Unpretentious Truths

Returning tonight to reading Taleb’s “Black Swan”, I was struck by the extent to which his preference for empiricism over theory repeats Nietzsche’s praise of “unpretentious truths” in Human, All Too Human: Estimation of unpretentious truths.– It is the mark of a higher culture to value the little unpretentious truths which have been discovered by […]

Big Holes and Holes Filled

This video is simply awesome, even though I don’t particularly agree that tax cuts will clearly work.

The Fatal Genetic Condition called Mortality

Rereading Steven Pinker’s recent essay on the Personal Genomic Project — and genetics more generally –, I was particularly struck by this line: All of us already live with the knowledge that we have the fatal genetic condition called mortality, and most of us cope using some combination of denial, resignation and religion.

Breast Cancer and Early First Pregnancy?

Reading David Freedman’s book “Statistical Models: Theory and Practice” today, I was very struck by this passage: Example 1. In cross-national comparisons, there is a striking correlation between the number of telephone lines per capita in a country and the death rate from breast cancer in that country. This is not because talking on the […]

Alexander and His Hectors

I suspect that anyone with an interest in evolutionary psychology or game theory will enjoy this passage from Taleb’s “The Black Swan:” I discovered that it is much more effective to act like a nice guy and be “reasonable” if you prove willing to go beyond just verbiage. You can afford to be compassionate, lax, […]

Posner at His Best

This passage from today’s post on the Becker-Posner blog exemplifies the reasons why I have so much respect for Posner: As the campaigns progressed, a surprising number of conservatives switched their support to Obama. Thoughtful conservatives, already disturbed by the accumulation of blunders of the current Administration (the Iraq WMD, Katrina, the Justice Department scandals), […]

In Praise of Robert Nozick

Several of my favorite economics bloggers have praised Robert Nozick during the past few days, whose 70th birthday would have been this past Sunday. I have considerable respect for Nozick, but must admit that this anecdote from David Henderson’s post on Econlog strikes me as more impressive than any specific part of Nozick’s considerable philosophical […]

Theoretical Neuroscience Rising

Equations force a model to be precise, complete, and self-consistent, and they allow its full implications to be worked out. It is not difficult to find word models in the conclusions sections of older neuroscience papers that sound reasonable but, when expressed as mathematical models, turn out to be inconsistent and unworkable. Mathematical formulation of […]

Under the Consequences of Their Actions

El político práctico perece bajo las consecuencias de las teorías que desdeña.1 Considering the state of our economy in light of the scorn that politicians show for the opinions of economists, Gomez Davila’s claim could not seem more true these days. Nicolás Gómez Dávila : Escolios a un texto implícito : Tomo I↩

Empiricism and Philosophy

Every year, I come to agree more and more with this passage from “The Gay Science”: Truthfulness.– I favor any skepsis to which I may reply: “Let us try it!” But I no longer wish to hear anything of all those things and questions that do not permit any experiment. This is the limit of […]