Summary of, “The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t”

20150126 Julia Galef 2.JPG

“Unlike the soldier, a scout’s goal isn’t to defend one side over the other. It’s to go out, survey the territory, and come back with as accurate a map as possible. Regardless of what they hope to be the case, above all, the scout wants to know what’s actually true.”

The above quote resonates with me; it comes from a new book, The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t.

Here is a brief description from Goodreads,

When it comes to what we believe, humans see what they want to see. In other words, we have what Julia Galef calls a soldier mindset. From tribalism and wishful thinking, to rationalizing in our personal lives and everything in between, we are driven to defend the ideas we most want to believe—and shoot down those we don’t.

But if we want to get things right more often, argues Galef, we should train ourselves to have a scout mindset. Unlike the soldier, a scout’s goal isn’t to defend one side over the other. It’s to go out, survey the territory, and come back with as accurate a map as possible. Regardless of what they hope to be the case, above all, the scout wants to know what’s actually true.

In The Scout Mindset, Galef shows that what makes scouts better at getting things right isn’t that they’re smarter or more knowledgeable than everyone else. It’s a handful of emotional skills, habits, and ways of looking at the world—which anyone can learn … Galef explores why our brains deceive us and what we can do to change the way we think.

Reflections -I believe that I am a scout. I suppose the combination of natural inclination and many years of education combined to make scouting (which we might otherwise call research) a habit for me. Well, an obsession actually. Any claim that I’m interested in sends me to research. I always preferred to know the truth—no matter how unsatisfying that truth was—to deceiving myself in order to satisfy some desire or believe what I wished to be true. I’m not sure exactly why this obsession with truth is such a part of me, and I recognize that even the most impartial scouts harbor some prejudices, but I’ve tried to transcend those prejudices as best I could using the scientific method’s emphasis on reason and evidence. This is the essence of critical thinking.

And I thank my many teachers, students, and friends who over the years have helped me along this road.

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5 thoughts on “Summary of, “The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t”

  1. I think your obsession with truth is the mark of a true philosopher. Could you be a philosopher without this obsession? I doubt it. As Russell wrote “I’d rather be mad with truth than living a life of lies.” (cannot remember exact words). I have always had the same obsession with music, always disregarding all else for it. I am sure you have done the same for philosophy. The ancient Greeks would have said that it is your “daimon”. I believe all the greatest people had one. (And the worst ones too, I guess…)

    As for the scout idea, whilst it might be true that we can all learn it, then again too few people do it, but of course I am not saying anything new here. I think the problem is also being able (or willing) to admit any truths to others, not just to oneself.

    Of course, the ignoramus and the simpleton won’t ever be able to see any truths whatsoever, no matter how old they get. No need to reply. Have a great week, Luigi.

  2. My obsession has always been JUSTICE. And the skills I learned as an actual scout during my military tours and some very fine ethics instructors have helped me immensely to sort a lot of wheat from the chaff.

  3. Not merely prejudices, also disingenuousness— if only it were as simple as prejudices! Remember, intellectuals are many things—including con artists. The scout doing recon is risking his life; the intellectual is not.
    We can see the deviousness of the priestly caste, who are intellectuals, right off.
    The priest who soothes the bereaved at funerals also fools them by pretending he believes in Heaven: for if he actually Believed, he’d wish his flock to be in Heaven all the sooner.
    Not to reject priests but, rather, to keep them away; the further away, the better.
    ——
    Thus we are not seeking truth, we’re seeking validity—which is not synonymous with truth and in fact can be the antipode of truth.

  4. I wrote: ” Of course, the ignoramus and the simpleton won’t ever be able to see any truths whatsoever, no matter how old they get. ”

    I meant, of course, objective truth. For everyone confuses that, with their bias, ‘opinion’ , and all kind of junk. As for the rest of us, whilst not being entirely free from bias, at least we try not to mindlessly add to it.

    Thanks,
    Luigi

  5. Didn’t mean to pick on clerics, btw: in a comment one can only use one or two examples—otherwise it turns into a mini-article.
    The task of a priest is to offer (e.g.) comfort; but naturally the ulterior motives are unavoidably part of the mix. Why anyone would take on such a mind-bending burden is a hard one to figure but, though I don’t actively wish to reject the priest himself, staying away from such how-many-hermeneutics-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin brain-twisting is advisable in the 21st century.
    At any rate, intellectuals need to be academic con-artists to make a living. Honesty, sang Billy Joel, is such a lonely word; and a non-lucrative word.

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