A Neurotic in an Exotic Land; The Adventures of Professor Lucas

Here you will find some related writings (generally not as funny as the book) and a little info about the author, as well as an excerpt from the book.
The photo above should have been the book's cover!--and it
should be turned around!

All rights reserved.

Although some of the items I've now posted differ in their mood and style from the book itself, I am posting them here anyway because they date from roughly the time period in which the book was written--and, I believe they share a certain ambience with it. (note added 14 March 2010)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Small Correction: Part Two

Why, you may well ask, does the distinction even matter?

My original point was that when Americans label Slavic people as "fatalists" they (the Americans) were confused. They were failing to distinguish local and global fatalism.

Maybe global fatalism is unreasonable; but local fatalisms are part of the essence of rationality.

Dennett's example to illustrate the distinction involved someone who slipped on the ice and was about to fall--for that brief period before s/he hit the ground, no choice could change their downward path.

And, let's be clear about a further issue. The three authors rather blandly assume that with the coming of capitalism to "Eastern" Europe, people have more efficacious choices.

On my analysis, people in Eastern Europe were always rational agents who knew where to spend their energies. The confused ones were the visiting Americans who regarded them as fatalists (fatalists simpliciter); and I even suggested that optimistic Americans might suffer from their own sort of cultural blindness when it came to evaluating their own culture....

To summarize the errors:

1. My name was either misspelled or changed--depending on your interpretation.

2. A hypothetical (but erroneous) ethnic identity was attributed to me.

3. What I said was mis-represented in two ways: a. A distinction I drew was blurred.,

b. My actual view was dumbed down in a way that trivializes it.

Of course there is a difference (objectively speaking) between choices that make a difference and those that don't make a difference. (That hardly needs a scholarly citation.) The more interesting point which I made was that Slovaks and Czechs know the difference. (And even that isn't terribly interesting when I make it out of context.--But it is quite different than what the authors attribute to me.)


Arsen M. Djatej, Robert H. S. Sarikas, David L. Senteney, "An Investigation of the Comparative Accuracy and Bias of Equity Securities Analysts East and West European Firms Earnings Forecasts", International Business and Economics Research Journal, February 2008, Volume 7, Number 2, accessed 8 August 2010. www.cluteinstitute-onlinejournals.com/PDFs/672.pdf

Daniel C. Dennett, Elbow Room; The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting, MIT 1984

Mark Lovas, "American Optimism Meets Slavic Fatalism", The Journal of Mundane Behavior, Volume 2, Issue 3, (2001), pp. 355-377.


Now that capitalism is in global crisis, all of us who don't belong to the capitalist class seem to have fewer and fewer choices.


Oh yes, the above-mentioned authors might like to know that the word "Eastern" has a negative connotation for some audiences. And, as the Czechs like to say, to travel from Prague to Vienna, you have to go east....

And Another Thing...

About their actual article: It is amazing (to say the least) that they follow the practice (which they describe as standard practice) of referring to "Eastern Europeans" as "Russians"!!

It is as if the Berlin Wall never fell, and culturally the Czech, Slovaks, and Hungarians (among others) continued to be in the sphere of Russia.

But the real topic of their essay is risk and over-confidence (which they describe as "optimism"). The Eastern Europeans who interest them--equity security firm analysts--make overly optimistic predictions--overly optimistic as compared to their colleagues in the west of Europe.

There is something laughable about this--the authors' confidence that the former members of the Warsaw Pact will now have truly efficacious decision-making powers-- presumably because capitalism has come to their lands--as if workplace democracy were not essentially antagonistic to capitalism and essential to true freedom, and as if choosing from fifteen different shampoos were the height of human freedom!

Yet,the whole business is ludicrous in light of the current economic depression, and the fact a group of economists in the UK recently wrote a letter to the Queen of England where they blamed the whole thing on a failure to accurately assess risk!!! I.e., a failure on the part of Westerners....Who is over-confident now?


The capitalist emperor really has no clothes...

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