Exegesis of the Sage
as compounded serendipity , after i unwittingly began watching a Nassim Taleb lecture i had never encountered before (recounted in the last section of my previous post), the following videos began on youtube autoplay (audio only vids)
i guess i never really considered Taleb to be especially abstruse or obscure, but both this guy and some random academic on twitter the other day described him as such, and i can see what they mean.
especially in his public speaking, he can jump tangentially from topic to topic, often without bothering to complete the previous thought, deeply steeped in his highly idiosyncratic dialect & lexicon. maybe i’m unusually amenable to this due to my mind also being highly (probably overactively) associative & prone to interstitial qualifications & reformulations. not to mention a clear tolerance (preference) for personal syntax & diction.
(And it should be said, i’ve learned that i myself am often less than completely lucid in my offhand ramblings, somehow)
i’ve also ‘learned the taleb lingo’ a good deal, & and his talks (& writings) are largely comprised of repeated ‘routines’ & sub-routines & variations on a theme, which he executes with varying levels of lucidity in each circumstance. so even when he’s not saying what he means to say in the most cogent way, i reflexively fill in the gaps .
in his defense, he goes out of his way to make copious use of clarifying illustrative examples, anecdotes, analogies etc. But these too come with varying levels of clarity in each telling.
he does also sometimes seem propelled by either a nervous energy, an eagerness to get to the point, or simply a barrage of urgent, associative thoughts clamoring to escape his head — all things i can sympathize with.
anyway, its nice to have someone take his ideas more slowly & develop them more conventionally & methodically. the ideas are deeply worthy of as much.
i guess i have to admit to having an almost religious experience at times when reading or listening to Taleb — not an experience i expected to have, much less admit to, in my adult life. but im not sure how else to describe it. (certainly it draws my capacity for critical judgement of the ideas into question, tho there is much to criticize).
but i guess it’s also too easy to misunderstand or misconstrue Taleb in a variety of ways. He can seem inconsistent or absurd — often. but this is largely an effect of his varying modes of thought & discourse , which he weaves between without warning, & also owes to his heterodox unclassifiability (politically, philosophically, culturally, professionally etc) as mentioned by the introducer in the source lecture video below.
at times he’s talking heuristically, he seems hopelessly naive & absolutist & oversimple. but it becomes clear that he is always implying some unspoken provisionality & nuance, that only sometimes becomes spoken.
other times he’s talking in abstract, pure mathematical terms as if he lives in a differential equation & believes that we do too. but really he knows & acknowledges the limits of maths in describing our world — or at least our limits of apprehending & transacting the correct maths.
these two modes, combined with his heterodoxy, a polemic bent & a more figurative, Levantine worldview than a euro-rationalist might be accustomed to, can make Taleb seem internally inconsistent, incoherent or inscrutable at times. but i think the reality is deeper. i think his body of thought resides beyond these notions, & represents a progressive leap into our intellectual future.
whatever post-postmodernity is, i think it’s Talebian.
the source lecture of the above videos: