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The Fallacy of the Open Mind

A respondent writes of yours truly:

« appeals to his intelligence are wasted, whatever intelligence he has is paralyzed by his rigid beliefs ... »

In a sense some of my beliefs are rigid.  The contrary would be mental paralysis.  A perpetually open mind, in the sense of never coming to a conclusion, is not a mind at work.

But isnít it good to have an open mind?  Isnít it bad to have a closed mind?  Well, yes ó and no.

ďAn open mindĒ is one of those bait and switch phrases.  The bait is that you should look at the facts and only then draw a conclusion.

The switch is that you should never come to a conclusion.

The bait makes open-mindedness sound like a virtue.  But if you practice this virtue, an antagonist will swap definitions and accuse you of being closed-minded.

And that phrase too is a bait-and-switch.  You thought it meant not looking at new facts, now it means deducing anything from facts.

Every conclusion has a context, all the evidence and logic that went into reaching that conclusion, including previous conclusions.  This is what a hierarchy of knowledge means, and what Dewey rejects in favor of attention-deficit uncertainty.

Sometimes a mistake is made.  There is such a thing as error.  But the fact that you have your knowledge organized hierarchically, instead of just a heap of isolated facts, helps you in two ways:  it minimizes the possibility of error in the first place because each item of knowledge must relate consistently with many others, and it enables you to correct what needs correcting if an error is discovered.

Further, a distinction must be made between errors of knowledge and expansion of knowledge to a wider range of validity than that in which the knowledge originally applied.  Discovering the limits of the range of validity of a fact does not discredit it.  Lorentz and Einstein did not discredit Newton.