The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

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Overview

By the author of the modern classic The Black Swan, this collection of aphorisms and meditations expresses his major ideas in ways you least expect.

The Bed of Procrustes takes its title from Greek mythology: the story of a man who made his visitors fit his bed to perfection by either stretching them or cutting their limbs. It represents Taleb’s view of modern civilization’s hubristic side effects—modifying humans to satisfy technology, blaming reality for not fitting economic ...

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The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

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Overview

By the author of the modern classic The Black Swan, this collection of aphorisms and meditations expresses his major ideas in ways you least expect.

The Bed of Procrustes takes its title from Greek mythology: the story of a man who made his visitors fit his bed to perfection by either stretching them or cutting their limbs. It represents Taleb’s view of modern civilization’s hubristic side effects—modifying humans to satisfy technology, blaming reality for not fitting economic models, inventing diseases to sell drugs, defining intelligence as what can be tested in a classroom, and convincing people that employment is not slavery.

Playful and irreverent, these aphorisms will surprise you by exposing self-delusions you have been living with but never recognized.

With a rare combination of pointed wit and potent wisdom, Taleb plows through human illusions, contrasting the classical values of courage, elegance, and erudition against the modern diseases of nerdiness, philistinism, and phoniness.

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Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
…happily provocative…Mr. Taleb is so calculatedly abrasive in this smart, attention-getting little book that he achieves his main objective. "A good maxim," he writes, "allows you to have the last word without even starting a conversation."
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781846144585
  • Publisher: Allen Lane
  • Publication date: 12/28/2010
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb spends most of his time as a flâneur, meditating in cafés across the planet. A former trader, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University. He is the author of Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan, which has spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list and has become an intellectual, social, and cultural touchstone.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    "If you want people to read a book, tell them it is overrated."

    I see a few earlier reviewers have already tried to publicize Taleb this way.

    As may be... Taleb is working in the tradition of La Rochefoucauld, Martial, Leonidas, and the notebooks of Geoffrey Madan. He originally ran many of these epigrams on Twitter, and I think the epigram is probably the best use of Twitter. (Taleb's since retreated to the walled garden of Facebook, but he's like that.)

    Is the book therefore short? Yes. But it packs a fairly powerful punch to anyone willing to listen. Are these observations one could find sifting through other literature? Perhaps, but it would take a *lot* of sifting, and Taleb is justifiably proud of his time in his library. Why should one spurn a witness telling us these thoughts are still relevant today, and willing to share the fruits of his reading?

    "I wonder whether a bitter enemy would be jealous if he discovered that I hated someone else."

    "Usually, what we call a 'good listener' is someone with skillfully polished indifference."

    Newton spoke of his shiny pebbles and pretty shells. Taleb's pebbles have been through his rock tumbler for some time, and are all the more smooth for it.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2010

    Eh...

    It was okay. Had I realized what I was getting I would not have spent $10. I would still have probably purchased it for $2 though. Not exactly what I expected.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 15, 2011

    For one of the great "thinkers of our time" it was pretty mundane

    Nothing new. Just a bunch of thoughts and personal opinions jumbled into subsections and marketed as something insightful. If the book hadn't been given to me, I would have been upset to pay this much for something that took me less than 30 minutes to read. If you're a technophobe, independently wealthy, or maybe a little bit slothful and in need of some good quotes - you may enjoy it more. The author's other books are much better, but even then, I wouldn't assign "great thinker" to this man. Nothing you can't get from basic Psychology books, Eastern Philosophy, and Sociology. So many quotes degrading people that work a 9-5. I'm glad the author can be so smug while he hocks crap on unsuspecting buyers.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2011

    Many thoughts -- each is a pearl -- not a light read.

    Nassim Taleb takes extremely brave move to write the book in a format of aphorisms. Some of them I did not understand no matter how much I tried, some of them I love, and some of them I had to think for hours before I got them.

    It is not a book I can grab and read in a couple of hours; it takes weeks and months. But many aphorisms I remembered forever.

    You have to be in a mood for the book; if you are the book is great.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    satiated

    When an aphorist frontally demeans the reader he steps onto disintegrating ground. A Heisenberg-like event.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2010

    Worth reading...

    The Bed of Procrustes is a book of aphorisms. I don't agree with them all, that's because I'm a different person, but most all of them give me material to ponder. I am enjoying reading the book. I have receommended it to friends. The title is what caught my attention, initially. The myth of Procrustes is one of my favorites. Makes a lot of sense to me that institutions are Procrustes' bed.

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