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Intresca

What does it mean to be "open minded"?

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Okay, lately, this idea that people throw around called "being open minded" has been irritating me. There are certain people I don't like, for example, Punks. So, if I happened to say, "I think punks are immoral," I'm immediately hit with, "That's ignorant, you should be open minded enough to understand their culture." Lately, that's really been bothering me. And it's not just with Punks either, it's with nearly any idea or culture I happen to dislike. I'm continually called ignorant, closed minded, and all kinds of other things. And, to be perfectly honest, I can't fully understand why this "Open Minded" phenomenon is irritating me so much. At first I thought it was altruism, then realized that when people say open minded, often times they're not really talking about groups of people. They're usually talking about new experiences, new ideas, things like that. That still irritates me deeply however. So, I'm hoping that some of you can help me fully understand why I don't like this "Open Minded" idea. What are some of your thoughts on it?

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The way I interpret being "open-minded" means that I'm ready and willing to learn new knowledge based on facts and reality, and new ideas and principles based on rational thought. Some of the folks on here have been able to explain things to me in a well-reasoned, articulate manner that allowed me to seriously look at the foundation of my beliefs to the point that I have changed some of my beliefs. This was not possible with any other forum on which I participated in the past. Kudos to many folks on here for that, but particularly I have to express appreciation to Stephen and Betsy Speicher.

That said, I'm not averse to understanding another culture, but that doesn't mean I"m going to like it or agree with it. The topic Straight-Edge is a perfect example. I had never heard the term, some of the merits in the thread sounded admirable. When I looked further into it, I realized that there were some serious issues with that mind-set. However, had I dismissed it outright, I would never have really known why I shouldn't like it, or how much I should advise my son against it if he ever heads in that direction.

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=938

Obviously, some evaluations can be made quicker than others. Are you dismissing these instances outright without objective evaluation? Or, do you objectively evaluate enough information to determine why you don't like the experience or phenomenon? The latter would be being "open-minded". Can you rationally assert to the allegedly open-minded person WHY you think punk is immoral? That may show who is actually ignorant and who is truly open-minded.

The confusion comes from the pop culture idea that understanding = acceptance or approval. I usually make at least one attempt to differentiate that to people in situations as you describe. That is IF I truly care about their opinion to begin with.

VES

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If what they mean by open-minded is to accept things which you know to be evil then thats wrong and you shouldn't be open-minded in that sense. But before you dismiss something you have to quantify/understand it first, hence you have to be open-minded so as to atleast judge something objectively before you go about dismissing it.

Dinesh.

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Intresca, open-mindedness is an anti-concept. Its obfuscated meaning is that the mind be active in acquiring and evaluating knowledge. Its obfuscatory meaning is that the mind be a passive dumping ground unable to discern true and false. You want an open mind, but not in the way anybody who tells you that means it.

RationalCop, next time you need to be concise, you could excise the examples, the credits, and the stories. But that's just a suggestion.

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In actual practice, "open-mindedness" means that one should entertain any idea toward which "conventional wisdom" hasn't yet reached a consensus. But challenge anyone on the tenets of the conventional wisdom and see how open-minded they are! The most adamant dogmatists I know are the people who are constantly demanding that *you* be open-minded.

I tell people quite forthrightly that with regard to a great many issues I am no longer open-minded. I have given these issues too much thought and regard them as too solidly supported with overwhelming evidence to doubt them any longer.

Ask the "open-minded" crowd if they will entertain the possibility that slavery was a good thing or if the earth is actually afterall flat.

One should of course be open-minded with regard to any issue with regard to which you yourself haven't yet reached any firm conclusions. And in principle if the evidence presented is well-supported and convincing, one needs to be willing to reconsider even one's firmest convictions. But that doesn't mean that any claim someone blurts out has to be seriously considered.

Fred Weiss

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And it's not just with Punks either, it's with nearly any idea or culture I happen to dislike.  I'm continually called ignorant, closed minded, and all kinds of other things.

You're not supposed to dislike ideas or people which are new or unfamiliar to your culture. This is a variant of the "how do you know you won't like it until you try it" rule. There is a smattering of validity to it: if you don't know anything at all about what Punks are, then you should extend the courtesy of assuming good intentions to these unknown people. The simple solution to the problem is to explain what it is about, say, head-shaving or tongue-piercing that you don't like.

The basic principle for the worshippers of open-mindedness is that you should only criticise a rights-violation. Anti-life actions are "none of your business". Which, of course, is complete nonsense.

