The Epistemology of the Archer


The novice archer will, eventually, score a bull's-eye, most likely early in their training. Their experience will be close to zero compared to that of their masters.

Bad posture. Almost no planning whatsoever of the shot. Indiscipline. Low concentration. Yet, from a scoring perspective, that mostly random bull's-eye is as good as the master's meticulously planned shot.

But let me tell you something: that first bull's-eye just feels so good... Or at least that's how it felt for me.

From there on, the novice's life is dedicated to replicating that first bull's-eye. Actually, any archery coach worth their fletching will not emphasise this, and instead will train their students on a rigorous path that will lead them to scoring consistently-planned bull's-eyes through precise, replicated states of mind and body.

But in that first random bull's-eye, the novice touched — by chance, fugaciously — perfection. He now knows how it feels to hit the gold, and is chasing that shot. Throughout his training and his many failed bull's-eyes, he will inevitably think: "I did it before without all this complexity. Why should I now follow this arbitrary training procedure when I can focus instead on replicating my previous success?"

Rationally, we know why: we're not perfect information-gathering and movement-executing machines.

Yet that won't stop the little voice inside the novice's head from reminding them how that nugget of serendipitous perfection felt. The novice will cheat and betray his training, trying to replicate his first bull's-eye, and miss the mark again and again.

Until, eventually, he will score his second — very random — bull's-eye.

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