Monday, February 23, 2015

Reflections on the Core: The Wealth of Nations - Adam Smith

“The difference of natural talents in different man is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause, as the effect of the division of labour.
The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education. When they came into the world … they were, perhaps, very much alike, and neither their parents nor playfellows could perceive any remarkable difference.
Without the disposition of truck, barter, and exchange, every man must have procured to himself every necessary and conveniency of life which he wanted. All must have had the same duties to perform, and the same work to do, and there could have been no such difference of employment as could alone give occasion to any great difference of talents.”

- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter II

I am reading this book with a famous Columbia joke in mind: A Goldman Sachs recruiter asked an applicant to put his hand on Smith’s Wealth of Nation, and take an oath that he renounces Marx(ism)… (both are required texts in Columbia’s Core Curriculum). Yet, while Smith’s is known as the father of modern day capitalism, it seems that he was far from being simply a material capitalist; he was a philosopher, and some kind of humanist as well. While he constantly ignores Rousseau’s (direct or indirect, I don’t know from an historical perspective if he ever read Rousseau) philosophy about inequality and the state of nature, he is very far from a modern capitalist. An urge for equality, between all sects of humanity bleeds through his words. But after all, maybe I should reconsider what I think about capitalism.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Reflections on the Core: Darwin - Charles Darwin

"This suggests some of the sources of Darwin's greatness. The universality of his talents and interests had preadapted him to become a bridge-builder between fields. It enabled him to use his background as a naturalist to theorize about some of the most challenging problems that pique our curiosity. And, in the face of widespread beliefs to the contrary, tual boldness, and an ability to combine the best qualities of a naturalist-observer, philosophical theoretician, and experimentalist -the world has so far seen such a combination only once, and it was the man Charles Darwin."
- Ernst Mayr, Who Is Darwin? (1991) - in "Darwin, A Morton Critical Edition"
The portrait of Darwin as explained in this article, is one that inspired me in the changes and struggles that I went through in my own life - on the way to a self valued life. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the world, on the 206th birthday of the man that changed the life of the world as a whole, and my life as a person. Darwin was and is my personal Messiah in some sense. For both his work, but even more his thinking, his principles of science, and the power of coming out in saying 'this is what I believe (or better understand) to accurate' doesn't matter what popular opinion is.