ZEN AND THE ART OF FUNK CAPITALISM
Karun Philip iUniverse (124 pp.)
ISBN: 978-0-595-20514-1; November 15, 2001
A writer applies an epistemology of fallibility to diverse areas, including economics, politics, and law.
Debut author Philip endorses many political attachments—democracy, individual liberty, and legal due process just to name a small representative sampling. But he deduces the lot of them from an “axiom of fallibility,” the epistemological recognition that one’s beliefs must always be understood as only incompletely substantiated. The author provides a very brief, sketchy—and as a result, necessarily underdeveloped—philosophical history of fallibility, an evolution that, for Philip, culminates in the work of the economist Friedrich Hayek. Following Hayek’s lead, the author transforms this skeptical posture into a principle of caution, a “cosmic speed limit on intelligence,” because any economic or political arrangement is simply too complicated for any individual or group to fully grasp with predictive certainty. Moreover, an insistence on irremediable fallibility functions as an antidote to coercion, which presumes an intellectual confidence that no one can justifiably maintain. Philip applies the axiom widely: to banking practices, ethics, and law as well as to an interpretation of the three Abrahamic religions and a look at Hinduism and Buddhism in an extended appendix at the conclusion of this very concise study. The apex of the work is the treatment of poverty—the author argues for an approach that avoids the heavy-handed intrusions of a welfare state, and the blind deference to markets espoused by an unrestrained libertarianism. In short, Philip contends that the “non-disclosure” of information counts as a form of coercion—this is never adequately established—and that paring down the barriers to knowledge in banking, education, and entrepreneurship can effectively ameliorate systemic poverty. Like much of this intriguing book, the argument is developed so quickly and densely that it manages to be thought-provoking but never persuasive. The author, so attuned to the limits of human knowledge, seems aware of this defect in his work. His interpretation of law and by extension politics is largely based on a prohibition of coercion, but he concedes that “coercion is a word that is difficult, if not impossible, to fully define so we must be reconciled to continually refine our definition of each specific type of coercion as we detect it.”
A stimulating but ultimately unconvincing application of fallibility to virtually everything.