Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Caesar's Civil War, or Early Heuristics

I just finished reading Caesar's account of the Roman Civil War, which for me was an interesting exercise in first, trying to read between the lines of what was certainly some level of self-promotion and historical revision; and second, admiring the clear-thinkingness of the famous people of classical antiquity. Even if it was mostly B.S., it's very well-constructed B.S. that shows a cunning insight into human nature that Kahneman and Tversky would envy.

Next time I'm in Spain or Marseilles or North Africa, I'd love to visit some of the battle sites, but the real value in the work for me are Caesar's occasional incisive and pragmatic asides on human nature and the workings of the universe:

"In war, trivial causes can exert great consequences."

"It is a quirk of human nature that the unfamiliar or the unusual can cause overconfidence or anxiety."

"We are very ready to believe what we want to believe, and expect others to think as we do."

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