One of the most common, deep, and fundamental issues of every day life and philosophy is that of assumptions. By assumptions I mean when someone takes something to be true without sufficient evidence to be certain of it.
This is important because it is fundamental to how we know things and learn things. Basically, if we made no assumptions then we would know almost nothing. Assumptions are needed because most things are not known with enough certainty to be sure of them. However, although assumptions are necessary, that does not excuse all assumptions as being equally valid. Making an incorrect assumption means having wrong information, which leads to why assumptions are important in everyday life: every choice you make is based on reason and information, unless it is a completely random choice. Since your every decision, ranging from what to eat for a meal to where to live and what to do for a living is dependent on what information you have, an incorrect assumption can lead to a wrong decision. A wrong decision can range from harmless to lethal, and although that may seem like an exaggeration or unlikely, it is a very real threat. Part of the reason assumptions are seen as harmless is that they are a form of learning, so when you assume something, it is easy to believe it. If you believe the assumption is true, then aren’t likely to doubt the assumption when the choice you based on it fails. Many people will make mistakes, but never think about why it happened. Instead of isolating the cause of the mistake, they are more likely to disregard it as something out of their control. That is why people do not realise how many mistakes they make because of assumptions.
This fundamental life problem is also a part of the field of epistemology in philosophy. It studies the idea of knowing and how we really know things. This shows that philosophy is far from useless.
It is clear then that assumptions are
Therefore it is not possible at the moment to take an extreme stance with regard to assumptions. One cannot blindly assume everything because it will cause many mistakes, and one cannot assume nothing because they will not be able to make choices at all without assumed information.
The Nature of Assumptions
Assumptions have to be made, therefore we should learn how to make the most accurate assumptions possible, and know when to make assumptions at all.
Above assumptions were spoken of in a very general sense, without discriminating between different types of assumptions. There are at least two elements to distinguish them:
A conscious assumption is one that you made willingly and you know it is an assumption. If you have two options for what information is correct, but cannot choose one with enough certainty, then you can assume one of them is true. For example, scientists may consciously assume that an experiment has negligible air resistance.
On the contrary, an unconscious assumption is when the scientists know that air resistance exists, but never give the possibility of it affecting their experiment any consideration. Unconscious assumptions are not known to the person making them, and so they should be shown that they are making an assumption so that they may go back and decide if that assumption they made was valid. If someone does not know that they made an assumption, then they cannot know if it is valid.
An assumption you believe in is one that you essentially do not realise is an assumption. While you might consciously make it, you actually believe it is true, and so it is not really an assumption for you. Racism tends to be an assumption of belief, as someone might see a person of a race they dislike do something, and then generalise that action to all people of that race. That is why racists will say that people with dark skin or of African origin steal. This is of course not true, because there is no evidence to suggest that the actions of any number of people are inherent or even related to their skin colour or origin.
An assumption you do not believe in is one that you only make out of necessity. If you are playing a card game, and you know your opponent either has a black card or a red card and there is no way to know which, then you might have to either make an assumption one way or another. The player knows though that he is making an assumption, and has no belief that this assumption is true. The player should therefore not be surprised if they assumed incorrectly, because they did not treat the assumption as truth or as learning, but rather as a temporary piece of uncertain information.
How to Assume
Unconscious assumptions are unfortunate, but they do occur and should be corrected when seen.
Assumptions of belief are bad, and also need to be corrected, although this is likely to be much harder. In fact, some people are offended if you claim that they are incorrect. This is why assumptions of belief are arrogant.
Assumptions should be made consciously and without a strong belief in them. They are a tool that help us learn and know better. As discussed earlier, wrong information causes many issues that people do not even know they have, or if they do, they do not realise that they can avoid these issues.
What this means practically is that one should be more aware of the assumptions they make. Also though, they should realise that they have already made many assumptions. These can even be as simple as assuming that the things your parents told you were true, as they sometimes are not. Therefore one should go back and question the things they think they know. By doing this calmly and slowly, one can have a better understanding and justification for what they know and believe. Of course, is one takes this too far they might doubt everything, which leads to solipsism and to the extremes that were mentioned earlier about not making any assumptions. Instead, one can develop a well founded “house” of information, where each metaphorical floor and room is supported by the information that is under it. This way, you can root out the information that is questionable or wrong, and determine what things are based on that and then determine if they are also wrong. This method will help you further understand and appreciate the things you know that are true, and eliminate the things you thought were true but are not.
This doubt also allows you to figure out what is right before you’re forced to make a choice. The reason doubt is so easily look down on as a bad thing is because it can cause someone to delay making a choice since they do not know what is right. They then erroneously think that since this is bad, the solution is to not doubt, but not doubting is simply easier, not better in any way. This leads to dogma and allows people to lie to you to control you. However by doubting beforehand you are able to avoid this issue, since when you make a choice you already know everything you need.
This ideology is essentially a form of open mindedness and truth, as it aims to determine what of the things you know are true by being open to the possibility of being wrong.
Assumptions are needed but risky, so they should be made willingly and without believing them as truth to get the results you want.