Without guidance in the thinking process, your success in finding the truth in any particular issue will be sporadic and limited. Below I offer you a framework to help give structure to your method and improve your confidence that the convictions you hold are indeed true.
All of these techniques overlap and inter-relate to some degree, but we can still separate them out to get a useful picture of the process in its entirety. This framework is not necessarily exhaustive, and I invite you to comment or ask questions below if you wish.
There are various methods and techniques that make up the process of thinking and reasoning to discern truth. Because they all inter-relate they should be used throughout the process as appropriate. I have laid this framework out in this order, but only because you have to start somewhere. With thinking and reasoning, each time you ask a new question you effectively delve into another box and conduct another micro inquiry. Because of this, all of the techniques should be borne in mind at all times, like a craftsman would be familiar with his tools and choose whichever is appropriate at any given moment.
- Questioning is the essence of the reasoning process and should be an ongoing habit used continuously at every step of your enquiry.
- Ask and answer questions and sub-questions in the form of why? and how?
- What am I trying to find out? What are my definitions? Do I know what I am talking about? What is the context?
- Be explicit and reason out loud. Don’t be afraid to talk to yourself. It is not a sign of madness but a sign of explicit reasoning in action.
- It takes practice to learn the right questions. To get to the fundamentals, for example you have to ask yourself which issues are causes and which are effects, which are primaries and which are consequences.
- Ask yourself, “Am I really committed to finding the truth at any and all cost, no matter where the evidence leads?”
- Being objective means remaining un-wedded to any particular point of view and beginning the process by examining facts and evidence rather than looking for an argument to support an existing view. With a brief introspection, if you are honest with yourself, you will know your motivation. the point is to be conscious of it.
- When you identify your own subjective position (or circumstances) in relation to the issue under scrutiny it won’t unconsciously be informing your conclusions.
- The detective or scientist must remain open to the facts. you must suspend your allegiance to any existing beliefs or social conformity.
- If you are being objective you will always follow or look for the rational argument, and use this as the sole criteria for assessing certainty.
- Zoom in and zoom out. Zoom in to examine in detail, zoom out to clock the full context.
- This the process of observing context. You must zoom out to appreciate the relationship of some information to the bigger picture.
- As you switch between zooming in and zooming out you maximise your appreciation for and understanding of the bigger picture as you increase your knowledge of the details.
- When you drop context it is because of a failure of integration.
- It is by observing full context that you achieve that 35,000-foot overview and an appreciation of the big picture. And it is precisely this bigger picture you must seek to understand in the modern world in order to avoid the stress and anxiety of living in the nonsense world of the mainstream narrative.
Join the dots:
- This means to integrate new knowledge with the rest of the existing sum of your knowledge. it means to consciously consider how one thing may influence another across all the different areas of your knowledge.
- The truth-seeker will always be on the lookout for contradictions. If any are observed further questioning and analysis is required to identify what is false. Because contradictions do not exist in reality, you must make sure they do not appear in your premises, your reasoning or any conclusions you draw. But also as long as one competing theory exists to an idea. it represents an unresolved contradiction and must be investigated to rule out the false with confidence.
- Integration is a process of continually cross-referencing everything in your mind. All of your knowledge must be allowed to rub up against all other ideas as part of the contradiction check. Reality all knits together seamlessly without any contradictions, and so for it to be useful your mental map of reality must do exactly the same.
- Integration is the opposite of compartmentalisation and it ensures consistency of your world view, ensuring that it makes sense.
- By connecting any new knowledge you acquire with your existing knowledge you can avail yourself to new insights and the understanding of new principles in the growth of your knowledge. Only when you have fully integrated ideas into your knowledge can you really think with them as fresh tools to expand your intellectual capability.
Determine your purpose:
Like anything in life the more clearly you set out your goal and identify what it is you are trying to achieve the more likely it is to succeed. Thinking is a purposeful mental activity in order to find something out, to discover some truth about the world. So you need to be clear about your purpose at every step along the way. There are two different aspects of determining your purpose in thinking.
- Firstly, you must clearly define what you want to know at all stages of your investigation.
- The questions you ask are the key tool for sharpening your focus. The more precise you can be in identifying what it is you are trying to find out, the more efficiently you think and the orderly are your subsequent mental files.
- Be explicit by voicing the questions that guide your thinking, as with all your reasoning.
