Philosophy Graduate School, UC – Davis Fall 2003 – Fall 2005; Professor Reiff

The incoming UC Davis Philosophy Phd Class, Fall 2003

In the Fall of 2003 – after two years at an economics consulting firm in West Los Angeles called Economic Analysis LLC – I started the Philosophy Phd Program at UC – Davis. While I learned some useful things at Economic Analysis that would serve me well when I started Top Gun – mainly becoming adept with Excel – the long hours and tedious busywork had worn me down and convinced me to go back to graduate school to become a Professor. I thought the more reasonable hours and intellectually interesting work would be a better lifestyle for me – even if it meant less money than I would’ve made in business.

While I cut short my Phd program to start Top Gun in 2006 when I foresaw that when the housing bubble burst it would infect the entire economy, my two plus years at UC – Davis were important for my intellectual development. Most important was the discovery of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer in a 19th century Philosophy class taught my G.J. Mattey. Don’t tell the Philosophy Department but I actually stole a few books from its library that subsequently became very infuential on me: R.J. Hollingdale’s Nietzsche: The Man And His Philosophy, William Barrett’s Irrational Man and an anthology of Nietzsche’s writings edited by Walter Kaufmann.

With the Political Philosopher Dr. Mark Reiff at Mishka’s coffee shop in Downtown Davis, Friday May 24

One of the best parts of being a graduate student was being a teaching assistant under Professor Mark Reiff – the professor at UCD with whom I formed the closest relationship. In the Fall of 2003, I was a teaching assistant for his “Contemporary Ethical Issues”. This was during the time of the invasion of Iraq by George Bush 43 and Professor Reiff started the course with Michael Walzer’s Just And Unjust Wars. Previously I had only studied political philosophy in the context of a nation state so Just War Theory was fascinating to me – especially because it was so relevant at the moment. The discussion sections I ran with the students about the justice of the invasion of Iraq were electric. Republican students tended to defend it while Democrats decried it. In the Spring of 2004, I TA-ed “Critical Thinking”, again under Professor Reiff.

Professor Reiff was a true intellectual and scholar. Professor Reiff’s father had been the head of a union in Tennessee when he was growing up if I remember correctly. While he was far left of my politics, I liked and respected him because the ideas were so important to him, he always gave the opposing point of view a fair treatment and he was always respectful of my differing perspective. The most memorable class I took was a graduate seminar in “Political Philosophy” with Professor Reiff in which I wrote my final paper on Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, Utopia and defended Nozick against G.A. Cohen’s criticisms in Self Ownership, Freedom and Equality.

When I decided to leave the program to start Top Gun prior to getting my Phd, I completed the requirements for an MA, including writing a Master’s Thesis on “Trained Intuition”. The essential idea was that intuiton is an important part of human reason which isn’t solely a matter of inductive and deductive reasoning. Through experience and reflection on it, an expert can recognize patterns and his intutions about new situations can provide real insight into them. The argument applies very much to my current work analyzing markets where I reject purely formalistic approaches and rely on my trained intution to make connections between current market behavior and relevant previous instances that I have experienced.

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