Thursday, June 28, 2007

Human Achievement

So i picked up the book Human Achievement by Charles Murray. . . So far, it's a pretty good book. Basically he's statistically analyzing references to people in the arts and sciences to seek their eminence and excellence. It's a really intriguing read for two reasons, first it tells you just why eminent people are eminent (well, kinda) and second it has you evaluate your own notions of judging excellence.

For instance, i know little about European classical music, so i can't really argue about it. So the book has me wondering if when i listen to European classical music whether i'd agree with the experts. So far i do like bach and mozart, so that has me have a grudging agreement with the 'eurpoean classical music aficianados'. Why grudging? because i'd like to say that they dont' know what they're talking about if i ever heard them say that they can't get into hip-hop.

anyhoo, I wanted to read the book a long time ago but for more retributative reasons (is that a word?). I wanted to see how much of a fool this guy is. This is the same guy that came out with the book The Bell Curve a while back. And amidst all the hype and counter-racism and racism claims and all, i've always wondered about his sampling methods. At least in this book he kinda skirted some of the issue of Eurocentrism by [get this] only counting books by people from different cultures! For instance, to judge the relative merit of English literature, he only included the books of non-english-speaking writers!. So there's a one-up for anyone who's been mentioned across a language barrier.

I'm only a bit through the book, but the prefacing and hedging and explaining before we get down to the get down is rather exciting. And apparently he has lots of explanation of his sampling and statistical methods, which i'm also curious about . . . who cares about facts, i care about how you come to know a fact.
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