Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Further thoughts on Taleb's Antifragility: Things That Gain From Disorder:

Via Negativa: the removal of exposure to things that cause harm is more beneficial than adding preventative measures, safeguards, or additional supplementation.

In fact, often excessive preventative measures cause more harm, e.g. iatrogenics, when excessive medical intervention causes more harm than the original illness (i.e. going to hospital for illness and catching an infection in hospital; or over-prescription of medicines.)

This idea of Via Negativa runs through several of Patanjali's Yamas.

I find the Yamas that don't explicitly incorporate Via Negativa greatly benefit from this perspective.

Patanjali suggests to Do No Harm (Ahimsa), not Help Others.

Satya: Truthfulness; a Via Negativa approach would be Absence of Falsehood.

Asteya: Non-stealing, as opposed to a directive toward Giving.

Brahmacharya: Absence of sex, or abstinence, or celibacy.

Aparigraha: Absence of grasping, as opposed to Letting Go.

(Regarding Brahmacharya: You have to do some linguistic contortionism to arrive at any translation other than celibacy. Celibacy does not appear to be a good idea for most people (not all), and appears to reflect the Jain influence on Patanjali ((as all the Yamas are taken wholeheartedly from earlier Jain texts)).

However Brahmacharya is an important Yama as it brings front and center the complications inherent in most (not all) sexual relations.)

The takeaway for me is that many of the Yamas emphasize that it's more important to not do wrong than it is to do right.