Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby
I found the following passage in the article (Challenging accepted thinking):
“The reason behind the achievements of Bohr’s institute is something business schools and students would do well to note. It was not the amount of money that secured success. What made the difference was the belief that accepted thinking must be questioned”
The last sentence in the passage is important to me. This is precisely what I spent my life doing. And I am fortunate to find myself continuing to do the very same thing, just as I had hoped before drinking that cup of poison. I use a method of elenchus to target premises which are poorly supported. In doing so, I question accepted thinking and I do so to test it for truth.
But why do I question accepted thinking? Why should any of us question our accepted thinking? Well, for Bohr it was to get closer to the truth about how the nature of the universe. I am usually more focused on ethics. My reason for questioning accepted thinking can be deduced from simple premises which lead to the conclusion that I might not be living a happy life. The first simple premise states that I have false information bouncing around in my mind.
P1. I have false information bouncing around in my mind.
This premise needs support. After all, it may be false. But I think it is true. It must be, because my senses are imperfect, books I have read are out of date, and I have inherited ideas from culture and culturally accepted ideas are often shown to be incorrect.
I have been asked: why worry about truth? This question, I think, can be easily answered if we consider the possibility that we make decisions about our lives based on the ideas we have in our minds. That is my second premise.
P2. I make decisions about my life based on the information I have in my mind.
Now, if I have an accepted thought about the way the world works, but it turns out that it is false, then I might end up making a bad decision. For example, suppose I hold the accepted thought that money leads to happiness. Having that thought in my mind might lead me to devote my life to making more money. I might end up becoming a cut-throat business person leaving in my wake a string of broken friendships and failed relationships. At the end of my life, I might come to realize that my life was not a happy one, but it turned out that way because of my unquestioned belief that money leads to happiness. In this situation, I would have been wise to question that belief at an early age. Doing so could have resulted in a different (perhaps happier) life. This leads me to a third premise.
P3. If I make life decisions based on false information, I might not live a happy life
This line of reasoning leads to the conclusion that having false information in our heads might result in us not living a happy life.
C1. I might not live a happy life (from P1, P2, P3)
What does this show us? This deduction shows us that we might reduce our chances of living a happy life if we have false information in our minds. That is why I question people’s beliefs. That is why I question my own beliefs. It is to improve the possibility of living a happy life. As I keep reminding people, “the unexamined life is not worth living”.