On the uncertainty of our judgement

Source: EconLog
by Scott Sumner

“I have a confession to make. I’ve never understood military history. I don’t go out of my way to read military history, but while reading ordinary history I’ve often run across explanations of how the world’s greatest generals were able to achieve their success. There is frequently a description of how a general would ‘outflank his opponent’ and rout the enemy army. Or ‘seize the high ground.’ Or engage in a ‘surprise early morning attack.’ Here’s what I’ve never understood. Why don’t both sides try to do these things? I recently read an essay by Montaigne entitled, On the uncertainty of our judgement. Unlike me, Montaigne does understand military history. And he uses this essay to examine one example after another of where the same military strategy that worked in one case, failed in another. So then in what sense can we say that reference to these strategies explain anything at all?” (05/23/23)