From a recent Facebook post:
In order to claim to be a “thinker” you should be your own biggest skeptic. In other words, if you hold a belief very strongly, then you should be able to create the best possible argument of those who would disagree with you and contend with it. (A steel man argument.)
The problem is, this is very hard to do without attacking a straw man. Because we are all biased. If we aren’t careful, we start to believe that our opponents really believe the straw man we have created for them, because our bias is to assume that we and those who agree with us possess all of the moral virtue and insight. It takes a lot of honest attempts at it and seeking out dissenting ways of thinking in order to actually know how to argue with a steel man.
This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to allow yourself to have close friends with whom you strongly disagree. (I have had a lot of practice with this, because I disagree with everyone about everything, lol) It’s how we remember to see each other as human. “Ah, my uncle believes that BS too, but he’s a good person” might enter your head when you see something you think is BS while scrolling through your feeds. This could lead to comments like “wow, I see that differently. What led you to believe that” etc. Instead of “just unfriend me now if you believe xyz.”
So, if you are interested in being a thinker in this way, try this:
1. pick a topic you have a passionate opinion about
2. Try to find someone you love who disagrees with you on it. (If you can’t I say that’s a red flag already)
3. DM or Text them. “So you and I see this differently, but I want to understand. Can I outline for you what I think your position is to see if I have it right?”
4. Then allow them to correct you if they feel misrepresented. (They almost always will.) After all, they are the authority on their own opinion, not you.
5. Only from there can an actual conversation begin in which you both might learn something.