Epistemocracy, A Dream
This reading, which chapter twelve of the book, highlights theplight of people who doubt and have no confidence in their ownknowledge. These are the people that the author refers to as theepistemocrat. The author asserts that these are people who suspecttheir own knowledge and prefer being seen as fools. They havesufficient confidence to respond with an “I do not know” answerrather than trusting on their own knowledge. The chapter focuses on amodern epistemocrat by the name Montaigne (Taleb, 2008). Montaigneargued that philosophy should be cognizant of the human flaws and theimperfections that human beings have as a result of theirlimitations. The author views utopia, not as a perfect and justiceworld, but as Epistemocracy. It is a world where the leaders areguided by their lack of knowledge. The author asserts that the peoplefollow the leaders in the wrong direction as a group and fear beingalone and be right. Montaigne has taught the audience how to beconfident about the wrong things (Taleb, 2008).
The author has also focused on the issue of imperfections and theinability that humans have in terms of predicting the future. It isevident from the reading that the people, including autistic people,are not able to predict the future. According to the author, thefuture cannot be determine or predicted by looking at the past. Inother words, the future is not a projection of the past. Humans, dueto their flaws, are unable to think that there can be other supercreatures who can be better in terms of knowledge and thinking thanthem. The author has also discussed the aspect of how humans commitprediction errors repetitively (Taleb, 2008). According to theauthor, people will always predict the wrong things despite suchpredictions having brought similar results in the future. This isreferred to as misprediction or the self deception. This form ofmisprediction is essential in that it allows people to havemotivation to do some things such as buying a new car in the hopethat the car will bring comfort and tranquility of the commute. Themisprediction can also lead to the avoidance of risky behaviors inthe fear of the mispredicted effects or outcomes. For example, peoplewill fear to be late to work, since they have a misprediction that ifthey lose their job, they will go through prolonged suffering. Thisis despite the fact that such people might have gone through suchexperiences and adapted to it in the past.
It is difficult for people to predict neither the future nor thepast with precision. According o the author, these two processes arecalled the forward and the backward process. The backward process hasbeen cited as being more complex and difficult than the forwardprocess. For instance, due to human limitation, it is almostimpossible for humans to predict the form of an ice cube from which apuddle of water emanated from. However, it is much simpler to predictthe form of a water puddle that would result from an ice cube.Additionally, the author has highlighted how humans ignore the smallthings that might have immense effects or consequences (Taleb, 2008).For instance, the author refers to the butterfly wings in Indiaconcept where it is argued that butterfly wings in India can cause ahurricane in the United States. The same case a falling flower canmake a person changing the choice of a life partner. There aremillions of such small things that happen in everyday life but peopleignore and assume their significance.
The failure or the lack capacity to predict the future implies thatpeople work under randomness. The author refers to randomness asincomplete information. These are situations when a person does nothave certainty of the decision he or she arrives at. More often thannot, a person will make a decision based on the lack of sufficientinformation. For instance, when someone meet a pregnant woman, it isclear that the sex of the child will be determined through randomnessor the lack of complete information to make the decision (Taleb,2008). This is different from a doctor who will have sufficient orcomplete information and therefore make a decision that is not amatter of randomness. Randomness can be viewed as the lack ofknowledge. This takes us back to the aspect of the limitations ofknowledge that human beings have. If people had sufficient knowledge,then there would not be making any random decisions. Decisions wouldbe made with precision and certainty.
The author concludes the chapter through warning people not to relyentirely on history in trying to reverse engineer. It is difficulteven to predict the past according to the author. He has referred tothis inability to predict the future and the past as future and pasblindness. There are weaknesses in predicting the future withprecision and history cannot also be relied upon to predict the pastwith precision.
The author starts by asserting that people do not have any doubtabout the being or the existence of God, but people, especiallyphilosophers are concerned with the nature of God. The author assertsthat human weakness denies human beings the ability to understand theduration and the nature of the Supreme Being, as well as his mind.This is an indication that human knowledge is indeed limited andthere are things that the human mind cannot conceive. God isdescribed as being perfect and therefore, human beings in theirimperfections should learn how to respect and adore him. Humans areaccused of denying his presence as well being too inquisitiveregarding his nature, attributes and decrees. God should not beviewed as a spirit, but rather should be viewed as a perfect form ofhuman. He is described as a perfect form who has no limitations,restrictions and he is universal in his own nature.
