The 10 Commandments of Epistemology

Be better at having discussions with people that have ideas different from your own.

I’ve made the plunge and I purchased the Atheos app. I highly recommend you do so as well if you are a lover of knowledge and would like to be better at having discussions with people that have ideas that differ from your own. While the app mostly applies to having discussions about religion, I’ve found myself using the method for navigating political/social issues too. In summary, here are the themes, or “10 commandments” of Epistemology.

  1. Give yourselves (you and your interlocutor) a way out. Kindly explain up front that there’s no reason to feel hurt or defensive. If they want to stop the conversation at any time for any reason, they may.
  2. Listen carefully and patiently. Keep an active mind.
  3. Indicate that you are listening to what they are saying by repeating/rephrasing their statements back to them.
  4. Focus your questions around getting to the trueness of their claims.
  5. Ask for clarification and definitions if needed.
  6. Don’t make claims. In fact, make as few statements as you can. Try to phrase every response in the form of a question because your goal is to keep the conversation flowing. Because of its question/answer format, you could go on infinitely, which is why #1 is important. People get tired of thinking so hard for so long.
  7. Beware of red-herrings. For example, try not to get sidetracked by complicated scientific explanations.
  8. Offer counter-examples when applicable.
  9. Keep calm & don’t be antagonistic; there’s no room for rudeness, dismissiveness, anger or sarcasm in a serious discussion.
  10. Learn to recognize the signs of a conversation that has become a waste of time and politely disentangle yourself.

Remember, the goal for these discussions is to understand and to be understood, not necessarily to “convert” them to your own point of view. If your goal is to convert, frustration is guaranteed.

Go purchase that app: Atheos. You won’t be disappointed!

Image source: Asher Isbrucker (Photo of a bust of Socrates)

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