The second way in which you must be clear about your purpose involves introspection. Specifically, it means asking yourself searching questions about what it is that you are trying to achieve. For example, you might ask yourself things like, am I really looking to get to the truth here, and follow the evidence, no matter where it leads? Suppose I frighten or unsettle myself, suppose I find that I have to rethink a bunch of my other beliefs, am I prepared to do that?
You might also ask yourself if you are certain that you don’t already have a theory that you’re trying to defend? This would leave you very susceptible to confirmation bias. If you are serious about being a truth seeker, of course, it is objective reality that you are interested in. You must be objective to achieve your goal as discussed, and by asking these sorts of questions you can test your objectivity. Ask yourself, does anything matter to me more than finding out the truth? Do I have any emotional ties to a particular outcome in this, are there any factors that might influence my thinking?
It is also very necessary to be ‘ok’ with being wrong. Any detective knows you have to cross a suspect off the list if an alibi is sound, or other evidence would contradict their guilt. And, of course, each time you rule an idea out you get closer to the truth.
Check your definitions:
This is the most essential groundwork. So much deception occurs due to meanings being switched in equivocation or misunderstood. You must know precisely what each concept in the topic under scrutiny means.
Be aware that there is no single universal definition of each of the concepts we use. Definitions may vary. They are often changed over time – deliberately. consider the example of the word ‘germ’. It has two definitions according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
1. A microorganism, especially one which causes disease.
2. A small apparently simple structure (as a fertilized egg) from which new tissue can develop into a complete organism.
It is interesting to note that the first definition is almost diametrically opposed to the second. The first being a disease-causing pathogen, the second being the origin of new life. It is even more interesting to note that the second definition given is the oldest original meaning of the concept that should rightly be presented first. The first definition given was added only when germ theory became popularised by fraud and propaganda in the embryonic medical establishment.
Ask yourself what is the definition of sustainability? It is very likely that the official definition used by organisations like the IPPC or the World Economic Forum will be different from yours. Here are a few other pointers in being aware of your definitions.
- It is necessary to be conscious of both your definition of each concept as well as the definitions used by others. This way you can check to see if you are talking about the same thing, or talking past each other (about different things).
- Having clear definitions in your mind will prevent you from being fooled by equivocation. It is a means of deceiving people by changing meanings in the same argument or sentence.
- There are basic rules on formulating definitions. I will elaborate further in future. Or you can do an internet search to learn more. The point here is to know what definition you are using, and what definition others might be using, if different.
Gather all the information:
- Examine ALL of the competing theories/claims/assertions/arguments. This means not being frightened off by terms like ‘conspiracy theory’ or ‘fake news’.
- While collecting all the different viewpoints it is important to note who is saying what, and what is their trust-worthiness rating? This is important contextual information.
- In seeking the truth it is essential to understand all the theories and arguments. What do people who hold the opposing view say?
- Always remain open to new information. If you are not, then you are not a truth seeker but someone clinging to dogma or religion.
Ongoing Important Techniques
Having prepared the ground in this manner you can move on to the methods that are used repeatedly in the on-going process of looking for arguments that are logically stronger than others. These methods interlink and to some extent must all be held in mind throughout the truth-seeking process. Just like knowledge of reality itself, all the techniques of thinking must inter-connect and be considered at all stages. As we consider one technique we must bear in mind all the others. But with practice, this becomes second nature. If we had a functional education system this process would already be practised by all functionally literate adults.
Separate the inter-related issues.
- Issues are often mixed together. Either by accident or deliberately with the intention to deceive. Think of vegetarianism and animal cruelty. These are related but separate issues.
- Guard against taking past each other. One person may be stating that increasing levels of CO2 is not a problem, while the other is concerned about pollution and the harm it causes to the environment.
- Sometimes this will require another check of definitions.
- Observe cause and effect to separate issues.
- Think in principles. Where else do I see a pattern like this in reality?
- Ask yourself what is related to what, and how?
This can really help in drilling down to the fundamentals of any issue. And the detective must get to the fundamentals, to root causes. It is essential to identify all the facts at the beginning of the chain of reasoning, NOT at the end! One dodgy link in this logical chain means that anything downstream of that cannot be valid, is not a sound conclusion and therefore cannot be true!
- It is a process of unpacking the ideas to see what is already assumed. For example, the “Climate Emergency” idea assumes many things that are not necessarily true. It assumes…
- That CO2 is driving climate change,
- That more CO2 means it keeps getting warmer
- That if it gets warmer that is a problem,
- That there are no benefits associated with an increase in atmospheric CO2.
