I buy books on impulse, often following a recommendation. My last two reads were Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert M. Pirsig), a favourite among readers of Lifehacker.com and The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb), recommended by the Economist a while back. A couple similarities between the two are striking, though they are (at least nominally) in different genres:
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZMM) is fast becoming a classic, preaching Quality through interchanging present and past tense. It’s written like fiction but seems to be based partly on the author’s experiences.
The Black Swan is the former trader explaining in a cock-sure fashion how stupid you are (to some extent maybe even being right). On the cover it says “part literary essayist, part empiricist, part no-nonsense mathematical trader”, mostly essay (in chapters) I’d say.
(1) Neither author is practising philosophy but yet their both entire books are filled with philosophic reference and content. Greeks are both heroes and villains in either book.
(2) Everyone is wrong, according to the authors. Well, not everyone but the vast majority of those that are experts in the respective subjects, while the rest of mankind is merely mislead. There is also a solution, namely to stop listening to those that are wrong (i.e. the experts).
(3) To achieve what they are getting at rhetorically, both authors are willing to show their opponents in a very non-flattering way. Taleb does this without shame, interpreting what others mean like the devil reading the bible. Pirsig is less mean but I still don’t quite believe the portray of people at University of Chicago.
So – did the reading of two similar books result from my sources of recommendation, mere chance or a third option? I’d say chance, only it seems that The Dice Man (Luke Rhinehart) that I’m halfway through run along the same lines. Also:
The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.
Robert R. Coveyou