Showing posts from August, 2021

On those on top of the Gaussian (series: notes to myself)

This is a Gaussian curve . It is an elegant, bell-shaped curve that shows a normal distribution. The equation that generates it can be a bit off-putting. But when you look at it, you can immediately see that there are fewer things on the left, fewer things on the right, and many things in the middle. Take, for example, people and their moral lives. Very bad and very good people are rare, and that’s why the curve starts and ends so low: devils on the left and saints on the right. In the middle, you find most of us, just poor devils and decent sinners, who sometimes err and sometimes do the right thing. We are legions, and we are in the bulk of the Gaussian. Because virtue is in the middle – in medio stat virtus , as they say – only when left and right of the Gaussian are extreme excesses, not when it comes to how many people exercise virtues successfully. Shift from moral to intellectual achievements, and the story is not very different, but with a twist. Many so-called meritocratic sys