Jump to content

Build Theme!

Photo
- - - - -

Philosophy


  • Please log in to reply
88 replies to this topic

#1 kotmj

kotmj

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 7,674 posts
  • LocationBukit Rimau

Posted 14 November 2012 - 03:11 AM

I have deep misgivings towards those who study philosophy. Mostly, they're historians, and I have similar misgivings about those. The worst breed I've come across is a theologian I lived with for a while.

This thread is a little contribution to reclaim the practice of humans thinking about humanity from those who have made it an obscure and irrevelant subject.

I find the work of Alain de Botton entertaining, but also important. Important because he is one of the few who tries to make the work of philosophers useful to the broader population.

But what I really like is the making of sense of our rapidly changing world. The bigger and faster the change, the more we need to philosophise -- the alternative is to be guided by an obsolete understanding of the world.

For me, a talk like this is philosophy. So much fresher and relevant than reading about dead mediaeval writers.



#2 joonian

joonian

    Megatimer

  • Alfa once more
  • 2,134 posts
  • Location-

Posted 14 November 2012 - 05:19 AM

The idea that philosophy consists of reading medieval texts is itself an outmoded one. Some of the most important philosophy has been done in the last 20 years on issues of bio-ethics, cybernetics and technology and many other areas. Would you like some suggestions for reading material?

De Botton is a philosopher in the mould of the classic Continental philosopher; the image of the scholar in the Parisian cafe, debating existential matters over too many Gauloises, cafe au laits and, later, Bordeaux. Personally, I am not a fan of the Continental school -- as you say, too imprecise, verging on irrelevant, and sometimes just plain unreadable. De Botton is the philosopher as showman, rather like Fareed Zakaria to international relations and diplomacy. It's accessible but I am not sure it's important.

#3 mamzer

mamzer

    Smalltimer

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 38 posts
  • LocationLondon

Posted 14 November 2012 - 05:39 AM

It's the very nature of philosophy that makes it imprecise. The study of human nature in a dimension beyond those our primal instincts dictate makes any attempt to theorise somewhat impossible. Then again, there isn't a clear line between certain disciplines of science and philosophy e.g. political science and the purpose of science, at least to me, is to develop a set a reliable generalisations.

I do tend to agree that de Botton is somewhat of a showman but I did enjoy Religion for Atheists. On the other end of the spectrum, I also did find the works of St Thomas Aquinas interesting.

#4 kotmj

kotmj

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 7,674 posts
  • LocationBukit Rimau

Posted 15 November 2012 - 01:49 AM

I have this theory: A field like philosophy is backwards because it has not found an organising idea that makes it rigorous. Alchemy existed for a long time before it became chemistry. It became chemistry when humans discovered that it becomes more productive and useful if you approach it with the scientific mindset. Until this field finds a way of inquiry that makes it productive, it will remain useless. Can you imagine physics without its language, mathematics? Mathematics made physics rigorous. What makes philosophy rigorous? Nothing.

I once had a housemate who was sponsored by SAP AG to do an MBA. Philosophy was part of the course, and I took the liberty to leaf through the books his lecturer wrote. Its not often one finds institutionalised farce, but this was it --- I came face to face with a farce.

thelondonlounge has some people who come from such a background. They can write long posts about their jackets or the practice of tailoring. After they've spent themselves of their verbosity, I find myself asking, "So? What's the point?" This is like approaching chemistry with the mindset of an alchemist. It is far more productive to approach tailoring from an engineering mindset.

Joon, it would be great if you could recommend a book or two. I am not optimistic. There is nothing I use in life that was produced by a professional philosopher. The ideas I use are by people forced to become amateur philosophers because they need to make sense of things.

I guess this thread is about amateur philosophy. Until I change my mind, I think it's the best sort of philosophy.

#5 kotmj

kotmj

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 7,674 posts
  • LocationBukit Rimau

Posted 15 November 2012 - 02:19 AM

I find Paul Graham to be an amateur philosopher worth reading. I've been reading him for years.

http://paulgraham.com/articles.html

(Start from the bottom, it's more interesting.)

