Open-mindedness

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Overview

Open-mindedness is the quality of being willing to consider new ideas, especially those which may challenge one's existing beliefs (i.e. "being open-minded"). It is the opposite of close-mindedness, and has much in common with (social) tolerance.

There are a number of views on this quality, with some people (predominantly liberal) viewing it as a strength and a social necessity and others (predominantly conservative) viewing it as more of a social liability.

Misconceptions

  • Open-mindedness does not imply a willingness to believe without evidence or to accept arbitrary beliefs.
  • Believing in more things does not make one more open-minded.
  • Skepticism is not the opposite of open-mindedness; in fact, it is required in order for open-mindedness to be healthy.

and Skepticism

Open-mindedness-must be accompanied by proper skepticism, otherwise one is likely to prefer compelling-but-false (meme-ish) beliefs over those which are "hard to believe" but true, leading to possession of many untrue beliefs (and possibly discarding many that are true due to conflict with the untrue beliefs).

vs. Conservatism

Conservatives often see open-mindedness as synonymous with "liberal decadence" and the decay of morality in society, on the theory that most individuals lack the judgment to distinguish good/moral ideas from bad/immoral ideas, and may choose immoral ideas and practices because they are appealing in the moment or lead to personal gratification.

While it is true that open-mindedness without proper skepticism may lead to bad judgment calls, this is more of an indication of the need for skepticism than an inherent flaw of open-mindedness. The alternative is to only believe information which comes from an appropriate authority while resisting new ideas from other sources (close-mindedness), a pattern which leaves itself open to vast abuses of power by those in authority.

It is also true that open-mindedness is innately hostile to certain aspects of conservatism such as the idea that existing social structures (institutions, principles, moral codes, etc.) have embedded wisdom upon which society depends but which we do not (or cannot) understand, and that tampering with those structures may cause them to fail in ways we cannot repair (with disastrous consequences). Open-mindedness requires willingness to examine and question things, and social structures are no exception.

Links

Reference

  • Wikipedia: very brief definition, plus disambiguation (as of 2009-04-04)
  • Conservapedia makes the point that the designation of "open-minded" can be misused as an argument that one should accept the speaker's claims unquestioningly, on pain of having it withdrawn (i.e. being called "close-minded"). (The video below also makes the point that this is a misapplication.)
  • dKosopedia: no equivalent page (as of 2009-04-04)
  • SourceWatch: no equivalent page (as of 2009-04-04)

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