Certain quotations from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ”On Certainty” seem to imply that we can doubt everything: each statement that might be true still has some aspects that might make it possible to doubt it. Certainly, the issue of Goldman-Sachs and our understanding of financial systems, and our fear of their collapse and what it might entail has spawned a wide variety of opinion from the conspiracy to the comic, with many assertions of certainty and authority on the subject of which the truth has proved to be a very tricky animal to capture; an elusive shapeshifting creature apparently capable of dematerialization on the faintest of whims. The axiom that investors like ”certainty” is also up for reevaluation; given the collapse of over-leveraged financial titans doing a Goliath and the success of Goldman-Sachs, there is an equally strong argument that chaos and uncertainty can be equally important, perhaps essential in the creation of wealth.
It is like the old aphorism like this one from an edition available on line: aphorisms in this book, which I quote now from an edition that I have found on line: “From its seeming to me – or to everyone – to be so, it doesn’t follow that it is so.” It implies the idea that everything that we might hold true might be different, not only in the sense that it has implications that may make it false ,for instance that our statement about an object is only true as long as we look at it. It may also be possible that our statement is false if we look at it from another viewpoint, for instance from the viewpoint of another person. Everything might be different, so it seems, and this is basically the position of a sceptic; the point of departure when deciding whether to send the banking system to the gallows and display their CEO’s in a public square like Benito Mussolini strung up like a quartered beef.
Though the aesthetic artistic attributes of whether a slow painful death, a quick assassination, or a long public process followed by inevitable death by some means is inherently appealing on grounds that the God’s should appeased occasionally by human sacrifice based on the ”people’s choice”, it might be more meritorious based on the possibility of the Gods of Karma that we put down our knife sharpening gear and take off our black hoods before rushing to judgement, despite the obvious temptation; the post appeasement period may result in more cognitive dissonance than had been foreseen.
The anti Goldman-Sachs movement has a fervor of religious fundamentalism that is a bit unsettling. Fire and brimstone seems to have a defintive need to create an Armageddon and destruction of the banking system as a harbinger of the apocalypse seems to be the secular means of choice to realize a nihilism and human suffering so that the Messiah can finally wake up, put on his/her bathrobe and slippers and come down from the heights or up from the cellar and make a hearty breakfast for us all. An example of this willful demagoguery has been the normally respectable Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine ran describing Goldman as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”.
The truth is not linear, but rather something without a known shape or recognizable algorithm. There is always the factor of uncertainty. Markets are imperfect, despite the myth that they are perfect as reflections of all known information.
Wittgenstein would have been an interesting choice as head of a company like Goldman-Sachs or as head of the Federal Reserve, since his basis of analysis is complementary with the decision making process of a Lloyd Blankfein. It is true, much can be doubted, in financial information but Blankfein like Wittgenstein make decisions based on a doubt of endless doubt based on the necessity for the belief of certaintly; something to mollify shareholders that there is a holy grail, or that life can exist on Mars. Both would pose the same quaestion that he doubts this endless doubt: “What we can ask is whether it can make sense to doubt it”. As Wittgenstein shows later in his On Certainty, in order to doubt we always need a frame of reference from which it is possible to doubt: “If you tried to doubt everything you would not get as far as doubting anything. The game of doubting itself presupposes certainty” This is a circular argument and it is not for nothing that the ”wheels of finance” , metaphorically have to be greased to keep spinning. Squeaky wheels get the grease in the form of TARP money, which helps maintain the allusion of circularity which ultimately is as doubtful as other geometric shapes. ”I doubt whether doubt will ever bring us to certainty, but I’m certain that certainty is in doubt” ( Hune Margulies )
For according to him the sceptic cannot be engaging in doubt at all. Our bedrock certainties are not susceptible of doubt. The sceptic is therefore under an illusion of doubt. It is not that the skeptical doubts are unnatural doubts and hence unlivable outside the unnatural conditions of philosophical reflections, but they are artificial, as in, not real, not doubts at all , but a mere simulacrum of doubt. For Wittgenstein, philosophical skepticism is in fact only doubt behavior. That is, when all these synthetic financial products were devised, whether designed to work, fail, self implode, timed explode, investor erode, or incommode, there was a period of conception and gestation when there was no doubt. The attainment of perfection Blankfein alluded to.