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How to Understand Something in a New Way

A few ideas from Dr Alex Vasquez posted 14 Jan 2018

Clarity: What are the terms, definitions, interactions and components?

  • Starting with misunderstanding or erroneous information is the surest way to NOT understand something.

  • Starting with a foundational definition of terms and clarification of concepts is (per Frankfurt*) an important component of analytical philosophy specifically and hence truth and sustainability of society. *eg,

  • Who are the authors and “definers” and what are their conflicts of interest?

    • Example: Are you getting vaccine-promotional information from authors and groups that are paid by the vaccine industry?

    • Example: Are the authors of your “science” article funded by multiple drug companies that benefit from confusing the topic?


Biases: What are the “blinding biases” and indoctrinations relevant to this topic?

  • One of the reasons that legitimate breakthroughs in understanding are uncommon is that people are indoctrinated into the “common mode of thought” which itself perpetuates confusion on various topics; as such, a true and original understanding of many topics can only be achieved by examining and—where appropriate—discarding old falsities in favor of a more accurate perception of the problems and components, which is prerequisite to arriving at legitimate and original perceptions and solutions.

    • Example: Americans are told that their government is a democracy, but it was never intended to be a democracy (majority rules) on a national level; rather it was designed as a republic (elected representatives make the decisions; in many situations such as the electoral college that determines presidential elections, such “representatives” are not even elected by the people but rather selected privately by each states’ political parties) which later became an oligarchy:

    • Concrete example: More than 90% of Americans want proper labeling of corporate-owned genetically manipulated foods, but the government refuses to provide such information because the government serves the interests of the ruling elite and corporate powers.

  • How is the common discussion being framed to support the power structure? See Noam Chomsky: Manufacturing Consent: 

    • 1) operative sound bites,

    • 2) selection of topics,

    • 3) distribution of concerns,

    • 4) emphasis,

    • 5) framing of issues,

    • 6) filtering of information, eg most Americans have no idea about the invasion and slaughter of East Timor which occurred with American complicity,

    • 7) bounding of debate


Errors and Fallacies: At the very least, become familiar with logical fallacies and faulty arguments so that you will more readily appreciate these mistakes in the information you read as well as in your own thought processes. All fallacies are forms of non-sequiturs; conversely, correct thinking is definitively sequential.  


Earnestness: How much does one really care about this topic and to what extent is one willing to change perspectives and work/read/study to develop a more accurate perception?

  • If one is just trying to pass a test, then the effort goes to mastering the material relevant for the test, which is different from trying to truly understand a topic.

  • Does one analyze and critique new views, or easily accept them, especially when they are consistent with the beloved perspective?

  • Quite often, quality of conclusions depends on quantity of information reviewed and perspectives included. If you have not read at least 5-10 authoritative books/articles/chapters on the topic, then you’re not really making a sufficient effort to understand the issue, at least not at a deep level. At least 30% of what you read should be from an opposing viewpoint. You need to read books/articles from other countries in order to escape the “hall of mirrors” effect of reading information from people with the same cultural indoctrination that you have received.

  • New information and different perspectives commonly occur as “more difficult to understand” and as such will have to be read more than once.

    • Concrete example: In our medical school, we were expected to read all assignments three times: 1) learn the vocabulary, 2) gain familiarity, 3) solidify mastery.


Real-world validation: How do the biases and preliminary conclusions perform in the real world with common (not exceptional) examples?

  • Look at the big picture, common themes, exceptions, biases in sources, personal and class privilege

  • How strongly do your conclusions benefit you personally?  How well do they promote or change the status quo in a way that benefits your personal status, religion, or social group?

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