Taleb, Feyerabend & Popper

July 21, 2009

Scott Locklin dismisses Taleb in a recent post. I won’t get into the quant debate, as I’m not qualified to judge, but I will pick up on Locklin likening Taleb to Paul Feyerabend. The comparison may be a plausible one in terms of social behaviour; Taleb and Feyerabend both acted as controversialists, enjoying causing a stir in their respective technical communities. But in philosophical terms they’re poles apart. Taleb is a Popperian. The media career Locklin decries is built on a rebranding of Popper‘s central insight: falsificationism. Taleb simply referred to falsificationism as “the black swan” and applied it to finance. Feyerabend started off as a Popperian, and and became an “epistemological anarchist”, which is something quite different to the falsificationism espoused by Taleb and, incidentally, Soros. To simplify massively, falsificationists believe science proceeds by conjecture and refutation, and Feyerabend maintains that there is only one rule: that there are no rules !

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