When thinking through an issue, consider the following . . .
Content: Terms should be clearly defined and since similar terms are used in different contexts, the context should be clarified. Definitions should be agreed upon. If there is no agreement on the definition of terms, don’t proceed . . . play a game instead.
Strength: The strength of a belief references how strongly you hold to a belief. When someone says they believe something, it doesn’t mean they believe it with 100% certainty. Some beliefs may be held with that level of certainty but it is important to know not ALL beliefs are held with that level of certainty.
We all, as humans, have to live in a world with some degree of uncertainty so uncertainty is a shared human experience and we must respect that in one another. When someone says they believe something, they don’t necessarily mean they believe it 100% and thus, unwilling to consider opposing evidence. It could simply mean that because of the evidence or experiences they have had until that moment in time, they hold to a particular belief.
It gets even more complicated when you vote for a specific person for political office because you are only given limited choices and you must choose between the choices presented to you. The same is true in hiring and working with a certain person or group on a particular goal when you have other beliefs not in common.
Centrality: Centrality is the degree of importance the belief has in your entire worldview. The more central a belief is to your worldview, the more significant it would be if you were to abandon the belief.
This is significant when one’s business, religion, political affiliation relies on the belief being true. If that belief is false . . . the person might have to change something that is central to who they are or how they support themselves.
Proportionality: Proportionality is when you base the degree of belief by the strength of the evidence for that belief. With more evidence, the degree of belief increases. With evidence to the contrary, the degree of belief decreases.
This gets complicated because some beliefs are not able to be scientifically tested . . . either you can’t get a trial size large enough to be considered legitimate scientific evidence or it is of a nature that can’t be manipulated by humans . . . but could still be true. So there might be different types of evidence . . . which then gets back to content . . . how do you define “evidence”.
Plausibility: Plausibility is willingness for someone to even entertain a belief as being potentially true. We are often encouraged to be open-minded . . . like a brainstorming session . . . ideas are thrown out without being scrutinized as plausible or implausible. It is good to start afresh every once in a while and just allow all the ideas to be considered before ruling things out. This ensures that you are allowing ideas to be plausible, even if, in the end, you rule them out.
Part of the reason name-calling is attempted and sometimes, effective, is to ensure certain ideas or certain people are considered implausible and not deserving of consideration.
Critical thinking only begins here . . . but it is an important start that will help you navigate difficult issues.
This is an example of these principles applied to the massage industry . . .
What are some other considerations when discussing beliefs?
Photography by Anna Truax