Epistemic Thirst

First posted on February 9, 2018

To say a thing is interesting is to say that it captures your attention. But why is anything attention getting? What makes one thing attention getting and another thing fail to be so? Why is the typical state of a sighted animal to have their eyes open? Why do animals maintain themselves in conditions which cause them to receive information about their environment? It may seem just obvious that animals should do this. This is in part an artifact of our condition as one of those information gathering animals. It seems the obvious thing to do because it is what we do, and so it does not occur to us that it is a thing requiring explanation. The existence of these information gathering behaviours is not mere happenstance, there is a reason for it and it requires explanation. These are complex, expensive behaviours which could only have come about through evolutionary means. On the surface there is an obvious explanation: an animal keeps its eyes open to, say, avoid predators.

To fully explain the evolutionary origins of epistemic thirst requires us to delve into the origins of thoughts; brains; and agent-hood itself, what it is for an entity to be capable of ‘doing something’.