The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.
Turn your attention to mass media for even a few minutes, and you can be reassured that the dissemination of news and information is a complicated, multi-faceted task, usually dictated by greed.
It can be hard to know what is truth and what isn’t, when the distributors are rewarded not on accuracy of information, but speed of broadcast.
Arguments are often extended and compounded by false thinking. How do we arrive at the truth? It can be difficult, if not impossible, if we don’t question what we read, what we hear, or what we see on screens.
Sometimes disseminated opinions seem to be true on face value; accepted as truth, the opinion becomes a statement, and the statement can form a belief—a belief can change the world.
The learning and knowledge that we have, is, at the most, but little compared with that of which we are ignorant.
THE SOCRATIC METHOD
Here is an example of the Socratic Method that is useful for examining our beliefs about everyday life:
- Find statements that appears to be common sense.
In this weeks lottery, the numbers 2, 45, 67, 76, 90, and 5 should have a better chance of coming up, as they haven’t appeared in any winning tickets in years.
Being a good person means giving your money and time to charities.
Because it is widely accepted that the U.S is the moral authority on global affairs, it must be true.
- Imagine for a moment, that despite the confidences of the person purposing them, the statements are false. Search for situations or contexts where the statements would not be true.
Could the lottery numbers this week not include any of the numbers 2, 45, 67, 76, 90, or 5?
Could someone be a good person and not give money and time to charities?
Is it possible that the U.S is the not the moral authority on global affairs, even though it is widely accepted to be true?
- If an exception is found, the definition must be false, or at least inaccurate.
It is possible that the lottery numbers this week will not include 2, 45, 67, 76, 90, or 5.
It is possible that someone can be a good person and not give money or time to charities.
It is possible that the U.S is not the moral authority on global affairs, even though it is widely accepted at truth.
- The initial statement must be nuanced to take the exception into account.
The lottery numbers for the week could include 2, 45, 67, 76, 90 and 5, but they may not.
It is possible to be a good person and not give money and time to charities, insofar as the person conduct themselves in a manner which is not bad, or evil.
It is possible that the U.S may not be the moral authority on global affairs, even though it is widely accepted as truth, insofar that it authorizes activities that are immoral or unlawful.
If one finds exceptions to the improved statements, the process should be repeated. The truth lies in a statement which seems impossible to disprove.
It is by finding out what is not, that one comes closer to finding out what is.¹
¹ De Botton, Alain. The Consolations Of Philosophy. 1st ed. Penguin: Camberwell, Vic., 2008, 24.