Should be a lesson for life.
You know how you believe about an issue. Name it: gay marriage, death penalty, abortion, taxes, immigration…
Want to arrive at a conclusion regarding an issue — any issue — that has a chance of being the right conclusion? You know, something that has a good chance of being true?
It’s not too difficult. Simply be sure to do, or be, the following:
- First: think it through.
- Next: don’t be afraid to be wrong.
- And: never be afraid to discard a belief that doesn’t stand up to your scrutiny.
- Then: remember that nothing is “settled.” You got to where you are now by taking on and then discarding beliefs you once were confident were correct.
- But: remember, you do have to believe in something. Some really basic beliefs can be “settled” in your mind.” Those things that are “settled” in your mind are the standards against which you’ll measure all your other beliefs and thoughts.
- Finally: Do stand — firmly and resolutely — for things.
Item 1 — Think it Through:
This means that you need to consider your belief, your view, your point-of-view from numerous different standpoints. Argue against yourself. Reasonably. In other words, seek out serious arguments against your beliefs, and take them seriously.
Assume that the person with the countervailing belief holds that belief sincerely, and that he is intelligent and and reasonable. Note: all that may not be true, but you should assume it until you have reason not to.
Only robust challenges to your beliefs are going to allow you to grow, because you cannot become stronger, more intelligent, more informed by arguing against idiots or the ill-informed. I play a mean game of ping pong, but I can’t improve unless I find someone who really challenges me.
Note: finding serious challengers to your beliefs — or your ping pong abilities 🙂 — becomes more and more difficult as you grow stronger. However, that just means you’re growing and becoming more intelligent, which should be a goal of every man.
Item 2 — Don’t be Afraid to be Wrong:
You will be wrong from time to time. Recognize it, embrace it, and never come to the conclusion that you alone see things clearly enough that there could be no possible disagreement with what you believe. You must be humble enough to admit you’re wrong, when it becomes or seems evident.
Don’t forget: the goal is not to win a debate, but to grow, to become more intelligent as a result of the debate.
Item 3 — Never be Afraid to Discard a Belief that Doesn’t Stand up to Your Scrutiny:
Be glad, be delighted to discard erroneous beliefs. After all, it’s a double victory for you: (1) you get rid of a wrong thing, (2) you get a new view that has a better chance of being correct.
Each time you discard a wrong belief, the new belief has a vastly greater chance of being correct. We should all embrace those chances we all get to discard erroneous beliefs and views.
Item 4 –Remember That Nothing is “settled”:
One of the greatest, most dangerous, most pernicious enemies of growth of any kind is the idea that something is “settled.”
We all want to know something. We want our beliefs to be correct. No one wants to be wrong. So, we all have a tendency to argue as if our own belief is the be-all-end-all. It’s not. It’s just another viewpoint among many, many others.
Be ready to challenge long-held, even cherished beliefs. Remember, though, the challenge has to be a serious one. When a challenge demonstrates a lack of seriousness, you can properly ignore it.
How can you tell a challenge is serious? Pretty easy. An unserious challenger will lapse quickly into irrelevancies: insults, evasions, questions about you, not your belief, and other ways to avoid revealing the weakness of his beliefs.
Item 5: Remember, You Do Have to Believe in Something:
If you question all your fundamental beliefs, you’ll never move forward with anything. For example: if you question your faith that you won’t get hit by a meteor if you go out the door, you might never go out the door. There are fundamental assumptions that are not necessarily worth questioning, at least not in the context of growth in the area of understanding societal issues.
It’s not worth, for example, going into deep introspection about whether you exist, or not, whether everyone else exists or not, if you are trying to understand racism in America. The issue itself implies certain assumptions: I exist, you exist, America exists — with laws, customs, beliefs and points-of-view, problems and all. It’s when you get to assumptions that are much more subjective that you will need to scrutinize your assumptions. However, you do need to believe in something, or else there’s no point in debating.
Item 6: Do Stand — Firmly and Resolutely — for Things:
Find what you can reasonably conclude is good and right and decent and stand firmly for it. If you don’t, those who have not thought things through will win the day. You know: shallow, superficial, immature people, like the current President, and the current front-runners in the Democrat Party for nomination to be the next President.
You can never be absolutely certain that what you believe is correct — after all, nothing is settled(1) — but you can give yourself the best possible chance of being correct.
The more important the issue, the more you should challenge yourself to think through the issue, and to seek out evidence that challenges your beliefs and understanding.
You just have to think it through.
(1) – The truth, or “reality” if you prefer, is settled, but your ability to perceive or to understand reality is imperfect, hence your understanding of the truth, or of reality, should never be settled.