Keep An Open Mind

Socrates said that the beginning of wisdom was to know that we do not know. Often we ListenWithYourAnswerRunning and don't really hear the person that is trying to say something to us.

Even when you think that you know the other person is wrong, HearThemOut?. If you don't learn something about the matter being discussed, you will learn something about the person discussing it. ActiveListening is a terribly hard skill to develop. Perhaps it is because we are all so self-involved and self-centered.

Whatever the reason, you can change it by deciding to be a good listener and practicing every time that you talk to someone. We all talk about PracticeMakesPerfect?, but we seldom actually do it. -- RaySchneider
I can't afford to KeepAnOpenMind. There are too many stupid people telling me stupid things for me to be open about all of them, e.g. welfare is slavery, Java is slow, the Bible should be interpreted literally, you shouldn't eat red meat, drinking your own urine is good for you, and so on. These things may have their aspects of truth, but I have long ago made a decision on whether they are true for me, and I am not very open to further discussion. I have moved on to other questions on which I readily accept opinions, e.g. welfare recipients have social obligations, getters are evil, church doctrine should change according to fashion, you shouldn't eat a lot of red meat, drinking your own urine has effects which may be beneficial if you have cancer.

I claim that only by making decisions and refusing debate on the first set of questions can I move onto contemplating and finding answers on the second set of questions. That is not to say that I am completely immovable on the first set of questions, it is just much harder to get through to me, and you will need much better reasoned arguments. However, you don't have a lot of time to present them in, because I'm not really interested.

I think that we all make DecisionsToLiveBy, and once we have made those decisions we can grow as human beings. Keeping an open mind means I constantly have to question my DecisionsToLiveBy, and I think that's counterproductive.

-- JohnFarrell

Sounds like you want to choose a set of axioms, and examine the possibilities they offer. That's a valid philosophy, and one I certainly would respect. However, it's sometimes worth going back over your DecisionsToLiveBy and re-examine the data underpinning them. I wouldn't do this daily, but it's worth dragging out once a year or so. How about PeriodicallyOpeningYourMind?, rather than keeping it open (or closed) all the time? -- RobertWatkins
John - I choose what conservations to engage in, I am not open to everything all the time - mostly because of my own limitations. However, I choose not to pre-judge anyone as stupid. I am often surprised to learn in the most unexpected situations. I believe there can be as much to be learned from untruths (how did they start? what would it take to dispel them? why do people choose to believe them?) as from truths. -- PaulCaswell
This reminds me of discussions I've had in the past. A summary [and a celebrity quote that says the same thing ;-)]: to those certain they know the truth, new knowledge is invisible, learning impossible. "In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar." Richard P. Feynman

-- SteveMerrick 24/April/2002
I look at openmindedness in the sense of Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind". While I believe there is an absolute truth, I don't feel I have a firm enough handle on it to dismiss all objections. Periodically, I review my assumptions.

Is the earth's atmosphere rapidly heating up, leading to environmental catastrophe? I won't reveal the answer here, but: either it is, or it isn't. And if it is: either there is proof, or there isn't.

Keeping an open mind means that I am willing to examine arguments against my ideas, not just those that support my ideas. After all, I have (occasionally!) been wrong in the past. If I'm wrong now, I'd like to know as soon as possible.

Java was slow when it was only interpreted, by a factor of 10 to 20 compared to C. Compiled Java became comparable after the JustInTime compiler (and direct native compiliation) became available. I was "open" to the slowness of Java in 1996, but know I am pretty sure it's not slow.

Welfare can enslave or liberate. A 19-year-old girl with 2 illegitimate kids, whose benefits will (a) decrease (or end abruptly) if she marries, or (b) increase significantly if she bears a 3rd child; has a strong financial incentive to remain on welfare. While not precisely slavery, the incentives seem perverse at best (to me). However, a gainfully employed person who is laid off or faced with an impossible rent increase (or some other problem not of their own making) would benefit from a few months (even a couple of years) of welfare benefits to help get them back on their feet. For this person, welfare is by no means slavery.

Ah, but is producing "illegitimate" children really slavery? Maybe it's only an outmoded societal taboo. I'm open-minded about that, too. But just don't quote bogus statistics that conflate "husband" with "boyfriend", if you want to convince me that children are not better off (on average) living with their married mother and father - as a recent NY Times article slyly did: they mixed in live-in boyfriends (whose level of violence is notoriously high) with actual (married) husbands, yielding a significantly negative effect for having a man in the house; but then they said they had proof that having a "husband" in the house was harmful, concealing their statistical (and semantic) slight of hand.

So I'm no longer "open" to the argument of that article, because I caught them cheating. However, I'm still open to their conclusion, provided they do legitimate research.

The key point is that an objection to whatever my current opinion is, must have a sound basis. If so, I will promptly (if not gladly) change my opinion. If the objection isn't sound, I won't change.

-- EdPoor
Meta-open means openness to a degree of closedness. Cute, but it renders advice useless. Keep on doing whatever you're doing.

"In order to keep an open mind, I am trying to avoid learning anything." - AshleighBrilliant?
 On open-mindedness
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