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The Cynic and The Skeptic (a thought experiment)

Approx Reading Time: 10 mins

The cynic rejects. The Skeptic puts aside for now.

The cynic presupposes fault with no prior experience. He makes up experience where he already has an opinion. The Skeptic is ambivalent, while waiting to lean in or walk out.

The cynic assumes uselessness in light of moderate evidence to the contrary. The Skeptic assumes some form of utility, whether narrow or broad, taking into consideration views and evidence to the contrary.

The cynic thinks the answer is known. The Skeptic knows he will never arrive at the perfect answer.

In light of the previous, the cynic acts with an overt sense of confidence, externalizing blame to unknown and irreproducible factors in times of seemingly contradictory outcomes. The Skeptic proceeds cautiously yet optimistically, knowing that his theories will be proven more right or more wrong repeatedly, he may change his tactics accordingly.

The cynic knows that good, well-meaning people (as rare as he perceives them to be, in his world) are often wrong. The Skeptic agrees, but also knows that bad, malicious people (as rare as he perceives them to be, in his world) can still be right.

The cynic knows that, if he cannot conjure the solution or “correct” tactic/answer through his own logic, that the answer is incomprehensible. Therefore, anyone attaining the correct trajectory has merely stumbled upon it, likely due to dumb luck or “the powers that be” choosing his side. The Skeptic knows that, if he cannot conjure the situationally appropriate answer, he must study further, suffer the blows of missing the mark, be patient with his future self, and evolve his logic. Anyone attaining the right trajectory is held in high esteem, befriended when possible, and alway learned from in principle as well as application.

The cynic knows that all understanding and enlightenment of his own comes from his unique experience, character traits, and (plausibly) education, all of which are, for vague reasons, impossible yet extremely desirable to reproduce. The Skeptic knows that many others have had similar experiences and education as his own, and that other people could have come to the same understanding as he, had they lucked upon the path he had trodden.

The cynic sees someone with the “wrong” answer and reflexively categorizes them, opposes them, and downplays all facets of their person. Clearly, “they” are built of faulty machinery. The Skeptic sees someone with the “wrong” answer and wants to engage them, understand the context in which they came to their conclusions, and give partial points for showing you work. Even if the car is dead, it’s still got a lot of valuable parts.

The cynic gets off on being right. The Skeptic gets off on coming closer to the truth.

The cynic stands as a bylaw officer of allowed-or-not, handing down the law from his seemingly unique knowledge of it. The Skeptic entertains reasoning and actions based on knowledge he does not currently understand to be categorically unlawful, wrong, incorrect, or faulty.

The cynic knows that lack of evidence implies guilt and deserves categorization. The Skeptic knows that lack of evidence does not equate evidence of lack.

The cynic calls it incorrect. The Skeptic notes a need for improvement.

The cynic knows that being right is the right thing to do. The Skeptic knows that a path of seeking truth is one he prefers to travel.

The cynic sees no place for artistic implementation or interpretation of his data. To think otherwise is wrong. The Skeptic knows that everyone, including the cynic, weaves a web of artful, often unintentional bias into their data. He interprets as such.

The cynic needs research or evidence to decide how to act now or in the future. No evidence means no action, and acting otherwise should be seen as negligent. The Skeptic needs the future t arrive (it never does)before the evidence can be interpreted with any sense if finality. In the meantime, he acts where this evidence, where there is none, and audits as he goes.

The cynic sells his soul of constructive critique/debate to the devil in exchange for having the right answer now. The Skeptic plays devil’s advocate in his own internal dialogue.

The cynic arrives, ements his feet on the correct mountain, and selcom, if ever, departs. The Skeptic is always moving, albeit slowly, ad gladly circles back to the bottom of the mountain when the signs tell him so.

The cynic speaks loudly with a coverts anxiety. The skeptic speaks seldom, with an overt unease and honesty about incomplete understanding.