#6 joonian

joonian

    Megatimer

  • Alfa once more
  • 2,134 posts
  • Location-

Posted 15 November 2012 - 08:18 AM

Oh dear. Paul Graham. I hate to be a wet blanket but he really is the best example of uncritical techno-capitalism. (NB: Here's a rebuttal of PG's famous essay which sounds quite reasonable. The problem with PG is his audience is completely uncritical and usually very poorly read. When's the last time you had a conversation with a Web developer or Objective C programmer or someone of a similarly technical bent that was even mildly mind expanding? http://www.idlewords...d_blowhards.htm)

Well you may have had the misfortune of encountering poor philosophy so far. It's just like someone who has never seen a properly tailored garment. Since you like the rigours of logic, as do I, you might want to start with Bertrand Russell. His Principles of Mathetmatics are the foundation of the Analytic school of philosophy, and poor undergraduates like I once was are still made to learn to construct logical arguments based on Russell's ideas.

If you want to look for the social impact of a professional philosopher, have a look at Peter Singer's Animal Liberation. This is a work of bioethics that is both highly provocative and logically rigorous.

#7 kotmj

kotmj

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 7,674 posts
  • LocationBukit Rimau

Posted 17 November 2012 - 12:34 AM

I just read the rebuttal to PG's essay. I find it of vastly lower quality than PG's writing. He basically just went ballistic. The very title tells you this --"Dabblers and Blowhards". Instead of a thoughtful, personal essay of why PG's thesis does not resonate with him, he went of a diatribe.

Look at the amount of undeserved hate in this:
"All of these statements are wrong, or dumb, or both, and yet they are sprinkled through various essays like raisins in a fruitcake, with no further justification, and the reader is expected to enjoy the chewy burst of flavor and move on to the next tidbit."

PG has made clear he writes to help himself think. His essays are explorations.

I have to agree though I've never had a "mind expanding" conversation with a programmer. I've worked with quite a few. Actually I'm trying to figure out when I've ever had a mind expanding conversation...

#8 joonian

joonian

    Megatimer

  • Alfa once more
  • 2,134 posts
  • Location-

Posted 17 November 2012 - 12:54 AM

Well, of course it is, he made it clear that it's a rebuttal. I'm not sure hate is the right word here, but clearly, he isn't suffering a fool (in this case, PG) gladly. Why? Because PG knows little about the technique of painting or art history, but decided to write an essay about it. It would be a bit like me writing an essay about the finer points of tailoring as a metaphor for, I don't know, the state of global politics or something.

In any case, if you think PG should be exempt of such serious scrutiny just because he has marked his essays 'explorations', then surely the same standard must apply to the rest of the philosophy that you've encountered so far and judged to be rather pointless.

But do have a look at the Russell and Singer and see how you like those. You can also check out a very nice podcast called Philosophy Bites as well, which connects contemporary issues with various schools of philosophical inquiry.

#9 kotmj

kotmj

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 7,674 posts
  • LocationBukit Rimau

Posted 17 November 2012 - 12:59 AM

Oh I have. Many years back with the marketing manager of an agricultural machine maker. He was very articulate and told me how the business worked. I remember being very impressed by him. It was also a very generous gesture from a marketing manager to an intern. I think it went on for 40 minutes.

Another one came to me while I wrote the above. It was the R&D director at an offset printing machine maker (I believe the world's largest). But through that short conversation, I got the feeling this company was thinking all wrong.

#10 kotmj

kotmj

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 7,674 posts
  • LocationBukit Rimau

Posted 17 November 2012 - 01:17 AM

So I just had a look at the financial performance of the offset printing machine maker. Their revenues are lower today than when I had a conversation with the R&D director. They have made operating losses every year since.

#11 joonian

joonian

    Megatimer

  • Alfa once more
  • 2,134 posts
  • Location-

Posted 17 November 2012 - 01:23 AM

OK, now I'm lost.

#12 kotmj

kotmj

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 7,674 posts
  • LocationBukit Rimau

Posted 17 November 2012 - 01:32 AM

I was writing the post on mind expanding conversations I had when you posted first.

#13 kotmj

kotmj

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 7,674 posts
  • LocationBukit Rimau

Posted 24 November 2012 - 10:35 PM

http://m.youtube.com...h?v=UHzwqf_JkrA

A lecture by Peter Singer.

#14 terrorsquad

terrorsquad

    Megatimer

  • Yang Berbahagia
  • 1,581 posts

Posted 09 December 2012 - 12:28 AM

I know some of the members of this forum have their own business and are running it either full time or part time so would be interesting to share this with you guys (also, I didn't know where to put this).

