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anti-résumé, 2010

(Not a portrait of me by Frederic Leighton.)

Name: Not Clive James

Age: Missed most of the Twentieth Century

Address: Almost nowhere, really.

Nationality: Not a great deal. I don't participate in Scottish culture, any more than I have to by merit of enculturation.

Languages: Can't speak Gaelic, Spanish, Cornish, Saxon, nor...

Work: I've never had a full-time job.

Non-interests: Sport, war, Tarski, collecting anything, scale-modelling, surfing, bell-ringing, spelunking.

Education lapses:

No economics, no philosophy, no gender, no business studies, no psychology, no politics, no French, no Chinese, no grammar (properly). I'm also quite bad at geography.

Tertiary: No law, no computing, no engineering, no geology, no medical, no pure maths.

I've made definitive surveys of no field - nor any phenomenon, physical, cultural, or other. I know nothing of Nussbaum, I am ignorant of Avenarius, I haven't a clue about Conway. I've contributed nothing to either the mainstream nor dissenting schools of economic thought.

I've never read Hemingway, Goethe, Brookner, Isherwood - nor anything from the Harlem Renaissance (nor much of the Euro Renaissance) - nor Houellebecq, Duras, Vargos Llosa, Thackaray, Musil, Bainbridge, Naipaul, that Girl With the Dragon stuff, Zola, Behn, Updike, Wolfe, Richardson, Barth, Byatt, Bellow, Brecht, Kazantzakis, Paz - almost no Classical stuff - Smollett, Wharton, Trollope, Nin, neither Amis, Eco, Roth, Coetzee, Tóibín, no Christie or Hammett, nothing I could afterwards identify as "chicklit" (except Austen?) and, despite heroic efforts, I have not yet successfully climbed a Pynchon.

There are also a vast number of things I do not know that I don't know about. (I imagine.)

References who don't know me at all: Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Bruce Campbell, Johann Hari, Deirdre McCloskey, Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi, John Worrall, Guo Qian, James Corden.


There's seriousness to this:

When we compete for jobs, or lovers, or whatever, there's pressure on us to distort upwards, to portray ourselves as positively as possible (if not more). Now, since we can't disclose everything about ourselves, selective reporting is obviously not wrong in itself. But there's a kind of endemic anxiety that ensures that our approach to our CVs mirrors our approach to life.

It becomes the job of rivals to point out our limitations and lacks; being clear about negative facts - a prerequisite for avoiding delusion - is seen as modesty or a snub, a jab, a harm. If knowledge were climbing, we refuse to look down, and end up not moving at all, but upturn only our nose.

Useful scepticism is eroded by all kinds of things: the market operation above, by epistemic busyness, and above all by our universal psychological foibles. Nassim Taleb has spent his life pointing out that this leads to a dangerous fragility in our theories and lives; all the way down to our metaphysics, all the way back to the MRCA.

It is useful and impressing to be able to list one's strengths. But to have an eye on one's weakness is noble.


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