James's Reviews > The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

The Bed of Procrustes by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
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Jul 19, 12

Read in July, 2012

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 somewhat beyond the focus on historical and economic matters. He is concerned with human culture and thought in general. He has a deep appreciation for the work of Plato and speaks of how generations of philosophers have been even less than a footnote to him. He also shows a healthy appreciation for the Aphorism as a form and in fact writes a brief history of the form at the close of the volume. The Aphorism is the form which for Taleb is the beginning of wisdom.
I found many of the aphorims interesting and original Taleb has the thought that the good aphorism says something no one thought before. He also speaks of his own early aspirations in poetry, and connects this with the Aphorism as a form.
In one of his aphorisms he says that 'he who would be a philosopher must begin to walk slowly'. Taleb has done some nice slow walking in this book.
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