I was reading an article on a former drug lord (Colombia) and he was asked what was his business philosophy that made him so successful (he controlled the entire drug market in large parts of Colombia and also exported billions worth of drugs to the US). His answer was very simple.

"I make sure there is no competition at all".

Of course, being a drug lord and all, you could easily figure what he did to ensure this happened. He stated he knew all the details of his operations; from the names, addresses and family members of his own workers to even those of his clients. This way, he always had the upper hand when one of his workers or clients betrayed him; he will just go out and slaughter their whole family.

I wonder what will be a less barbaric way to do what he does and be successful.

#15 Pierre Hermé

Pierre Hermé

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 511 posts
  • LocationKuala Lumpur/ Paris (once a year during Roland Garros)

Posted 09 December 2012 - 12:11 PM

I know some of the members of this forum have their own business and are running it either full time or part time so would be interesting to share this with you guys (also, I didn't know where to put this).

I was reading an article on a former drug lord (Colombia) and he was asked what was his business philosophy that made him so successful (he controlled the entire drug market in large parts of Colombia and also exported billions worth of drugs to the US). His answer was very simple.

"I make sure there is no competition at all".

Of course, being a drug lord and all, you could easily figure what he did to ensure this happened. He stated he knew all the details of his operations; from the names, addresses and family members of his own workers to even those of his clients. This way, he always had the upper hand when one of his workers or clients betrayed him; he will just go out and slaughter their whole family.

I wonder what will be a less barbaric way to do what he does and be successful.


Mergers and Acquisitions. Although not physically barbaric but I think it is equally horrible when it is forced upon. But sometimes that can be a win-win situation for all parties.
Bonjour, je m'apelle Pierre Hermé (avec accent aigu é).

#16 kotmj

kotmj

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 7,674 posts
  • LocationBukit Rimau

Posted 10 December 2012 - 12:41 AM

You can try a trick by one of the patriarchs of the Soong Dynasty. He would send to the houses of those who were uncooperative a coffin.

#17 terrorsquad

terrorsquad

    Megatimer

  • Yang Berbahagia
  • 1,581 posts

Posted 10 December 2012 - 09:24 AM

You can try a trick by one of the patriarchs of the Soong Dynasty. He would send to the houses of those who were uncooperative a coffin.


This is a brilliant idea. Or maybe a severed hand/finger would be more intimidating :P

#18 Petepan

Petepan

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 588 posts
  • LocationSydney

Posted 10 December 2012 - 12:06 PM

I know some of the members of this forum have their own business and are running it either full time or part time so would be interesting to share this with you guys (also, I didn't know where to put this).

I was reading an article on a former drug lord (Colombia) and he was asked what was his business philosophy that made him so successful (he controlled the entire drug market in large parts of Colombia and also exported billions worth of drugs to the US). His answer was very simple.

"I make sure there is no competition at all".

Of course, being a drug lord and all, you could easily figure what he did to ensure this happened. He stated he knew all the details of his operations; from the names, addresses and family members of his own workers to even those of his clients. This way, he always had the upper hand when one of his workers or clients betrayed him; he will just go out and slaughter their whole family.

I wonder what will be a less barbaric way to do what he does and be successful.


I am not sure whether your question is 1) specific ie how to deal with competitors in the drug business OR 2) general ie how to deal with competitors in your own business. In formulating this, I am assuming we are not talking about the same business.

The competitive landscape of businesses are littered with corporate corpses. This is just a natural fact of life. If you look at the composition of the top 100 companies in the US, you will find that the current list is very different from the list of 50 years ago or the list 100 year ago. From memory, over a span of 100 years, there are only a handful of companies that survived, and even then, not in the same form/structure. GE is one example, perhaps Ford is another. Another example is Walmart, whose success came at a price of hundreds of local mum-and-pop shops. Over in Australia, the dominance of the two supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, has mean the demise of many local businesses.

Competitive destruction and renewal benefits society at large, as capital/resources are allocated to their best use. I am sure forum members will not bemoan the fact that our offsprings no longer have job opportunities in building horse carriages or assembling cassette tapes.