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Generally, advocates of 'open mindedness' also tell people that they should be 'non-judgmental'. Now, this should give a huge clue as to what they are really advocating - which is, to accept in any rubbish, and hold that rubbish in your mind as valid concepts, no matter matter how contradictory or evil those ideas may be.

My attitude in life IS to be open minded in that I let everything that is said to me enter my mind freely. But once they are in there, I am judgmental. I judge everything against the values that I have chosen for my life.

So I say be openminded - the world is great and there is always something new to learn out there - but always judge - from the stranger on the street to the girlfriend you've been with for years.

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lol, I'm sorry RC :)

No problem. I wouldn't be me I guess if I wasn't long winded. :P

y_feldblum Posted on Jun 6 2004, 07:37 AM

RationalCop, next time you need to be concise,

Yes, thanks. Prometheus' post was a prime example.

VES

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So, if I happened to say, "I think punks are immoral," I'm immediately hit with, "That's ignorant, you should be open minded enough to understand their culture."  Lately, that's really been bothering me.  And it's not just with Punks either, it's with nearly any idea or culture I happen to dislike.  I'm continually called ignorant, closed minded, and all kinds of other things.  And, to be perfectly honest, I can't fully understand why this "Open Minded" phenomenon is irritating me so much. 

Maybe it's because the people who say that aren't being straight with you -- or with themselves.

They say what they want is openness and mutual respect while they are being hostile to you and anything but open and honest about their real agenda. What they really want you to do is to abandon your judgment of the facts so they won't have to deal with their own neurotic fear of disapproval by others.

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Some of the folks on here have been able to explain things to me in a well-reasoned, articulate manner that allowed me to seriously look at the foundation of my beliefs to the point that I have changed some of my beliefs.  This was not possible with any other forum on which I participated in the past.  Kudos to many folks on here for that, but particularly I have to express appreciation to Stephen and Betsy Speicher

Thanks for acknowledging that. But, the real kudos go to yourself. The fact that you are open to reason and that ideas really matter to you, is a pleasure to behold. For letting me see that, I thank you.

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Obviously, some evaluations can be made quicker than others.  Are you dismissing these instances outright without objective evaluation?  Or, do you objectively evaluate enough information to determine why you don't like the experience or phenomenon?  The latter would be being "open-minded".  Can you rationally assert to the allegedly open-minded person WHY you think punk is immoral?  That may show who is actually ignorant and who is truly open-minded.

Yes, I do objectively consider an experience or idea before I dislike it. Dismissing something like that without valid evidence or facts WOULD be ignorant. I can honestly say that I do not like the punk culture for example, because I have tried to understand it. Now, I'm not saying I've never done an ignorant thing, I have, and quickly learned from that mistake by accepting the real truth of what I was trying to dismiss so quickly. I am "open minded" enough to try to understand something I know nothing about. For example, my girlfriend loves piercings. I don't understand a lot of the things she talks about when she mentions what piercing she would like to get. That's why I've asked, "What is a lebret (or however it's spelled)?" I don't despise piercings simply because I don't know what a lot of them are, what the procedures are for them, and so on. But I do try to understand it, which helps me accept it along with my judgment. I guess the main thing that irritates me about the open minded philosophy is that even if I understand something and reject it as something I dislike, that very rejection of something I don't want in my life makes me closed minded.

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Ayn Rand said once that one shouldn't be "open minded" but "active minded".

One should evaluate the ideas, not just accept them automatically, or abandon any attempt to evaluate anything (which is what "open minded" usually means in actuality).

If you use your mind in evaluating something as wrong, stick to your evaluation until you are presented with new evidence.

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I believe there is some value to being open minded under certain contexts. If what you mean by open minded is gathering all necessary and relevant evidence before jumping to snap decisions. In this sense being open minded is actually being more objective. Leaving your personal prejudice and bias aside and giving things and people a chance to present themselves more fully.

Someone should be open minded about trying strange things that don't pose a danger to them. Again, gathering and evaluating evidence, being open to experience and new ideas/interpretations. That doesn't mean you have to ultimately agree with everything you are presented, just willing to actually look at what is presented. I know what is sometimes meant when someone says "open-minded," but I generally state to someone, what I mean by open-minded.

I know plenty of well "different" people, and have each given them their hearings and reached conclusions on them based on what they actually presented to me. I don't think uninformed gross generalizations ever help terribly much when dealing with specific people. Would what Galt have said in Atlas Shrugged mean anything different if he were a 21 year old man with tattoos, and big green spiky hair who rode a motorcycle. Would it have made him immoral? Would you still have viewed him as a "Punk" at first glance? Would what you view as a "Punk" necessarily make someone a "Punk"? I know that's not how it was presented, but it might be a good practice in throwing out irrelevant information.

