If I have a dogma, then I must either restrict it or abandon it. If I know that I have a dogma, then it is easier to make the decision to downgrade the dogma: make it a mere belief, not a dogma. A potential problem is that many people have dogmas, but they don’t know it, and I may be one of them. Not every belief is a dogma. Not even every wrong belief is a dogma. Dogmas exist in more than just Catholicism and in more than religion generally. A dogma is any belief, right or wrong, that is immune to reversal or moderation from sound argumentation. Anyone is vulnerable to dogmas, regardless of their own intelligence or knowledge, and everyone needs to test their own potential dogmas. Some dogmas can be merely moral, without affecting my belief about objective reality. The a priori moral dogmas are not always a problem, and perhaps they are necessary as a general moral foundation. But, many dogmas have governed not only my morals but also my beliefs about objective reality. These dogmas need to be identified and either restricted to the moral domain or abandoned. Wrong beliefs about objective reality will not help my moral values, but the dogmas will keep me from having a clear picture of how to best achieve my moral goals.
Central to all of the following tests is one simple tool: pay attention to the best critics. The worst critics are easy to find, as the worst critics are amplified and used as target practice by my ideological echo chambers. I may need to actively seek out the best critics. The best critics convince the most intelligent and rational members of the opposing party, and their arguments or evidence will make me feel uncomfortable, especially if they are more reasonable than what I believe.
I should ask myself these questions:
“What evidence do I have for my own belief?” I should write out both the background knowledge (whatever makes it plausible) and the direct evidence in favor of the belief in question. I should test these arguments by presenting them to the critics. Can they convincingly poke holes in my evidence? Can they provide more probable explanations for such evidence?
“What evidence do the best critics have in favor of their beliefs?” Ideological echo chambers routinely reinforce false myths about the opposing points of view, so maybe I have the wrong idea about the evidence preferred by the critics. Maybe I falsely believe they rely on dogmas, but they actually rely on seemingly rational arguments much like my own. I should ask the critics directly what convinces them of their beliefs. My own dogma may be better than the competing strawmen, but, if the critical point of view is accurately represented, then the critical perspective may be better than my own perspective. If my critics frequently correct what I believe about them, then I am wrong about them. They are the only reliable source of information about what they believe.
“What potential evidence could change my mind away from this belief?” Dogmatists typically have trouble even imagining what potential evidence would change their beliefs. So long as I can’t even imagine the critical perspective being reasonable, then I have no risk that I may accept the critical perspective. So, the mental conception of sufficient contrary evidence is a necessary step to correcting a dogma. If I have already made the decision to abandon any dogma as soon as I see enough evidence to the contrary, then a potential trouble becomes that perhaps only an overwhelming or impossible landslide of evidence may qualify. So, the next step is to allow the critics to review my chosen thresholds of the strength of evidence. Their response may be, “That sort of evidence would also conflict with what we believe,” or “that sort of evidence would be nearly impossible given what we believe.” If so, then I should ask them what evidence would change their minds. If it is reasonable, then perhaps I should adjust my thresholds or correct my own perception of the opposing point of view.
“What related ideology may be reinforcing my belief?” Dogmas typically do not arise in isolation (with exceptions, i.e. maybe it is a dogma of my own invention), but they are often a foundational part of ideologies shared by millions of people. Ideologies are evolving memeplexes. Throughout human history each of them have adapted by persuasion through every psychological means in addition to reason. This includes appealing to my personal wishes, my personal fears, defense of my family, defense of my race, tribalism, authoritarianism, anti-authoritarianism—every common instinctive source of bias. So, if I can identify my complex of moral values, then I can identify the dogmas at the core of that complex. I may not need to abandon the ideology entirely, but I would need to restrict the dogmas to the moral domain or abandon the dogmas tied to the ideology.
After I go through these tests, then I may find that I have a dogma, but the dogma is correct. If so, then I should downgrade it to a mere belief. I can not rightly know whether or not the dogma is correct until it is no longer a dogma. And, even after dogmas are corrected, it helps if I keep the conversations open with the best critics. They can help me correct or improve my beliefs of any sort, dogmas or not. If I find myself in a homogeneous social environment that excludes or deters the critics, then I need to actively seek out the critics.
How I should fight my own dogmas
Run them over with your karma.
If I have a dogma, then I must either restrict it or abandon it. (...)
A dogma is any belief, right or wrong, that is immune to reversal or moderation from sound argumentation.
If you have a dogma, it will cease to be a dogma as soon as you look at it critically.
2. A principle or statement of ideas, or a group of such principles or statements, especially when considered to be authoritative or accepted uncritically.
The problem is not the belief, it is the attitude of the believer.
It is probably impossible to critically question all your beliefs and it is unclear whether that would even be a good thing.
I guess a reasonable rule of thumb may be to try and be less dogmatic than the next guy.
And it’s easy here!