Saturday, October 6, 2012


"Consider, from this perspective rather than the one from which it is usually considered (the nature and function of magic), Evans-Pritchard's famous discussion of Azande witchcraft. He is, as he explicitly says but no one seems much to have noticed, concerned with common-sense thought—Zande common-sense thought—as the general background against which the notion of witchcraft is developed. It is the flouting of Zande notions of natural causation, what in the mere experience of the world leads to what, that suggests the operation of some other sort of causation—Evans-Pritchard calls it "mystical"—which an in fact rather materialistic concept of witchcraft (it involves a blackish substance located in an individual's belly, and so on) sums up. 

Take a Zande boy, he says, who has stubbed his foot on a tree stump and developed an infection. The boy says it's witchcraft. Nonsense, says Evans-Pritchard, out of his own common-sense tradition: you were merely bloody careless; you should have looked where you were going. I did look where I was going; you have to with so many stumps about, says the boy— and if I hadn't been witched I would have seen it. Furthermore, all cuts do not take days to heal, but on the contrary, close quickly, for that is the nature of cuts. But this one festered, thus witchcraft must be involved.

Or take a Zande potter, a very skilled one, who, when now and again one of his pots cracks in the making, cries "witchcraft!" Nonsense! says Evans-Pritchard, who, like all good ethnographers, seems never to learn: of course sometimes pots crack in the making; it's the way of the world. But, says the potter, I chose the clay carefully, I took pains to remove all the pebbles and dirt, I built up the clay slowly and with care, and I abstained from sexual intercourse the night before. And still it broke. What else can it be but witchcraft? And yet another time, when he was ill—feeling unfit, as he puts it—Evans-Pritchard wondered aloud to some Zandes whether it may have been that he had eaten too many bananas, and they said, nonsense! bananas don't cause illness; it must have been witchcraft.

Thus, however "mystical" the content of Zande witchcraft beliefs may or may not be (and I have already suggested they seem so to me only in the sense that I do not myself hold them), they are actually employed by the Zande in a way anything but mysterious—as an elaboration and defense of the truth claims of colloquial reason."

Cliff Geertz -- Common Sense as a Cultural System in Local Knowledge

Does low beta + leverage cause outperformance? Or does quality cause low beta and allow for leverage, thereby causing outperformance? 

If you receive the former as common sense, you too may become a market wizard. 

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