God’s perfections are said to be beyond human understanding.Although human describe perfections of God in humanly words andthinking, it is evident from the reading that the perfections of Godmay not be described through terms such as wisdom, knowledge andthough. These are simply the best terms that the limited humanthinking can describe the perfections of Supreme Being with. Thematter of God, his existence and his nature should be a matter ofreligion and worship, as opposed to being a matter of school andstudy. According to Cleanthes, the ideas and opinions that humanbeings possess are limited to their experiences. It is evident thathuman beings have not had any experience of the divine attributes andor operations and therefore it would extremely difficult to have anyunderstanding of his attributes or nature.
There are some people who believe that God resembles humans and thathis attributes are human except that they are perfect. The believethat there is a God seems to be surrounded by various opinions withsome scholars stating that it is a matter of assumption and thatthere is no certainty that God indeed exists. However experience iscited as the only way through which human beings can conceive thecause of any phenomenon. The world is considered as a building bysome philosophers who imply that its cause must have been somecreature who resembles a human. However, other scholars consider thisview of the earth as a building to be ridiculous. According to Demeaand Cleanthes, the final design or cause cannot be used as proof ofthe design. This is similar to the argument in the first readingwhere reverse engineering was considered as being impossible.
Philosophers assume that the design and the fabric of a house can becompared to that of the whole universe. The form of nature in oneplace can be compared to another from in another place. The argumenthere is that the universe must have been constructed. It is howeverdifficult, according to the reading to deduce or reconstruct theuniverse from single parts. The limitation of the human understandingcannot allow him to make such reverse connections to assume that theentire universe was constructed from scratch.
between the two readings
It is abundantly clear from the discussion above that the tworeadings have some few aspects in common, while they are alsodifferent in various aspects. To start with, the two readings havefocused on the limitations that the human mind has. The mind of humanis limited in the way it conceives various things such as God’snature. This found in the second reading. People assume that God’sperfect acts can be described in words such as wisdom and knowledge.However, this is simply an indication of the limitations that thehuman mind has. It is difficult for humans to come up with otherterms to describe the perfect acts of God. Accordingly, people cannotunderstand the nature and the attributes of God. Limited knowledgedoes not allow people .to understand the attributes and nature of theSupreme Being. The existence of God is not in doubt. However,philosophers are now attempting and coming up with arguments that thenature of God is the same as that of humans except that he has norestrictions or limitations and is perfect.
This lack of sufficient knowledge to understand is also evident inthe first reading Epistemocracy, A Dream, where the author statesthat human beings are driven by their lack of knowledge especiallythe leaders. Aspects such as wrong predictions and inability topredict the past and the future are indications of the flaws in humanknowledge. The author of the reading admits that humans are limitedin knowledge and that the leaders are also guided by lack knowledge.Aspects such randomness are viewed as lack of knowledge or incompleteinformation. Another similarity between the two readings is theaspect of reverse engineering. In the first reading, the authorargued that it would be extremely difficult to deduce the case ofsomething from the end result. A perfect example was assuming thatthe cause of a hurricane in the United States would have been causedby a bitterly flipping its wings in India. This argument or reverseengineering has also been argued out in the second reading. It isclear that the author has pointed out to the difficult that exists inassuming that one can reverse events and assume that the world wasconstructed as a house.
Whereas the second reading focuses more on the presence and thenature of God, it is clear that the first reading focused on theaspect of epistemocrats and the lack of knowledge. This is a majordifference in the two class readings. Although the two readings arephilosophical in nature, their content seems to be different. Thefirst reading was describing the process through which people arelimited in their knowledge on how they can make predictions or answerquestions. The second reading is more or less about arguments overthe existence, nature and the cause of the universe.
Taleb, N. N. (2008). The black swan: The impact of the highlyimprobable. London: Penguin.