Is there anything that we truly know?

We all make lots of assumptions about the world. The alternative, trying to understand every facet of our environment, isn’t tenable, so we label, categorize, and filter information.

That’s fine – unavoidable, actually – but problematic when we never question our underlying assumptions. Any set of assumptions we make is bound to be faulty and incomplete because the true nature of the world is far too chaotic and incomprehensible to us, but we can continually break down our assumptions and iterate on them to arrive at better ones.

This “breaking down and building back up” is a vitally important process, but one that humans tend to avoid. They almost invariably become stubbornly attached to their current sets of assumptions – their religion, ideology, culture, political creed, whatever.

When you catch yourself thinking that something is “obvious”, that’s the best time to examine your assumptions.

In the case of a faulty self-image, for example, correcting it will make you happier and more confident. Beyond mere self-interest, however, you are morally obligated to correct your assumptions. Consider how much damage ideologies have done to the world, and the value – and moral priority – of good assumptions becomes clear.