It recently dawned upon me that there are three useful categories for identifying how people approach ideas. This article is my attempt to float this categorization around and I hope that this categorization will be improved upon in the future.
Introducing the Categories
Truth-Seekers have an unquenchable thirst for the truth. They analyze things as objectively as possible and change their minds when exposed to previously unknown facts. They are willing to hold any belief provided that they have ascertained it to be true in a rigorous way, regardless of how outlandish this belief may be. Truth-Seekers are also willing to debate ideas with the goal of approaching closer to the truth. A Truth-Seeker enjoys being proven wrong because their goal is to have as many true beliefs as possible at the expense of ridding themselves of false beliefs. The Truth-Seeker is a rare human being and it is easy for them to become frustrated and disheartened at Nutjobs and Sheep because their goals are not aligned.
Nutjobs hate mainstream ideas. They do not want to believe what most people believe, regardless of whether these commonly held beliefs are true or false. Nutjobs are often highly impressionable, controversial people. They believe in falsehoods such as "The Earth is flat" or that the world is controlled by demonic lizards who have infiltrated world governments. Nutjobs consider their critics to be Sheep, even when their critics are Truth-Seekers. Nutjobs succumb to the fallacy of the appeal to anti-authority; they do not believe things simply because these ideas are propagated by authority figures. To a Nutjob, if politicians say that the Earth is not flat, then this automatically means that the Earth is indeed flat. Nutjobs do not consider themselves to be Nutjobs; they consider themselves to be Truth-Seekers even though they hold many false beliefs that they refuse to budge on.
Sheep are the embodiment of the NPC (Non-Player Character) meme. They rely on mainstream opinions and they value belonging to the herd more than ascertaining truth. They would rather hold a commonly held false belief than risk becoming outcasts by holding a rarely held true belief. They essentially believe whatever they are told by authority figures such as the mainstream media. Sheep succumb to the fallacy of the appeal to authority. If politicians say that people must forcibly be locked within their homes to stop the spread of a virus, then Sheep will religiously adhere to this view, and they will refuse to critically analyze the situation. Similarly, Sheep consistently fall into the traps that the statist world order sets out for them; they watch the news so that their blank minds can be filled in with the propaganda that other Sheep will also be inundated with, and then they will gladly and mindlessly repeat that propaganda as a way of signaling that they hold commonly held views. Anybody who criticizes a Sheep is seen as a Nutjob. From the Sheep's perspective, he who dares question mainstream opinion must be crazy, for the Sheep consider their herder to be a propagator of truth! Sheep generally hate debating people because they are unable to defend their incoherent views, which becomes a greatly frustrating issue, so they prematurely end debates to save face.
Truth-Seekers are experts at judging ideas by their own merit. That is, they very easily separate the statement from the person who made it. One plus one equals two whether Hitler or Einstein made the claim. They look for contradictions in order to try to prove the statement to be false. They approach the statement from several different angles and consider many factors in order to ascertain its truth value. They research the views of other Truth-Seekers and enjoy discussing the statement in order to reach the shared goal of ascertaining it as true or false. Whether the statement is controversial or not has no bearing on its truth value. Truth-Seekers judge statements on a case-by-case basis.
Nutjobs do not separate statements from their propagators. They generally consider anything propagated by authority figures as a grand conspiracy, and to a Nutjob, that is enough to ascertain its truth value. If most doctors argue that vaccines can help prolong our lifespans, Nutjobs instantly identify this as being the polar opposite of the truth, whether or not it is actually true. Of course, Nutjobs sometimes accidentally stumble on true beliefs but for the wrong reasons; that is, they wrongly assume that anything that many people believe in must be wrong.
Sheep do not analyze statements in isolation, just like Nutjobs. Sheep refuse to accept that a controversial, outcasted figure may have made a true statement and instead ridicule people who agreed with said statement by virtue of the statement's propagator being a persona non-grata. This ridicule is ineffective on Truth-Seekers, as they do not care about irrelevant factors such as the public image of a person when ascertaining a statement for its truth value. This ridicule is counterintuitive towards Nutjobs because Nutjobs religiously follow controversial outcasts and have the opposite goals to Sheep. This ridicule, however, is particularly effective on other Sheep. If a Sheep has accidentally stumbled upon a non-mainstream belief, there is a good chance that they will stray away from it once they realize the social cost attached to openly believing it. This is also the reason why Sheep may currently consider a belief to be crazy which they might come to believe in later on once the mainstream propagates it - such as the theory that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic, being the result of a laboratory leak. Just like Nutjobs, Sheep sometimes accidentally stumble on true beliefs but for the wrong reasons; that is, they wrongly assume that anything that not many people believe in must be wrong.
