Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0123, May 5, 2017


Activists vs. Contemplatives

Copyright 2017 by S. W. Paul Wyszkowski

     To act one must believe; and, conversely, if one believes one must act. Without belief - or "faith", a better word because it implies total commitment - rational action is impossible. None of us, and by "us" I mean all entities capable of autonomous action, have sufficient objective information to fully justify any given decision to act. We act in response to a desire and justify our action by our faith in the rightness of our desire and of our understanding of the present situation. Animals, plants, all living things, absolutely believe in high desirability of being and staying alive and of continuing survival of the species. Robots absolutely "believe" in the rightness of the objectives for which they were designed and programmed (even though they may question effectiveness of methods used to achieve those objectives and even invent better ones).

     If all true believers are necessarily active, what about those who choose to merely observe and analyse, refraining from acting on the grounds of insufficient information? Are these the true non-believers? Nope. Turns out one can't get away from acting and believing. It's an existential precondition. To stop acting and believing one has to be at least brain dead. Observation and analysis, the search for meaningful patterns, are activities driven, like all others, by a desire in whose rightness one believes absolutely. The only significant difference between activists and contemplatives is that of a life style.

     "And energy levels," adds Prickles, one of the resident contemplatives around here. (Hedgehogs, of which Prickles is one, tend toward a contemplative life style). Maybe not even that, more like a difference in kind of energy such as physical vs. mental. "I suppose," she says.



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