Friday, January 15, 2016

The joy of self-dissociation

What do investment bankers, IT professionals, and academic philosophers have in common? A remarkable ability to abstract from their own personal experiences and existential standpoint. They do it apparently in the pursuit of strict utilitarian rationalityfor the sake of profit, self- optimization, universally valid knowledge, wellbeing-maximizing charity, and related sub-goals (with traders also gaining a much-needed defensive mechanism, given the unforgiving nature of their “work”). This is, at least, the common theme in three articles I serendipitously read in quick succession: “The Happiness Code” by Jennifer Kahn (NYT), “Investment Bankers Severely Dissociate Their Sense of Self from Their Work” by Shannon Hall (Scientific American Mind), and “Add Your Own Egg” by Nakul Krishna (The Point). Incidentally, all three groups are handsomely rewarded for their radical self-abstraction – the successful philosophers with jobs, status, sense of intellectual superiority, and self-assured peace of mind, if not necessarily ballooning "net worth."