Sunday, February 05, 2006

Wonderful review (and dressing down) of a book I also like and dressed down

Thoroughly enjoyed Scott Rafer's review of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink.

I reviewed the book myself last year.

What's interesting is this:

Both Scott and I enjoyed the read and found interesting take-aways from it.

Both Scott and I were disappointed at some higher level with what is missing from the book.

I was disappointed that the book didn't tie all its clever and compelling anecdotes together in some cohesive way, and didn't offer much guidance for individuals hoping to encourage the positive aspects of snap judgments, while discouraging the more unpleasant aspects.

Scott, on the other hands, is disappointed in two lacks: the lack of actual neuro-biological information on how decisions are made, and the lack of acknowledgment that some of the "blinking" techniques Gladwell lauds can be found in Buddhist teachings and writings.

Gladwell is often dismissed as merely popularizing other people's work and ideas. And I usually defend this as a good: that he is communicating valuable ideas to a wider audience than would get it through their original channels. The question is whether there is some laziness in attribution or in providing sign posts for those of us who want to explore certain of the presented ideas more deeply.

Scott's closing paragraph is pretty harsh:
Was Gladwell’s decision to exclude Buddhism a commercial decision in which intellectual honesty was deemed secondary to book sales? Did the author and his publisher think that including references to a spiritual discipline would make Western readers take the book less seriously or intimidate us in some way? I can’t help but feel that’s the case.

I wouldn't presume to know the answer to Scott's question, but I would like to.

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