(Blog) If you can’t tell if it’s true, ask whom it will help (but don’t assume that’s easy to determine)

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Figuring out what and how to think is way harder than school implies. Mastering reading and memorization, to start, are not enough.

The following is a list of questions that are laid out in a suggested order people should follow to determine if they should believe something. Without a systematic guideline for thinking, insanity isn’t out of the question.

Please don’t assume this outline is perfect, and perhaps the order needs adjustment, but at the very least, I hope it helps.

I am well aware that these questions are general, and that each person could interpret and answer each differently, but that’s part of the point. This guideline is for you, so the list needs to shapeshift.

What is listed below are suggestions, but without a guide, the life of the mind naturally heads in the direction of paranoia and insanity, especially if we start thinking about how thinking works. Ending up a character in a Pynchon novel doesn’t sound like much fun to me, personally.

Please note that if question x us you to Question 7, but one day we find out that we can answer Question 2 with either a “yes” or “no,” then our answer to Question 2 prevails. If we can suddenly answer a question higher up the list, that answer trumps all the answers below it.

Please note that each general question is not necessarily easy to answer, for they assume a capacity to accurately interpret and understand situations, a skill which none of us come by easily. We may also have an inclination to answer way too quickly say Question 3 or other questions in favor of questions that better match our personality. Each question may warrant a day, week, or month to answer, if not longer, so we shouldn’t move too fast. Lastly, we should recognize that answering each question on the list could require answering new questions that themselves should be processed through the list, so we should take our time processing.

Question 1:

Is it theoretically knowable?

Answer

Yes: Proceed to the next question.

No: Then stop and don’t worry about it.

Indeterminable: Then stop and don’t worry about it or risk paranoia.

Question 2:

Is it possible for us to be confident in our conclusions about it even if we cannot be certain (seeing as certainty is mostly impossible)?

Yes: Proceed to the next question.

No: Then stop and don’t worry about it.

Indeterminable: Then stop and don’t worry about it or risk insanity.

Question 3:

Is it true?

Yes: Then you should believe it.

No: Then you shouldn’t believe it.

Indeterminable: Proceed to the next question.

Reflection:

Answering if something is true or false might require a thousand hours of reflection, thinking, reading, and writing. A large number of my papers are dedicated to the question of how we can determine if something is true, false, or indeterminable, so answering Question 2 on this list is a very difficult matter. However, I’m of the opinion that a lot of people don’t know what to do if they conclude a question is “indeterminable,” and to address how to systematically proceed from this point is the main reason I wrote this short work.

Reflection 2:

Please note that Question 2 is not “Is it reasonable?” because what is rational is relative to what is (believed to be) true, as expanded on in other works.

Question 4:

Is it important?

Yes: Proceed to the next question.

No: Then drop the question.

Indeterminable: Wait for more clarity and focus on questions that you know are important while you wait.

Question 5:

Could believing it benefit you?

Yes: Proceed to the next question.

No: Proceed to the next question.

Indeterminable: Proceed to the next question.

Question 6:

Could believing it benefit you and others.

Yes: Then you should believe it.

No: Proceed to the next question.

Indeterminable: Proceed to the next question.

Question 7:

Could believing it help others (perhaps a lot) without hurting you or without hurting you a lot in comparison to how much others could benefit?

Yes: Then you should believe it.

No: Proceed to the next question.

Indeterminable: Then you should believe it.

Question 8:

Could believing it hurt you severely while helping others a lot?

Yes: Then you should believe it.

No: Proceed to the next question.

Indeterminable: Then you should believe it.

Reflection:

This might be the question where self-sacrifice and ethics are most apparent.

Question 9:

Could believing it harm others without hurting you?

Yes: Then you shouldn’t believe it.

No: Proceed to the next question.

Indeterminable: Then you shouldn’t believe it.

Question 10:

Could believing it benefit you without harming others at all.

Yes: Then you should believe it.

No: Proceed to the next question.

Indeterminable: Then you should believe it.

Question 11:

Could believing it benefit you (perhaps a lot) while harming others a lot?

Yes: Then you shouldn’t believe it.

No: Proceed to the next question.

Indeterminable: Then you shouldn’t believe it.

Question 12:

Could believing it benefit you while harming others not severely?

Yes: This depends on “how” you are benefiting and “how much” others are suffering. If you might die and others be inconvenienced for five minutes, then you should believe it. A cost/benefit analysis is required, which is very hard to do.

No: Proceed to the next question.

Indeterminable: If you can’t determine that it will benefit you but know it will harm others, you shouldn’t believe it. If you can’t determine that it will harm others but know it will benefit you, then it depends on how badly others will be harmed (again, a cost/benefit analysis is in order). If you can’t determine if you’ll benefit or if others will be harmed, you shouldn’t believe it.

Reflection:

This might be the trickiest question on this chart. You should triple check your answer, especially if you stand to gain.

Question 13:

If it won’t hurt or help anyone at all, how can the question be important?

Because it’s good? Then it benefits someone.

Because it’s beautiful? Again, it benefits someone

Because it’s true? Then you should have stopped on Question 2.

If you reach Question 13, you should drop the question for better inquiries.

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