Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 91

Here it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

There is one thing that futurists have in common: they are very, very often completely wrong in their predictions.

The metaphysics of pregnancy, and why it matters.

Understanding why the Ancient Greeks (culturally) perceived colors differently from us.

The neuroscience of why you need to pick your friends carefully.

The new aspirational class, and what they don’t get.

True altruism seen in chimpanzees, further elucidating the building blocks of human morality.

Why religious identities should not be immune to criticism.

What do we mean when we say that we are “entitled” to our opinions?

Is the world really better than ever? (Yes, but that’s kind of missing the point…)

My contribution to the Beard-Taleb “debate” on Roman history and cultural diversity. Taleb immediately labeled me “Professor of Bullshit,” because that’s how proper academic discourse ought to be conducted, of course.


Please notice that the duration of the comments window is three days (including publication day), and that comments are moderated for relevance (to the post one is allegedly commenting on), redundancy (not good), and tone (constructive is what we aim for). This applies to both the suggested readings and the regular posts. Thanks!


Categories: Plato's Suggestions

68 replies

  1. Hi Robin,

    The complaint about the BBC cartoon seems to have shifted.

    No, it hasn’t. The original tweet by Taleb (quoted in Massimo’s article) distinguishes between sub-Sarahan Africans and North Africans. It implicitly accepts that North Africans were senior Roman commanders. That was there from Taleb’s first tweet. Thus pointing out that North Africans were senior Roman commanders does not rebut Taleb.

    Now, if your reply to Taleb is that in your opinion the video does depict a North African, rather than a sub-Saharan African as Taleb assumed, then ok, that is indeed a reply to Taleb, but Taleb’s suggestion that it doesn’t is at least reasonable.


    • Coel,

      As others have pointed out, it’s rather astounding that you keep doubling down instead of admitting error. Taleb’s position is truly indefensible, and the only reason I can think of for you to insist in defending it is because of the association I made to scientism. Which, frankly, further exposes your a priori ideological commitment to that position.

      “What makes you think I was picking single individuals? Did you click on the links?”

      Yes. I did not say a single individual, I said individuals. As opposed to a statistical distribution. And the point is that there are plenty of North Africans who look like the boy in the video (whose “race,” as Beard commented, isn’t really clear from the video. Oh, and “races” as understood today are also meaningless categories when projected back to Ancient Rome.)

      The fact that Taleb insisted on sub-Saharan Africa is entirely his own fabrication, in his own mind. It was neither in the video nor in anything Beard said. And here is yet another statement from specialists in the field to the effect that Taleb is dead wrong:

      Liked by 2 people

  2. DM:

    ‘ but I don’t think this is a good test at all. RGB values are not a measure of skin tone’

    LOL! It was not meant to be taken seriously. It was a whimsical test to satire the kind of scientistic thinking that seems to be common in this debate. Ideally I hoped people would just laugh and move on after realizing how ridiculous the discussion had gotten.

    Liked by 2 people

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