The three identified categories - Truth-Seekers, Nutjobs, and Sheep - can be quite fluid. That is, a person may be a Truth-Seeker in certain realms of human endeavor while being a Nutjob in others, and a Sheep in others. For example, a single person may simultaneously hold views that belong to the three different spheres. They may believe that:
Existence exists because the statement cannot be contradicted (Truth-Seeker)
The Earth is flat because there is a grand conspiracy to convince people that the Earth is not flat (Nutjob)
People consent to taxation by adhering to the social contract because this is what most people believe (Sheep)
A person can also move from one category to another within a single realm or multiple realms.
In general, however, it appears that people can majorly be grouped into the three categories as their defining beliefs - the beliefs that they most strongly adhere to and their subsequent actions - generally fit into one category. For example:
A person constantly thinking about ideas and their validities while constantly searching for knowledge is probably a Truth-Seeker.
A person constantly peddling theories that are widely ridiculed and scientifically disproven is probably a Nutjob.
A person who "supports the current thing" and rehashes the mainstream media's views about everything is probably a Sheep.
Truth-Seekers view Nutjobs as Nutjobs. They are frustrated by their unwavering beliefs in disproven nonsense but may respect their willingness to go against the grain and refuse to conform.
Truth-Seekers view Sheep as Sheep. They are frustrated by the fact that the wool has been pulled over their eyes and even more frustrated that they are not willing to make any attempts to see clearly. Truth-Seekers understand the Sheep condition; after all, it is ingrained in our DNA to want to fit in with the herd.
Truth-Seekers may greatly respect and enjoy the company of fellow Truth-Seekers. They see them as fellow travelers on the endless journey toward truth. They are willing to discuss countless factors within a conversation and debates can often get highly technical and hypothetical. The shared goal is to discover truth; these discussions are the lifeblood of the truth-seeking specimen.
Nutjobs may greatly differ from each other in terms of what they believe. As such, Nutjobs often find themselves diametrically opposed to other Nutjobs. For example, if there is a mainstream belief that all races are equal, a Nutjob who is a white supremacist will be the natural enemy of a Nutjob who is a black supremacist. Deviation from mainstream beliefs can take Nutjobs in many different directions. Ironically then, Nutjobs may consider other Nutjobs to be Nutjobs; but they may also consider them to be Sheep if they hold different thresholds for what constitutes a mainstream belief. For example, the Nutjob who thinks that the Earth is a donut considers the Flat-Earther to be a Sheep. Meanwhile, Nutjobs may consider other Nutjobs who they are aligned with as heroic Truth-Seekers.
Nutjobs view Sheep as Sheep. They see them as having been manipulated by powerful conspiratorial forces. Occasionally they do empathize with Sheep, for many Nutjobs used to be Sheep. But in other cases, Nutjobs may consider Sheep to be their enemies because they feel like Sheep are unjustified in considering Nutjobs to be crazy, and that the reason that Sheep consider Nutjobs to be crazy is so that they do not have to actually challenge these beliefs in any meaningful way.
Nutjobs view Truth-Seekers as either Nutjobs or Sheep depending on the argument at hand. A Truth-Seeker claiming that the Earth is an ellipsoid is considered a Sheep; but a Truth-Seeker who has ended up on a very rare belief may be considered crazy by fellow crazies, as they are considered to have taken the craziness too far. For example, a Truth-Seeker who has concluded that taxation is theft may be considered a Nutjob by a Nutjob because Nutjobs may think that very low taxation is necessary whereas Sheep may think that higher taxation is necessary; but the idea of no taxation may be considered too nutty for the Nutjob.
Sheep view Nutjobs as Nutjobs. They ridicule them for being conspiracy theorists and generally consider them to be mentally deranged lunatics due to how outlandish their beliefs are. Sheep may feel that Nutjobs need help in order to be saved from extremist beliefs and they may absolve the Nutjobs of much responsibility. For example, they may blame the parents of the Nutjob for having taught them to hold controversial views. Other Sheep may consider Nutjobs as their mortal enemy by virtue of regarding them as anti-social beings who must be removed from society for the "greater good" or the "public interest".