- What is a given and what is an assumption?
- What is being assumed here? Are these assumption really true?
- For this to be true, what else must be true?
Eliminate the impossible:
- Remember, contradictions don’t exist in reality.
- Any contradiction seen in a debate or narrative is a red flag indicating something is wrong!
- Further investigation is required
- When things just don’t make sense it is necessary to consider other hypotheses in the form of hidden agendas.
- Its easier to find fault in an argument than to build a sound one. Its easier to identify the false than the true. So it is always worth following Sherlock Holmes’ advice and first eliminate the impossible.
- When what is easy to disprove has been removed, the picture becomes far clearer and the relationship between facts can be more easily appreciated.
Evaluate all the arguments:
- You must evaluate all the pros and cons of all competing claims. No detective worth his salt would shun a line of enquiry for any reason. All possible suspects and motives must necessarily be considered.
- In each case, this requires looking for a rational argument and assessing its logical strength.
- It means evaluating the available evidence and evaluating its credibility.
- Beware of Logical Fallacies, equivocation, package dealing, statistical sleights of hand and a barrage of other tricks played on you by the sophists and deceivers.
Think in fundamentals:
- This means getting to the root issues at the start of the chain of reasoning. It means to begin at the beginning. With the coronavirus narrative, this means asking what is a virus and does it really cause disease? But at any stage of your investigation, you must always observe cause and effect to identify the primaries as distinct from effects.
- To identify fundamentals you must distinguish between causes and effects to see which are primaries and which are downstream effects.
- Also, ask ‘what else must be true for this to be true also?’
- Is there something more fundamental being assumed?
- What is the source of my information assuming?
- Again, use questions and observe cause and effect to anticipate what will happen or what is likely to happen.
- It requires thinking in principles.
- Look for agendas by asking the question “Cui bono?” or “Who benefits?”
- Ask, “where does this lead, and who might it serve?”
- Ask, “where does this lead, what does it rule out?”
- Ask “where does this lead, what must necessarily follow?”
- As you do this always bear in mind full context.
- Don’t let abstract philosophers tell you that certainty is unachievable. There are theories such as coherentism, pragmatism, nihilism or deflationism. These will simply confuse you and they all have little or no practical value. I see them as a useless distraction.
- Certainty exists on a sliding scale: Possible – probable – likely – beyond a reasonable doubt – 100% certain. And it can be achieved to the level of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ for all practical day-to-day purposes if you do it correctly.
- Certainty is the measure of how much evidence supports a conclusion.
- A conclusion that is beyond a reasonable doubt must be supported by all of the evidence and contradict none of it.
- You must ensure that another conclusion is not also consistent with the evidence and contradicts none of it. Otherwise, the main conclusion can only be considered probable.
- The feeling of being certain is not the same as epistemological certainty. People crave the feeling of certainty because epistemological certainty is a survival requirement. Feelings are no guide to knowledge or truth.
- Avoid reaching for short cuts such as jumping to conclusions or making up facts.
- Don’t take a leap of faith, feelings and emotions are no short cut to knowledge!
- Check against confirmation bias by asking yourself “What would I accept as evidence I am wrong?”
- Check for logical fallacies by asking “what persuades me this is true?” Be able to give a coherent concise and rational answer.
Integrate conclusions into one non-contradictory sum
- Finally, join all the dots in your mind. Connect everything together by making sure that each fact has a logical bearing on all others. Let each piece of information inform every other piece.
- Check for contradictions: Any contradiction means there is further investigation required. There are none in reality, so there should be none in your thinking. Your mental map must reflect reality as accurately as possible.
- Check for consistency with your contextual knowledge.
- You only understand something to be true and can consider it knowledge, when you understand why it is true and can explain why to others. Integration into the non-contradictory sum is how to achieve this.
Finding the truth takes effort and is not easy. Yet it is immensely rewarding. Don’t be overwhelmed by the work required because it is actually a lot of fun once you get going, and the prize could not be bigger. It’s fun being a detective and it’s rewarding to be sure about what you claim to know. You need to know the truth because you must have an accurate map of reality in order to know how best to act, what to do, how to live. This is what becoming more conscious means and it’s immensely important for your success in the socio-political context of today.
Nigel Howitt, Treehouse Farm
June 14th, 2020