A successful business of necessity means overcoming competition. Obviously, we are not debating the merits of homicide, but elimination of competition is at its core. Broadly speaking, there are two ways to dominance. The first is by offering a unique product/service and there being no effective substitution for such product/service, By definition alone, this means no competitors. Alas, there are very few competitive advantages in business that cannot be replicated given enough time and money (just look at the fight between Apple and Samsung). So an alternative to dominance is via economies of scale, and being the lowest cost provider with some form of customer captivity has been argued to be the most effective. See Competition Demystified by Bruce Greenwald for further elaboration. Coca Cola is probably one of the best examples.

In terms of a thought exercise of being a drug lord, I would have thought that being the biggest player enables lots of economies of scale. Distribution, supply, connections, branding (possible if you think hard enough) and even R & D into unique (even legal) formulations comes to mind. Of course, the reality is that drug lords neither have the patience nor the savvy to do this....yet. Ultimately, I suppose eliminating competitors the old-fashioned way may have been the most cost effective bang for buck solution with the shortest possible payback period. The alternatives require too much capital spending with little short term visible returns.

#19 kotmj

kotmj

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 7,674 posts
  • LocationBukit Rimau

Posted 10 December 2012 - 12:27 PM

Another way to dominance is via network effects.

But I do not like to think in terms of competition. If you have imagination (few do), you needn't bother much about it. You seek new pastures a.k.a. Blue Ocean Strategy. Amazon is a great example.

http://www.charliero...w/content/12656

#20 Petepan

Petepan

    Megatimer

  • Members
  • 588 posts
  • LocationSydney

Posted 10 December 2012 - 01:00 PM

Blue Ocean Strategy is, IMO, just another fancy reword of the concept of surfing and disruptive technologies. The iPod with iTunes morphing into the iPhone is an example. I do not mean to cause offense, but ignoring competition is a higher order of hubris. Once again, history provides many examples of incumbents ignoring competitors at their peril eg IBM being a towering example when they ignored the advent of PCs in favour of mainframe. More recently Kodak Eastman. Even the likes of Sony, which by all reckoning should have been the logical company to invent the iPod and the iPhone, but alas, did not do so.

Further, like I said, there is no competitive advantage that cannot be eroded given enough time and money. For several decades, the ports in Australia have been dominated by two players. The excess capital return from investments are mouth watering, and barriers are very high in terms of infrastructure spending required to gain a toehold. This is coming to an end as Mr Li Ka-Shing has decided to join the party.

And talking about imagination, none possess it in spades as much as Apple. Time and again, they confound critics with breakthroughs such as iPods, iPhones (and the many iterations), iPad and the coming much anticipated AppleTV. Possibly the demise of Jobs is a big factor, but yet again, it shows that it is very difficult to sustain outsized returns without attracting competitors. And looking further back, how about Sony?

The key is not imagination per se. As the Innovator's Dilemna has pointed out, it is not that easy, and most R & D is usually channeled into adjacent markets, rather than brand new markets. It is not difficult to understand why- history is again littered with examples of how companies chasing new markets and getting into areas way out of their competencies is a surefire way to lose money. Anyone remember O/S 2 from IBM?

The key is not imagination per se- it is the management and harnessing of imagination, which is probably equivalent to R & D. Example, CSL, an Australian listed blood products company. Another example, Google.

Now let's talk about network effects. This concept has occupied my thoughts for the best part of a year. At the most basic level, you can see it at work when you want to try out a new restaurant, which you are more inclined to do so if it is packed to the rafters, than if it was empty. My take on this is that the network effect is basically just another form of customer captivity at play, and it will only last as long as the reason for captivity is there.

Shopping centres, especially those operated by Westfield, could be argued to have network effects at play. Then comes e-commerce enabling online retail, and shopping centres are now under siege, with the main retail tenants all struggling to stay relevant. Even newspapers, I can argue, are once the mother of all network effects. Now again, under tremendous pressures, being eroded by other network effects of specialised competitors in classifieds, jobs, real estate, etc.

We are now witnessing the many examples of the network effect working in reverse. Example, Myspace was dominant until Facebook came along. Myspace is now no more, from yay to nay in less than a decade. Another example is Groupon.

Ignore competitors at your peril. As Sun Tzu says, "Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy, Hundred Battles Fought, Hundred Battles Won."




1 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


    Bing (1)