the kind of messages people put on bumper stickers - they're usually catchy, but a lot of them don't make sense, or are just stupid. The overall tone reminds me of that incredibly annoying s
Renata Ferreira
Oct 30, 2012 Renata Ferreira rated it really liked it
Eu passei a seguir o Taleb depois de um artigo que ele escreveu num livro chamado "This will change everything", em que um bando de gente falava sobre coisas que supostamente acontecerão no futuro.

O artigo dele é esse aqui:

Achei sensacional o discurso sobre o "iatrogenic, i.e., harm caused by the healer", e então fui atrás de outras coisas.

Encontrei o "Cisne Negro" que é tipo uma Teoria do Caos moderninha e não gostei.

Mas esse livro agora me supreendeu. É
Jul 19, 2012 James rated it really liked it
This is a small book of aphorisms that centers on human error and limitation in knowledge and judgment. Taleb in the prose appendix to the book explains that he is showing in it the way human beings often by knowing too much, categorize reality in such ways as to totally misunderstand it. Taleb's concept 'The Black Swan' refers to those unpredictable historical events that totally change a whole set of realities. The recent great Black Swan was the 2008 Financial Debacle. Taleb however here goes ...more
Gautham Shenoy
Oct 14, 2015 Gautham Shenoy rated it really liked it
A book of wonderful and witty aphorisms delivered with classic Talebian disdain for the modern Beds of Procrusteus that our societies have been imposing, I.e academia, gyms, corporations, regulatory bodies, which in the name of "standardization" have often chopped off the necessy and elaborated on the useless just to ensure that things "fit in". Taleb's empiricist stand stands out in the face of modernity's obsession with enlightenment.

A good book that will be revisited several times.
Feb 04, 2011 John rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
This is a collection of aphorisms (proverbs/maxims). It is an interesting collection that flow out of Taleb's worldview. Some are wonderful, some are a bit baffling. His essay at the end is the best part of the book.

He argues forcefully that the modern conception of knowledge is one that assumes information adds to our understanding of the world--the more the better. Yet Taleb argues that this only adds noise, or confusion to our understanding of the world.

The scientific worldview acts such tha
Mar 05, 2011 Bobby rated it it was ok
First, I think I should've read Black Swan before this book. It would have provided more insight into Taleb's area of expertise. That said, while I understand the author's goal for writing this collection, it's hard to believe someone would try and fill an entire book with their own aphorisms. Did he come up with these on the spot? Has he been collecting them throughout his life? Is it conceited to think that your pithy statements warrant this sort of devoted book?

There are some gems in here, bu
Uwe Hook
Feb 20, 2015 Uwe Hook rated it it was ok
Though this is the shortest of Taleb's books - and many found it in fact too short - I must say I found it is way too long. It is perhaps unavoidable that, in a collection of aphorisms, every gem of truth should be countered by many other statements that are trivial, flat or, even, untrue.

Aphorisms are best served sparingly.
Mar 14, 2016 Richard rated it it was ok
NN Taleb's arrogance amuses me, but first-time readers may be put off.
He has drunk far too much of his own Kool-aid.
The Black Swan was indeed excellent, and well worth reading.
Antifragile was a bloated mess but still had a great idea at its core.
Taleb's delusion is that because he has come up with two genuinely excellent insights, he is now qualified to pass judgment on literally every single facet of how to live.
There are a few thought-provoking nuggets in here, but most of it is self-aggrandis
Berk  Gurhan
Feb 16, 2015 Berk Gurhan rated it did not like it
Taleb wants us to revel in his bombastic philosophical high mindedness more than give the reader something palpable to meditate on. Lucky its a breezy read - if you can ignore his sheer pomposity that is.
Joe Vander Zanden
Nov 21, 2014 Joe Vander Zanden rated it it was amazing
A short book of aphorisms from the Incerto series. The aphorisms are organized by topics and many of them cover ideas expanded upon in greater detail within other books in the series. This is a good book to recommend to busier friends interested in Taleb's work given its size and ratio of wisdom:pages. Anyone interested in complexity, uncertainty, and the implications for modeling, analyzing, and forecasting should read the entire series. Taleb is a genius ahead of his time. Unfortunately, this ...more
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Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. He spent two decades as a trader before becoming a philosophical essayist and academic researcher in probability theory. Although he now spends most of his time either working in intense seclusion in his study, or as a flâneur meditating in cafés across the planet, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Eng ...more
More about Nassim Nicholas Taleb...

Other Books in the Series

Incerto (4 books)
  • Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
  • The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

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