The cynic expects to be judged harshly, as he does to others. The Skeptic is at ease in his own skin; hi ideas do not represent his worth.

The cynic knows his collaborative counterpart to be acting with selfish motives; he proceeds while mirroring this perceived intent. The Skeptic is open to being treated well or poorly, but prefers to proceed without assumption of intent of either type.

The cynic preaches. The Skeptic teaches.

The cynic argues like a child who has been caught in the wrong, even though he knows himself to be right. The Skeptic argues as if they could be wrong, but could also be right.

The cynic knows his data to be complete. The skeptic knows that, by definition, their data can never be complete.

To the cynic, “it depends” is lives in polarity as either unacceptable or omniscient. The Skeptic says “it depends” when he knows fairly surely, and says “I don’t know” when he does not know if he knows what he knows.

The cynic values sidedness. The Skeptic values ambidexterity.

The cynic accumulates customers and followers through conversion to his cause. The skeptic wins them (much slower) via reasoning, process, and trust.

The cynic mocks. The Skeptic self-deprecates.

The cynic does not allow faults in others logic. The Skeptic does not like faults in his own logic, yet searches fr the reason in others’ faulty logic to learn from it’s underlying assumptions.

The cynic makes new data and ambivalent data fit his views through contortion. He wants to have always been right, intelligent, prognosticative, beyond reproach. The Skeptic allows new data to alter his foundational biases and ambivalent data to sit and inform him. He wants to be seen as reasonable, malleable, studious, and very approachable.

The cynic talks to. The Skeptic talks with.

The cynic says, “In my 40 years of experience, this is has obviously been the answer”. The Skeptic says “In my 30 years of experience, I have yet to find the perfect answer”. Both of them have 35 years of experience.

The cynic knows he blew his opponent out of the water, doubling his score easily. The Skeptic outscored his opponent by only one point. The score was 2-1.

The cynic can, and usually does, disprove your theory. The Skeptic can and usually does, lend logic to either side of an argument.

When a cynic poses a question, he makes the questionee feel threatened. When asking the same question, the Skeptic encourages open discourse.

The cynic engages in discussion to be heard, to make a point, to silence oppositional views and embarrass it’s advocates. The Skeptic draws people into conversation in order to exchange information and explore all viable options.

The cynic is slow to give credit (unless on first glance it supports his views) and quick to discredit. The Skeptic is slow to do both.

The cynic uses labels as an excuse to call something correct or incorrect. The Skeptic decidedly operates on degrees of correctness, not semantic silos.

The cynic has a bullshit meter. All information registers on some level on this meter, especially new info. The Skeptic also has a bullshit meter, but he also a merit meter. All information is read against both meters.

The cynic presents emotion and bias as basis to discredit people and their ideas. The Skeptic insists on bringing emotion and bias in to light, as they are inextricable factors in any seemingly objective pursuit.

The cynic is emotionally committed to his emotional detachment. Challenging his emotional landscape is often enraging to him. The Skeptic is informed by his emotions, openly acknowledging them while committing to act — to the best of his abilities — according to reason instead of emotion.

The cynic enjoys the company, both physical and digital, of other cynics with similar leanings. He despises interaction of any sort with cynics who hold to foundationally different beliefs. The Skeptic can exist in the presence or absence of either cynics or skeptics, regardless of their leanings.

The cynic knows his beliefs to be based on facts, rendering them not “beliefs” at all. He knows that anyone else using the phrase “believe” should be questioned or shunned. The Skeptic does not need facts or beliefs, just conclusions, actions, and foundations. Anyone else is welcome to believe what they want.

The cynic acts to convert. The Skeptic acts to collaborate.

The cynic knows a larger “n” holds more significance. The Skeptic knows that each case is “n=1”, both informing from and too a larger “n” over time.

The cynic suppresses his emotions, and hence is ruled by them, or more specifically a fear of them; he knows they taint his judgement. The Skeptic sits with his emotions long enough to understand them.

