New paper out: "Playfulness Versus Epistemic Traps"!

Why is intellectual playfulness important? One possibility: exploring new belief systems *for fun* is an insurance policy - against being caught in a trap belief-system.

In my life, many of the most intellectually amazing, thoughtful, rich people have a quality: intellectual playfulness. They don't just pursue the truth doggedly. They try on weird ideas because they're funny, or delightfully odd - for the sheer joy of it.
But all the standard accounts of intellectual virtue don't have anything like playfulness. It's all about competence, sincerity, carefulness, reliability - all the serious shit.

Question: what could be valuable about intellectual playfulness?
So I dig into the long literature on stuff about playfulness and irony and come up with an account of intellectual playfulness: that it's intellectual perspective shifting for its own sake. Or: it's playing around with ideas *for fun*.
Obviously, fun and play are valuable for their own sake. But this paper is chasing another possibility: that intellectual playfulness is also instrumentally useful, as a way to get to the truth.
Proposal: there are these things out there, we could call epistemic traps. They're belief systems that get you to ignore relevant contrary evidence - belief systems that are built to reinforce their grip on you. Like conspiracy theories and echo chambers.
The problem with these epistemic traps is that they're cleverly built to redirect your inquiries into the truth. They've jiggered your background beliefs, so your attempts to get out will just lead you back in.
So normal investigation doesn't work. If you're trying to figure out what's true, using your background beliefs to set what's worth investigating and what's not worth investigating, and you're already in the grips of a trap belief system - you're screwed.
Enter: intellectual playfulness. If you have a drive to sometimes just screw around and try on new ideas *for the hell of it* - not because they're plausible, or likely to pay off, but just because it's fun - then you have a built-in escape hatch from epistemic traps.
The weird thing about intellectual playfulness: when you're doing it, you're not actively pursuing the truth. My suggestion is: *occasionally screwing around and not pursuing the truth* is the best way, in the long wrong, to actually get at the truth.
(This has the kind of "self-effacing" rational structure that I'm obsessed with. Like the best way to relax, for some people, is not to try to relax, but to go all out to, like, climb a rock.)
Another up-shot: intellectual playfulness has its own weaknesses and vulnerabilities - like an attraction to fun, pleasing belief systems. Which is why we need lots of balanced exploration tendencies: curiosity, playfulness, empathy - which shore up each others' weaknesses.
Free online pre-print of the paper right here:
The paper is in the wonderful Social Virtue Epistemology collection, edited by @moral_psych, @cvklein, and @ridderjeroen.
@moral_psych @cvklein @ridderjeroen They also had us do a super-cool thing where the various writers responded to each others chapters. For that, you'll have to find the actual book.
Jesus, *in the long run*

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This is a fantastic thread, and interesting sequel to the echo chambers piece.