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The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms Hardcover – Nov 30 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (Nov. 30 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400069971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400069972
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.7 x 20.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #14,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Praise for Nassim Nicholas Taleb
“The most prophetic voice of all.” —GQ
“The hottest thinker in the world.” —Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times (London)
“[Taleb writes] in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Idiosyncratically brilliant.” —Niall Ferguson, Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. He spent nearly two decades as a businessman and quantitative trader before becoming a full-time philosophical essayist and academic researcher in 2006. Although he spends most of his time in the intense seclusion of his study, or as a flâneur meditating in cafés, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute. His main subject matter is “decision making under opacity”—that is, a map and a protocol on how we should live in a world we don’t understand.
Taleb’s books have been published in thirty-three languages.

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Vangel Vesovski on Dec 29 2010
Format: Hardcover
My twelve year old son picked up the book at my local bookstore and could not put it down. While many of the aphorisms confused him, most made him think and he began to ask quite a few questions. Soon we were discussing various points and had more than a few laughs at the many victims of Taleb's wit. I wound up buying the book and picking up two extra copies as gifts for people who I am sure will enjoy reading discussing it, even if they are offended by some of Taleb's pronouncements.

Those that have read Taleb and are familiar with his books will have little trouble recognizing that the book is a further exploration of his theme of how individuals deal, and how they should deal, with what they do not know. And they will quickly find that Taleb's harsh view of fools is what it has always been. If you are easily offended and have the characteristics or opinions of those that Taleb skewers time after time you may not like this book. But if you have an open mind, an ego that does not need stroking, and thick skin you will probably love it.

As usual, Taleb is brilliant. His tone is sharp and his writing style is lucid. He begins by briefly going over the the myth of the cruel Procrustes (whose name meant 'the stretcher' in ancient Greek). Procrustes, whose real name may have been Damastes or Polyphemon, lived on an estate in Attica on the road between Athens and Eleusis. He would abduct travelers and provide them with a very nice diner. After the diner was over he would place them in his special bed where they would be fitted perfectly. That meant that those that were too short would be stretched while those that were too long would have their feet or legs chopped off.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By kris on March 24 2011
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book, because I have read both of Nicolas' previous books and I found the concepts he discussed, to use his word, were robust. I won't go into details about the Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness as whoever is reading this review is likely familiar with at least one of them. So, about this book now. There is a worthy number of one-liners that can prompt one to say "yeah, it's crossed my mind, that makes sense, if someone of Nicolas' calibre has perceived it similarly it could be a good candidate for a pattern" amidst a litany of banal rants, paraphrases of opinion leaders' statements, and borrowed enunciations Indian spiritual gurus in the 80s and 90s made. Let me illustrate each by a couple of examples.

One-liners: "the test of originality for an idea is not the absence of one single predecessor but the presence of multiple but incompatible ones.
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Format: Hardcover
It was a struggle to make it through this book, which as far as I can tell is either a quick cash grab to capitalise on the popularity of his earlier works, or possibly a piece of vanity publishing to prop up his clearly disproportionately large ego.

"I have respect for mother nature's methods of robustness (billions of years allow most of what is fragile to break); classical thought is more robust (in its respect for the unknown, the epistemic humility) than the modern post-Enlightenment naïve pseudoscientific autism. Thus my classical values make me advocate the triplet of erudition, elegance, and courage; against modernity’s phoniness, nerdiness and philistinism."

Of course, this is a man who regularly uses "retard" as an insult. If you thought "The Black Swan" was interesting, go read it again: don't buy this book.
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By Patrick Sullivan TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 27 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This collection of aphorisms can best be described as, bullet points from Taleb`s other books. His ideas have been boiled down, into a list of maxims. The author identifies many critical errors, in other people`s thought process. This of course, makes for very interesting reading.

What brings down the rating, is Taleb`s bitter denunciations. There are certain groups of people, that Taleb does not like. And he makes no bones about telling you his opinions. In one reference, he compares academics to the profession of prostitution. Well you have been warned. Taleb has very sharp and sometimes poisonous evaluations.

This book has many provocative insights. However, the reader has to be prepared, to brush off many of the harsh pointed criticisms.
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