Philosophy is a fine place to begin to learn how to question, because it is the act of questioning, of seeking the truth, that is so eminently human. In your efforts to seek the truth, I offer the following rules:
Wizard's First Rule:
People are stupid.
People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. People are stupid and will believe a lie because they either want it to be true or because they are afraid that it might be true. Peoples' heads are full of knowledge, facts and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.
Wizard's Second Rule:
The greatest harm can result from the best intentions.
A person's intentions do not stop their actions from causing harm. This is related to unintended consequences. Intention requires forethought.
Wizard's Third Rule:
Passion rules reason, for better or worse
This rule speaks of the power of emotion. Who would you fear more? A large, powerful man who did not wish you any harm, or a small, crazed woman who believed with all of her heart that you had stolen her baby?
Wizard's Fourth Rule:
There is healing in sincere forgiveness; in the forgiveness you grant and moreso in the forgiveness you receive.
This rule speaks of the healing potential of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not to be confused with agreeing with the other person, nor does it say that you think what another person did was okay. Forgiveness is largely for the self; it is best when used to relieve the self of the burden of carrying a grudge, and it is more relieving than you know to another person to receive forgiveness.
Wizard's Fifth Rule:
Mind what people do, not only what they say; for deeds will betray a lie.
This rule speaks of paying attention to people's words and actions to discern the truth of their intentions. Related to this is a Godfather quote: "I don't put any stock in words. I don't even trust actions. What I trust are patterns." Paying attention to the patterns of behavior in people will tell you a great amount about that person.
Wizard's Sixth Rule:
The only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason.
This is the most important rule. The first law of reason is this: what exists, exists, what is, is.
From this irreducible, bedrock principle, all knowledge is built. It is the foundation from which life is embraced.
Thinking is a choice. Wishes and whims are not facts, nor are they a means to discover them. Reason is our only way of grasping reality; it is our basic tool of survival. We are free to evade the effort of thinking, to reject reason, but we are not free to avoid the penalty of that we refuse to see. Faith and feelings are the darkness to reasons' light. In rejecting reason, refusing to think, one embraces death. The Sixth Rule is the hub upon which all rules turn. It is not only the most important rule, but the simplest. Nonetheless, it is the one most often ignored and violated, and by far the most despised.
Wizard's Seventh Rule:
Life is the future, not the past.
The past can teach us, through experience, how to accomplish things in the future, comfort us with cherished memories, and provide the foundation of what has already been accomplished. But only the future holds life. To live in the past is to embrace what is dead. To live life to its fullest, each day must be created anew. As rational, thinking beings, we must use our intellect, not a blind devotion to what has come before, to make rational choices.
Wizard's Eighth Rule:
Be justified in your convictions. Be completely committed. Earn what you want and need rather than waiting for others to give you what you desire. - This rule speaks of not being afraid to stand up and defend what you think to be the truth, even if the situation is not in your favor. It speaks of ambition and motivation; never be afraid to DO, and by extension, never be afraid to fail. The truth is a self-correcting mechanism: If we are wrong in our assertion of the truth, we can learn from our mistakes and better our knowledge.
Wizard's Ninth Rule:
A contradiction cannot exist in reality; not in whole nor in part.
To believe in a contradiction is to abdicate your belief in the existence of the world around you and the nature of the things in it, to instead embrace any random impulse that strikes your fancy - to imagine something is real simply because you wish it were. A thing is what it is, it is itself. There can be no contradictions.
Faith is a device of self-delusion, a sleight-of-hand done with words and emotions founded on any irrational notion that can be dreamed-up. Faith is the attempt to coerce truth to surrender to whim. In simple terms, it is trying to breathe life into a lie by trying to outshine reality with the beauty of wishes. Faith is the refuge of fools, the ignorant, and the deluded, not of thinking, rational (people).
In reality, contradictions cannot exist. To believe in them you must abandon the most important thing you possess: your rational mind. The wager for such a bargain is your life. In such an exchange, you always lose what you have at stake.
Wizard's Tenth Rule:
Willfully turning aside from the truth is treason to oneself.
The truth is what should motivate your life, not the lies, or you will fall victim to the first rule and if you ignore the truth you're betraying everything that you believe in, because the lie is more convenient to you than reality.
The Primordial Rule:
You can destroy those who speak the truth, but you cannot destroy the truth itself.
No matter how hard people try, the truth will always be, and no amount of violence or no amount of noise to the contrary can change it. The truth is the highest aim, and to pursue it is the most noble goal. Seek the truth and reveal lies for what they are.
The Final Rule:
One must always seek the truth in life for themselves, rather than simply believing that which they are told without their own rational understanding and justification for that belief. Failure to do so can lead to a life of clinging to empty promises and following trails of false hope.
Seek the truth in life for your own sake.
The first goal of life should be to seek the truth in all things, and for yourself. Never rely on another person to give your life worth nor give another person the power to invalidate your sense of self-worth. You are; therefore you matter. You are alive, and your life has meaning. Your sense of self-worth should never be a question. Assert yourself unashamedly and in the face of fear and doubt, and never allow another person to cause you to question your self-worth.
Take these rules and apply them to your life. Seek the truth and free your mind. Learn from philosophy, but never allow your mind to be steered away from the truth by emotions, faith, comforting lies or whims.
The definition here of "Wizard" is the nearly-obsolete term meaning "a very wise person", not the magic-wielding, supernatural connotation.
If you'd like to discuss this further, my inbox is always open at blahtherapy.com/members/blackholehead