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I believe there is some value to being open minded under certain contexts.  If what you mean by open minded is gathering all necessary and relevant evidence before jumping to snap decisions.  In this sense being open minded is actually being more objective.  Leaving your personal prejudice and bias aside and giving things and people a chance to present themselves more fully.

That would be true if that were what people intended when they say that you should be "open minded". But what they really mean is that human behavior is completely unpredictable, and that human actions are actually uncaused. You might know of some 19 Al-Qaida operatives did indeed commit an extremely immoral and evil act, but by their lights, you don't know "for sure" that any other Al-Qaida operatives will ever do a similar thing. Okay, maybe you know of a group of Al-Qaida operatives blowing up a naval vessel, but that doesn't mean that all Al-Qaida operatives do such things. And yeah, maybe there's something about a resort in Bali, and dozens or hundreds of locations in Afghanistan, and wasn't there something in Spain and the list goes on. What they really mean is, until you catch someone red-handed actually killing people -- multiple times, since maybe they had a change of heart between murders -- you should be open minded and not assume that, for example, a particular philosophy actually causes them to kill people.

The fundamental question is, how much evidence is required to make a judgment. This is a difficult question to answer. But when you try to answer the question, just remember, Al-Qaida operatives are evil because of their philosophy, and you have enough evidence to come to that conclusion. I don't think it should take such overwhelming evidence to persuade a person.

Someone should be open minded about trying strange things that don't pose a danger to them.  Again, gathering and evaluating evidence, being open to experience and new ideas/interpretations.
Maybe, maybe not. Are you open-minded about the thought of eating a slug raw? It's reasonable to consider something new if there is evidence that it might be a value, but I absolutely have no plan to eat raw slugs. (Escargot are another matter). There needs to be an evident motivation to "be open" to something new. I'm not saying there has to be knock-down irrefutable evidence, just some reason.

That doesn't mean you have to ultimately agree with everything you are presented, just willing to actually look at what is presented.

The problem with that is that it assumes that every jackass new thing somebody cooks up has a claim on your attention and that you should try packing beetles up your snout just to see if it's a pleasurable experience. Trust me, I know it's not. There has to be a reason in the first place to try this new thing.

I know plenty of well "different" people,
Secret code for "retarded" :P

and have each given them their hearings and reached conclusions on them based on what they actually presented to me.  I don't think uninformed gross generalizations ever help terribly much when dealing with specific people.

On the other hand, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then maybe it is tasty when roasted and served with plum sauce like a duck. While assigning criminal guilt by association is not a good thing, for the purpose of making a decision about the probable worth of some person (or thing) for your life, you can quite legitimately assume that people who act like punks in many ways will behave like punks in other ways, too.

Would what Galt have said in Atlas Shrugged mean anything different if he were a 21 year old man with tattoos, and big green spiky hair who rode a motorcycle.  Would it have made him immoral?
Absolutely not: only his actions would have made him immoral. His word clearly identify his morality. (Also remember that Galt's speech was on the radio).

Would you still have viewed him as a "Punk" at first glance?

Sure, why not. I would have spurned Francisco d'Anconia based on superficial acquaintance. Actually, though, I'm letting you get away with some bad assumptions about punkhood. If he had a swastika carved into his forehead, I'd bin him. But from what you just described, I'd simply assume that he was a middle-aged English professor.

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I know plenty of well "different" people, and have each given them their hearings and reached conclusions on them based on what they actually presented to me.  I don't think uninformed gross generalizations ever help terribly much when dealing with specific people.

How people present themselves is a part of who they are, so I do not think it unreasonable to judge accordingly. However, I do agree that there is a danger of overlooking a gem among the rubble, if you do not dig deeper than appearance. I have a very good friend whom I met a long time ago on the internet. Had I initially met this person through direct contact, I doubt that we would have ever been close enough to become the good friends which we are.

With that said, the time we have for living is limited, so it is perfectly reasonable to invest your efforts where you think the best return might lie.

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David: Since I specifically stated an exception for danger I am not going to respond to the first part of your argument, since I consider it a straw man argument. You should know better you quoted it.

I didn't suggest that anyone always had to be open-minded against their better judgment, just that it was a good idea in certain contexts where you don't have enough evidence. Especially in circumstances where you need more evidence. You can certainly weigh a perceived risk/benefit analysis on any situation and reject ideas you don't like. This rules out statements like "knife juggling might be fun." This goes along with the danger issue, which would also include disgust. What benefit could I possibly expect from eating slugs?

