Notes business

Book 7 (Skin in the Game)

My lifetime motto is that mathematicians think in (well, precisely defined and mapped) objects and relations, jurists and legal thinkers in constructs, logicians in maximally abstract operators, and…fools in words.

Words have ambiguous meanings – this is bad for decision making. Philosophy was born out of the need for rigor in discourse – Socrates asked people what they thought they meant about what they said. This is in opposition to the sophist’s promotion of rhetoric.

Belief can be epistemic or procedural. Some beliefs are decorative, others are functional and aid in survival, while others are literal.

When one of these fundamentalists talks to a Christian, he is convinced that the Christian takes his own beliefs literally, while the Christian is convinced that the Salafi has the same oft-metaphorical concepts that he has, to be taken seriously but not literally—and, often, not very seriously. Religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and, to some extent Shiite Islam, evolved (or, rather, let their members evolve in developing a sophisticated society) precisely by moving away from the literal. The literal doesn’t leave any room for adaptation.


The idea of belief without sacrifice is new in history. The strength of a creed does not rest on the evidence of the power of its gods, but on how much skin in the game its worshippers have.

Love without sacrifice is theft (Procrustes). This applies to any form of love, particularly the love of God.


An atheist is defined by their deeds, by how different their actions are from those of a theist, not his beliefs and other symbolic matters.

Let us take stock here. There are people who are atheists in actions, religious in words (most Orthodox and Catholic Christians) and others who are religious in actions, religious in words (Salafi Islamists and suicide bombers) but I know of nobody who is atheist in both actions and words, completely devoid of rituals, respect for the dead, and superstitions (say a belief in economics, or in the miraculous powers of the mighty state and its institutions).

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily LifeBook 7 (Skin in the Game) 1

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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