Cultivating Curiosity [Index]

Cultivating Curiosity [Index] January 15, 2013

“Don’t you understand? If curiosity kills the cat in the game… it dies in real life!”

Back in September, Bob Seidensticker of the Atheist channel took on a challenge to try 40 days of prayer, and he asked some of the Christian Patheosi what we thought he needed to do to give it a fair shot.  While other people talked about thankfulness and humility, I kinda ended up talking about Live Action Roleplaying (LARPing).  But seriously, I find this approach helpful for considering ideas and worldviews I disagree with, and short circuiting antagonistic feelings that may keep me from looking at all the data.  Here are the posts on that topic, followed by some questions for readers:

  1. LARP Your Way to Truth – I found some good advice on giving scary-if-true scenarios a shot on LessWrong, but I needed a new tool to be able to carry them out
  2. Just Give Me One Good Reason Not to Change My Mind – After questions from an atheist reader, I explain that LARPing and curiosity is a way to gather data, not a proof of a counterfactual’s truth
  3. Turns out someone was actually converted by the LARPing strategy – Roleplaying as the very Catholic Nightcrawler made one kinda Pagan girl interested enough in how Catholicism held together to keep reading, until eventually, she tumbled into the Tiber
  4. Get in the Game – Eli of Rust Belt Philosophy asks whether by correcting one epistemological error mode, I’m introducing a more pernicious one
  5. “Just one more thing” on LARPing – In which Columbo solves mysteries by “believing” the criminal’s account and understanding it in enough detail to spot the contradiction

I still find the LARPing model helpful, but that’s because it’s a mode of thinking that’s already a habit, so all I have to do is try to translate my current problem into this frame and see if anything useful results.  I would guess it would be less useful if you didn’t have experience playing pretend, writing (fan)fiction, spending a lot of time with speculative fiction, etc.  But people probably have other curious ways of thinking that might be helpful modes to try.  I’d be quite interested in readers’ answers to these questions:

  1. What does it feel like to be curious?  How would you describe it to someone who spoke a foreign language if you were trying to get them to recognize the feeling so they could teach you the word?
  2. What activities/kinds of problems seem to always make you solve them in a curious frame of mind?
  3. Are there any thoughts/activities that tend to break you out of a curious way of thinking?
  4. Is there anything you do when working with/mentoring other people to try to jar them into curiosity?
  5. Are there any fiction characters (or real people) who seem to embody curiosity or who you might pattern yourself after to kickstart a feeling of curiosity?  (Yes, someone’s already suggested the Doctor).
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