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Learn to think critically with care
am 2. September 2010
This book is admirable in its courage to address the subject of uncertainty and coincidence and its willingness to stand up to it. It is one of a kind in that it can help you cultivate and indulge in an attitude of critical thinking, in a strive for maturity. But I would caution you to contemplate that it likes a certain attitude of black and white, of simple pro and contra. Also, it uses cliché, that is long standing relatively simple ideas of popular knowledge. I am aware, that many well educated people do that too, but that is not the point here. The perhaps too weighty power of the books standpoint in my opinion comes from the fact that it jumps to and fro from generalities to special cases in a very free, actually even in a selfindulgent way. To my mind, it is a bit too obliquious to the fact that the people it critisizes are often very intelligent, experts in their field with a history of many years weighing different ideas against each other and prioritising them. Of course, such people can be selfindulgent too, of course they can at times take advantage of others, that are less knowledgable and less versatile in their thinking, by presenting false ideas of certainties and securities. But they do not always do it, or as a general rule. They do not routinely lose their way. My point of criticism is, that this book is a bit too arrogant in the absoluteness of its comments. My advice to you then would be to read it, to teach yourself to think critically, to learn to recognise certain patterns while staying acutely aware of the fact, that nobody knows everything, that the possibility of mistakes is always there and that luck does play a certain role in life, according to the laws of statistics and probability, that therefore one must be aware, perhaps, that complete certainty is rarely a healthy option and reeks of blunder. However, my advise would also be, to not take this book too seriously, for the reasons given above. Read other books too, eg "How Markets Fail", for a more detailed history of economics. Onesidedness lurks everywhere, even in being conscious of uncertainties. One needs to remind oneself of that from time to time, to retain a healthy balance between determinism and the idea of complete chaos, to be your own best friend. Comment such as this must needs be imperfect, respecting uncertainties, but I do have a point that is worth contemplation, I think. And to the author: Please note that these comments are not anonymous. And another point still: We like control, all of us, embracing uncertainty too emphatically will strengthen ideas of controllism, simply by the fact that it strays to one side of life in too extreme a way. A combination of care and courage may be the best option to prevent controllism from evolving with too much freedom, or doubt with too much power (remember Shakespeare "Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by failing to attempt"). Be critical, not overly critical.