Friday, 21 June 2013

An Open Mind

The term “open-mind” or “open-mindedness” has become yet another one of these amorphous terms, “buzzwords” or, dare I say it, “hashtags” which are thrown around today without any kind of understanding as to what the term really means. I have seen examples of the term being used when arguing against people who are making any kind of judgement about something, no matter how well informed or well-reasoned such a judgement might be. Such examples seem to argue that unless you are willing to accept everything that is presented to you, you are being closed minded and therefore you are doing something wrong.

I agree that open mindedness is something we should strive towards and that many of the world’s problems could be easily solved if the people attempting to solve them were not so closed minded. However, we does it even mean when I used the term “open minded”? Do I mean that we need to accept other people’s views? To an extent yes. Does it mean that we need to be tolerant? To an extent, yes. Does it mean that we should treat all views as equal? No, that is not something we should do.

Thought it is imparted with the best intentions, there is a terrible viewpoint given to children at a young age which is that “all opinions are equal” which I agree with, to an extent. I agree that opinions on “matters of taste” are all equal. I despise marmite and think that it is disgusting. That is a matter of taste, it is literally nothing more than a value judgement we make based solely on whether or not we enjoy doing something. Some people love marmite. Their stance is equal in weight to mine. In this sense, all opinions are equal.

However, opinions which concern that which are not matters of taste, opinions which are not solely based on value judgements of which the consequences affect only some level of aesthetic pleasure, these are not equal. The opinion “we should allow the people to be free” and “we should not allow the people to be free” are not equal, they are completely unequal. There are advantages to both, but ultimately, we cannot just say “well, they’re equal really” because they are not. Morally, one must prevail over the other or they must be combined, which is not acknowledgement that both are equal, but creating a third option of synthesis.

Being open-minded does not mean holding all stances and viewpoints in equal weight, because that would transform you into a watered down and liquid person who does not actually hold any viewpoint, but just constantly preaches this doctrine of “open-mindedness”. No, to be open-minded is to be open to new ideas, to consider each idea in turn and really think about them before accepting or rejecting them. An example of closed-mindedness would be, for example, hearing an argument from someone you dislike and refusing to listen to it, thinking it flawed out of hand. If you listen to the argument in detail and reject it based on its own lack of merit, then you are not being closed-minded.

Just a thought.

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