Giving someone a hearing doesn't mean you have to go along with what is suggested. Giving people hearings when you know what they are going to say is idiocy, is also a waste of you're time. But if that is the case, I'm sure you've already had enough experience with that person, sometimes it takes very little time. Also trying new things isn't Always necessarily the best way to go when you have adequate reason to know better.

By "Different" I mean unusual, in one way or another. I don't generally tolerate idiocy. If you need more specific examples I will be happy to inform you further. Putting words in someone's mouth is not generally a worthwhile argument tactic.

If your asking someone to read Ayn Rand your asking them to try something different. Exposing them to new ideas. People who take you up on the issue are generally being "open-minded" in that case.

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For me, I look at punks and don't feel any need to be 'open minded' or active minded, that is, to dwell into their 'culture' because what I see is heavy emphasis on differentiation through looks, appearance, and it includes permanent disfiguring or staining of their skins by tatoos and that in my view is something done only by those who are very much concrete bound bordering on savage primitive existences and I don't believe there is anything worth there to look at any more deeply than surface appearance.

It is my prerogative sometimes to simply judge by outside appearance and be done with it. In some cases, I am willing to forfeit potential gains by not examining something in depth but that is the risk I am willing to take in certain cases like punks and such like. Let them first do something to attract my attention to them, why should I go out of my way first at someones bidding.

Typical person that advocates open mindedness is somebody who is total relativist/subjectivist in regard to values and morals, someone who is unable to judge anything rationally but only emotionally, who himself has to open up and fully immerse himself in something to decide whether it is to his liking or not. If you state some reason why you dismiss punks as I just stated above for example, you get told 'but you can't tell by looking from outside and judging from that, you have to experience their culture from inside, you have to listen to them and try to understand them...' and the unstated premise in all that is that understanding as such is emotional thing, not rational.

In those other untypical cases when somebody asks you to be open minded on valid grounds, it is likely futile thing to do anyway and it is better to simply present facts that you want somebody to be open minded about than to appeal on him to open up his mind.

vaclav (knowledge integration)

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The point is, if you are active minded - you judge people and things based on good information and good reason. You are not "closed minded", in the sense that good things, even if new and strange, can find a way in.

But you are also not "open-minded", since you differentiate the good from the bad, and remain closed to harmful ideas.

Both closed-minded and open-minded are actually passive-minded: either you let everything new in, or you keep everything new out. Obviously this is a false alternative.

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I didn't actually read all the posts on this topic so I will beg pardon now if I say something which has already been said.

But in my experience when people usse the term "open-minded" in the context of the post that started this thread it has been to censure you, the supposedly close-minded, for daring to judge another set of persons by your own standard of morality and ethics. To be so arrogant as to think your conceptions of reason and ethical behavior are superior to those of hedonists, punks, beatniks, drug users, or any other approbate is automatically criticized by those who think there is no such thing as objective morality. The people who generally censure others about not being "open-minded" are usually those who would agree with the aggregious statement, "What is right for you is not right for me." In other words, they are subjectivists and relativists and they wish to eradicate moral superiority and the audacity that makes one person think they are morally superior to another.

This is not always true with the expression "be more open-minded" but it the context of the original post I think this is almost, if not always, the true reason it is uttered and why it should offend any rational person. It amounts to the denial of one's right and ability to make moral judgements.

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My experience with the term "open minded" made me conclude that it means not making negative judgments about ideas (and for that matter, not bothering making any judgments whatsoever, just accepting or merely approving an idea). In other words, the term "open minded person" is commonly used instead of the term "yes-man;" a person who never disagrees. Such stance is never taken with understanding of the idea in question, or knowing what it is. It is often used in the sense "I don't understand it, but I approve of it because I'm open minded." It doesn't commonly mean learning new ideas, it means not attacking or judging new ideas no matter what they are. The judgment is always the same - "yes, I agree" - to everything and anything.

So, in effect, objectivists are necessarily closed minded, because they hold it a prerogative to judge everything. That is if you take the above definition seriously.

So, even if an objectivist agrees with a certain idea, he will have reasons for it. It is interesting that no non-objectivists aren't really interested in reasons why someone agrees with an idea. Often when I mention reasons why I agree with something, I notice others either giving me weird looks or changing the subject.

This philosophy breaks when it comes to agreeing with objectivism. They disagree with it wholeheartedly and do not tolerate being called closed minded because of it.

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