This article describes the reasoning process I use to write most of the articles on this site.
The process is based on two axioms:
- Truth is not subjective.
- Truth never contradicts itself.
Because truth is not subjective, some ideas are more objective than others. This means that no matter what your worldview is, it can always be improved to be more objective. It shows that there is indeed something to strive for.
The idea that truth never contradicts itself is a very powerful axiom. Lies can be internally consistent as well, but a mixture of truth and lies will show contradictions. You can use this principle to discover what’s true and what’s false. Here’s what I mean:
It is difficult to tell if any single idea is true or false, just like it is difficult to tell which of two similar puzzles a single puzzle piece belongs to. But a large collection of non-contradicting ideas will reveal whether the entire collection is true or false. The larger the collection, the easier it is to see. You start with one ambiguous puzzle piece, find others that fit onto it, and soon you can tell which of the two puzzles you’ve put together.
Another analogy is panning for gold. You start with a large amount of material that includes both silt and gold flakes, then you shake the pan and let the silt fall away. This indicates the importance of continually thinking, reading, and discussing large amounts of new material, which is then to be sorted or filtered via intuition and critical thinking to reveal what is true.
The analysis phase is best done with pen and paper (or a sketchbook) to lay out intuitive thoughts for dissection, to survey the possibilities, to brainstorm, and to distill derived conclusions into precisely worded statements that “nail” the answer. What begins as a question, mystery, paradox, or ambiguity can be brought into full clarity this way.
When analyzing a theory, be it something read elsewhere or one that just came to mind, it is far better to look for what’s wrong with it than what’s right. That is because debates can rage forever concerning the thousand facts supporting a single lie, but no one can argue with a single fact that disproves a thousand lies. The self-deluded spend their lives finding reasons to justify their delusions, and they find reasons galore… but they remain deluded only because they refuse to look at the fatal flaws in their assumptions or reasoning. Therefore look for these flaws at the outset and you can avoid a lifetime of self-delusion.
Remember, as long as your worldview is internally consistent, it is most likely entirely true or entirely false. Combine this principle with the five-step process below, and you will have an effective truth analysis method. The process of discovering truth is one of cycling between gathering material, formulating theories, working out inconsistencies, and gathering more material.
Most importantly, truth is always verified by both logic and intuition — logic without intuition, or intuition without logic should never be used to determine truth. They must be used in tandem. If there is conflict between logic and intuition, check your logical assumptions. Use intuition to guide and logic to analyze.
The process goes like this:
1) Gather new ideas from contemplation, observation, discussion, or some reading material. Then pick a mystery, a contradiction, a set of observations or anything that needs to be explained or resolved.
2) To make a good theory that will explain all of that, start with the infinite set of all possibilities. This means anything goes, no idea is too ludicrous. Use your intuition and guess.
3) As ideas come to mind, use critical thinking to eliminate everything that is self contradictory or absolutely impossible. Look for holes in these ideas, try to shoot them down.
4) Of the bulletproof theories that are left, select the theory that:
- explains all the facts
- explains the facts better than any other theory
- explains facts that previous theories could not
- is logically consistent and has no internal contradictions
- makes sense
- feels intuitively correct.
5) The theory is worth keeping if:
- it predicts things which are later confirmed by observation
- you find correlation from other independent sources.
6) If you come across something that challenges the theory, then:
- check to see that it’s really a challenge, and not just an illusory paradox based on assumptions or incorrect perspective
- check to see if the challenge is even valid, or if it is internally inconsistent and full of holes
- modify the theory to accomodate the challenge
- come up with a whole new theory that explains everything more elegantly than the old one.
This is opposite the process used in science and mathematics that starts with axioms and builds upon them. The problem with that method is that it starts with a very limited finite set and creeps upward like a stalagmite. If the assumptions or axioms are false, then everything built on it is in error. Further, such a process cannot skip steps, as it always needs verification from the status quo to proceed to the next step. It cannot take leaps of faith or logic, and therefore cannot make paradigm shifts. It’s an inflexible process that definitely has its advantages when it comes to high risk applications that need lots of security and assuredness, but as far as breaking new ground is concerned, it’s incredibly slow. Any creativity in that process happens only in the formation of the basic axioms, or in accidents that occur along the way.
The process described in this article starts with an infinite set, and whittles away what doesn’t fit. This means there is no need to leap across a logical abyss because one approaches from the other side. It is much easier to build a bridge if someone is already on the other side. Likewise, once a radical idea has been confirmed using this process, it is much easier to work backwards and logically bridge the abyss. Also, the fitting together of ideas and sorting of truth from lies requires creativity at every step, so it’s the best method of achieving rapid innovation.