Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Old books ...

... best books, C.S. Lewis argues. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it ...
This, of course, is where The Black Swan is especially pertinent. Our unknown unknowns about ourselves are what get us in trouble.


  1. Anonymous4:23 PM

    How is it pertinent? It makes the general point that we don't know a lot of unknowns. Some things can be predicted, within degrees of uncertainty, because we know some things about the parameters. (This is the basis of statistics and modelling.) Other things we cannot predict, because we don't know enough about the complex paramters (eg economics). It does not seem to me to be very novel to point this out, as it is extremely well known. But maybe I have missed the point.

  2. But those things that we know we do not know are different from those that we don't know we do not know. As someone said, the tragedy is not be to be ignorant, but to be ignorant that one is ignorant. Which is why what we do not know we are ignorant of is what usually gets us in trouble. Descartes developed something called methodical doubt. I would propose developing methodical ignorance.