Tuesday, October 29, 2013

We Owe Gratitude to Haidt, Gladwell & Campbell

Many people came to know Nassim Nicholas Taleb via the works of Malcolm Gladwell, just as many people from my generation came to know some serious literature in our adolescence via Joseph Campbell. 

Similar things can surely be said of Jonathan Haidt. Even so, Gladwell, Campbell, and Haidt get little respect among academics. In part, this is because they write for a wider audience. Academic nebbishes use language that's deliberately and unnecessarily abstruse, language that's intended to exclude the uninitiated. They hate popularizers like Gladwell, Campbell, and Haidt because they dare to translate a profession’s jealously guarded esoteric knowledge into plain speech—viz., they hate them because they're easily accessible.

That said, most of us outgrow our Gladwells, Campbells, and Haidts. We move on to bigger and better things. And that's fine. But forgetting our debt to them is NOT fine. All to the contrary. Remaining silent when academic snobs attack authors like Haidt, Campbell, and Gladwell is obscene. Failing to defend them is unseemly. We owe them gratitude and respect, much as we owe our parents gratitude and respect—even if we feel like we've outgrown their usefulness to us.

- Comment on Taleb's Facebook Page

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