The cynics shuns that which he cannot do himself as illusory, irreproducible, or non-desirable. The Skeptic knows that his own realm of predictable intelligence does not have complete overlap with anyone else’s. The areas of minimal overlap might pose areas of future study, but “it depends”.

The cynic has many followers, many enemies, and few friends. The skeptic has some followers, some friends, and some enemies.

The cynic does everything in his power to disprove, depending on his leaning. The skeptic takes all findings with a grain of salt, regardless of his leaning.

The cynic attempts to reduce the number of things he believes to be true over time, becoming ever more cynical with every exposure to something new, for it does not match his paradigm. The skeptic allows for each exposure to depict the volume of his belief container, creating more room or less room for truth or falseness, depending on his perception of said exposure.

The cynic thinks that science is meant to prove or disprove, reveal the right or wrong answer, and tell him what to do or not do. The skeptic thinks that science giveth and science taketh away, not by category (profession, intervention, popularity, right vs wrong) but rather through refinement of applicability, timing, specificity, and ease of use (as oppose to good vs bad, yes vs no, always vs never).

The cynic throws the baby out with the bathwater, never challenging his unconscious belief that, if one is bad, both are bad. The skeptic allows the message to be interpreted independent of the messenger. The medium shall not be the message, nor shall the message be the medium.

The cynic will always divide and conquer. The skeptic will usually dodge the draft in all but the most righteous wars.

The cynic delivers a message, and on the other end is called an asshole. The Skeptic delivers the same message and people thank him for helping their thought processes.

The cynic feels that offending people is inherently the faulty logic and challenged beliefs. The skeptic knows that nothing is so new under the sun that great offence should be taken at his message.

The cynic and his audience assume any emotional offence is due to the content of the communication. Indeed, it is the how (delivery) of said communication, as well as the what (the content). The skeptic assumes any offence to be due to the delivery (the how) and becomes apologetic for the delivery of said content. In fact it is the content itself, not the delivery.

As soon as the the cynic decided on a side he yells it from the mountaintops, aligning all his his beliefs to support his new stance. The skeptic, upon deciding his side of a fight, settles into let this decision simmer in light of his other beliefs, especially the contradictory ones. (No one is 100% congruent across all beliefs and actions).

The cynic engages in an argument when he is right, which is always. The Skeptic engages in debate on many premises, not the least of which is perception on incompleteness of thought.

The cynic thinks that “we” need to do better. He bases this knowledge on the information he encounters, fed to him through a cynical grapevine. The skeptic knows that we are doing better and will continue to do better, as he keeps his merit meter running.

The cynic has rules, adherence. The Skeptic has guidelines, information, art.

The cynic takes one instance of old thinking, faulty logic, or unsubstantiated claims, and generalizes it to the industry in which he perceives himself to have expert knowledge. This, in his mind, has not been put through the sieve of screening for bias. The “industry” is behind, but that statement itself could not possibly be biased. The Skeptic surrounds himself with backwards thinkers, forward thinkers, colourful and bland personalities, as well as people with heavy bias in every direction. He knows that the funnels though which he receives his information can either feed or detract from his subconscious biases. He sees one instance of faulty logic, old thinking, or unsubstantiated claims and puts it on the shelf, to be re examined later.

The cynic has a problem for every solution. The skeptic has options for every problem.

The cynic argues for semantics that narrowly define. Anything outside of narrow specificity cannot uphold the burden of proof. The Skeptic argues against semantics, overly specific dialogue and terminology does not allow enough “it depends”.

The cynic has the courage to be disliked. After all, they are wrong about him. The skeptic has the courage to be disliked. After all, he has not yet figured it all out, and sometimes they are right.

When the cynic works hard on knowledge, it is so he might never be proven wrong. When the skeptic works hard on knowledge, it’s so he may some day be proven right.

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