Sheep view Truth-Seekers as Nutjobs. To Sheep, anything that deviates from the mainstream is wrong, so a Truth-Seeker is a Nutjob insofar as his beliefs happen to deviate from the mainstream. The Sheep categorizes the Truth-Seeker as a Nutjob in a lame attempt to discredit his beliefs. For example, the Sheep may chastise the Truth-Seeker for believing in a conspiracy theory, because people who believe in conspiracies are Nutjobs! So if somebody believes that states are criminal organizations, the Sheep may ridicule them by accusing them of also thinking that the world is flat. By lumping Truth-Seekers in with Nutjobs, the Sheep can sleep soundly at night knowing that everybody who disagrees with him is crazy.
Sheep view Sheep as normal people. After all, normal people watch and believe the news, normal people vote for and support a big political party, and normal people do not hold crazy views. Internal competition exists within the ranks of Sheep in order to try to be as normal as possible. People who even slightly deviate from the norm may be considered Nutjobs even when they are mostly Sheep. Herd mentality is the overarching mental mode of Sheep and Sheep are adamant that everybody else must be a Sheep, for if they are not, they pose a danger to the "public interest" of society.
People sometimes move from one category to another. Here is an overview of all the possible pipelines as well as possible reasons why one person moved from one group to another.
From Truth-Seeker to...
Nutjob: The Truth-Seeker becomes frustrated with Sheep becoming stupider and blinder by the day. He sees that his tactics of using logic and reason have spectacularly failed on both Nutjobs and Sheep. In an act of desperation, the Truth-Seeker becomes a Nutjob to elicit greater emotional responses from Sheep and so his views are spread further. As a result, he also gets to attack Truth-Seekers for being idealists instead of nutty pragmatists.
Sheep: The Truth-Seeker becomes frustrated with nobody accepting his ideas as well as the ridicule he receives for his deeply analytical thought process so he decides to become a Sheep in search of social cohesion and acceptance into the herd.
From Nutjob to...
Truth-Seeker: The Nutjob realizes that although there is some truth to some number of his conspiratorial beliefs, it is logically undeniable that many mainstream beliefs are also true. This realization leads him down the path of seeking truth.
Sheep: The Nutjob is medicated or otherwise convinced into believing that he is mentally unwell and that his mental illness has led him towards unacceptable, extremist views. The Nutjob joins the herd and talks down to other Nutjobs and Truth-Seekers, telling them that they will someday understand that their belief systems are wrong. As proof, he will say that he also held similar beliefs when he was younger, before growing up (... into a Sheep).
From Sheep to...
Truth-Seeker: The Sheep realizes that politicians and mainstream media personalities across the spectrum who are "opposites" have more in common than they would like to admit. Instead of becoming a Nutjob, the Sheep realizes that this phenomenon has a logical explanation: people are motivated by their own perceived self-interset, and Sheep are constantly taken for a ride by malevolent herders who appear to be benevolent. This realization leads him down the path of seeking truth.
Nutjob: The rate at which mainstream opinion changes is too fast for some Sheep to keep up with and they eventually stop changing their views. As such, their formerly mainstream views are now anathema to current ones and they find themselves left behind by the herd, as they are absorbed into the disorganized ranks of Nutjobs. Recall that even slight deviations from the norm are enough for a Sheep to accuse another Sheep of being a Nutjob.
To conclude what has been my favorite article that I have written to date, I will leave you with the following thoughts:
These categorizations are useful when attempting to convince people that they are wrong. As a Truth-Seeker, you may often be shocked at the number of hoops people jump through in order to defend their obviously wrong beliefs, but this should not come as a surprise to you. Not everybody is a Truth-Seeker. In fact, hardly anybody is. While Truth-Seekers are optimizing for objective truth (the only kind of truth), Sheep and Nutjobs are clearly not. This is why Sheep will attack you for deviating from the mainstream, and why Nutjobs will attack you for not deviating from the mainstream. I do not know what the optimal strategy is for turning Sheep and Nutjobs into Truth-Seekers but it is something that I think about a lot.
You should strive to be a Truth-Seeker in all realms of human endeavor. Constantly searching for truth by questioning everything can help you find meaning in life and you will make it much harder for cunning people to take advantage of you by convincing you to believe in bullshit. Ultimately, you can run away from the truth but you can never truly hide from it.
These categorizations are not perfect. My hope is that people will improve upon these ideas in the endless journey toward the truth. For example, I have made no mention thus far of the polar opposite of the Truth-Seeker - namely, the person who wants to believe in everything that is not true, as opposed to everything that the mainstream believes (a la Sheep) and everything that the mainstream does not believe (a la Nutjob). Moreover, the argument that everybody is a Truth-Seeker could also be posed, if we assume that everybody is seeking the truth but that some people may be seeking the truth on a very wrong path. I am interested in reading counter-arguments to my ideas.