Monday, January 18, 2016

on a mission to seek and seek and seek

In response to a huge variety of motivations, some more excusable than others, legions of people choose to base their actions and thoughts on the accuracy of beliefs that lack sufficient corroboration or reasonableness. They direct themselves, physically and mentally, as if the beliefs were well-established. But how do they manage to keep it up, if they're the type who aren't generally receptive to letting shaky beliefs go unchallenged?

Perhaps they may summarily declare that the less credible parts of the beliefs they follow are mere trifles that they don't try to uphold. Or at all times they may voluntarily disengage normal scrutiny in the special case of these beliefs. Or their evasiveness could assume yet a different form: they're perpetual seekers through and through. Seekers in this sense are enamored with seeking. They tend to glamorize uncertainty, elevate questions over answers, and relish subverting all definitions with exceptions. They do show a laudable glimmer of pragmatism in that they would emphasize individual practices instead of unsinkable allegiance to sweeping dogmas. So their outward affiliation might be relatively loose; a subset might be "nones" who don't name any particular affiliation, despite the faith-beliefs they erratically substitute for unflinching materialistic naturalism.

Seekers grant themselves permission to respond to criticisms with nonchalance. If seeking is never expected to meet a goal and/or as a rule the seeker refuses to presuppose a fixed goal, then criticisms are inconsequential. Moving from one belief to the next is one of their few constants. When a belief gradually loses its appeal the seeker blames the belief, not their own developing habituation to it. 

Anyway, they're seeking not testing. They aren't applying universal, previously decided criteria to the beliefs they stumble onto. They're trying on beliefs like shoes, as they're guided by nebulous guesses of what might gratify them for a short while. Implicitly, each belief holds comparatively little weight. None can rise to a supreme rank of believability, because seekers aren't concerned with conscientiously checking the accuracy of the belief. To the seeker, the belief is not a hypothetical reality, strictly speaking. It's a temporary resting spot which cannot be a lasting answer. When told "Your current beliefs are probably inaccurate," the seeker's tepid reply is "No surprise to me—I never had thought that I'd found out anything dependable." 

Unashamedly, then, the seeker way of life exposes its drawback: it's haphazard. It ensures a twisty path winding in no uniform direction and earning no durable prize. Traveling a path of this shape is a pleasant enough activity in a leisure context, but it's a dreadful strategy for productive investigation of momentous information. In order to fulfill their presumed thirst for trusty information, they should be striving to prevent the self-serving interference of their distorting predispositions. A personal mission of seeking is the converse of that.

Can anyone feel at ease divulging that their beliefs are works in progress? Absolutely. Be that as it may, why can't they be expected to feel equally at ease coherently estimating and explaining how much progress they've made in seeking accurate beliefs? If they counter that they don't care about the accuracy of the beliefs that they're conforming to, then they're prompting two additional quibbles, the first selfish, the second unselfish. First, the cost of following possible fabrications is a regrettable waste; paying that cost to follow legitimate beliefs, or simply forgoing the cost of following unfounded beliefs, is almost certainly more constructive. Second, the belief's grounding will be indispensable in the event that the seeker wishes to attract other seekers to it, so they can benefit too.

The defect is the shortage of discriminating examination. Their devotion might be fleeting, but it's too easily handed out nonetheless. Absurdly, they're using seeking as a defense for not seeking seriously enough.

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