Thursday, August 21, 2008

Open Minds

So reading everyone's posts on the blog has been interesting, and I know we're talking a lot about knowledge and what we know and learning more stuff to know and all that.  Something that comes up a lot, and comes up a lot in IB in general, is a concept of an open mind.  I have a quote that I try to adhere to, and I'd like to share it, and see what people think.

"It is important to have an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out."

Is there such a thing as too open-minded? Too close-minded? What's the difference between being close-minded and standing by what you believe in?  Draw the lines for me, guys....



Ian B said...

Here's a rough explanation of my theory about what is real and what isn't. It doesn't exactly advocate either open-mindedness or closed-mindedness, but I believe that because of my explanation of what is real or not real, we choose what we believe to be truth, but may only act on that idea of the truth if all those affected are in agreement.

The following are conclusions reached in a philosophical discussion of philosophy, psychology, life, death, existence &cetera at the Griffith Park Observatory on 12 July 2008. Partial credit for the theory goes to Nathan Tsai.

Einstein theorised that everything is relative and that there are no absolutes.

Existence is like a blanket of infinite dimensions. Everything is linked to everything else through the threads. The blanket encompasses all space, time, matter, energy - it is everything, and is always expanding. Conversely, because it is not possible for something not to exist, the blanket is infinite. It is not one-, two-, three-, four-dimensional. It includes and composes everything, existing in an infinite number of dimensions.

If one part of the blanket changes, an infinite number of new threads spring from the point. The resulting web of threads originating from the centre [theoretically the beginning of space, time &cetera] forms the blanket, which continually alters the future as the blanket continues to expand.

If, however, everything is indeed relative, it is likely that the blanket has expanded before, and then collapsed upon itself in a never-beginning, never-ending cycle.

Though the blanket encompasses everything, it only governs the future.

The present [which is infinitely small because it is simply the point at which the past and the future meet] and the past exist only in perception and memory. We can perceive that there is a present, but it is impossible to define a time as the present because we can only measure it relative to the past and future. In fact, the present is perception.

The past, on the other hand, can be altered because it does exist in the blanket but is stored in memory that is constantly being filtered through perception, which is extremely dynamic and is not limited by the physical world that along with the blanket governs the future.

George Orwell described this idea well in 1984 with the idea of doublethink and his assertion that 'whoever controls the past controls the future'.

It is possible to delete from or to add to the past by adding or removing events or series of events from the blanket. When an event or series of events is removed, the causes of that event or series run straight through to the effects and the event no longer exists. It never existed. When an event is added, it attaches to effects and causes, forming a new portion of the blanket.

This manipulation of the past can be achieved through either conscious or unconscious change in perception.

When the past changes, conscious choices will change, and in turn the future will change.

The future is governed jointly by the physical world and by the collective of individual perceptions of the past and present, making it impossible to predict.

Since the past exists only though perception thereof, because the future does not yet exist, and because the physical world only governs the future, perception is all that is real and therefore every being has a different reality.

For this reason, life has no meaning without a perceived meaning. But once a meaning has been perceived, that meaning holds true within one's own reality. Life is what you make of it.

Why does it all matter? Only you can answer.

CJ said...

There is a point at which you can become so open minded, that the concept of the open mind becomes utterly useless. An open mind means you acknowledge other's opinions and viewpoints but when you get to the point where any idea is blindly accepted, you have become too open minded. You need to have some selectivity when accepting ideas, because eventually they will start contradicting each other and eventually your opinion would have to play a role and if you are too open minded you will have no opinions, you will only have thoughts on other people's opinions and nothing of your own. So yes, close mindedness is important in that it lets you hold onto your traditions and ideals, but a little open mindedness never hurt anyone either. I hope that makes sense, it made sense in my head but that doesn't mean much

firefeather said...

I agree with have to have some sort of discriminating code in your mind that you stick to when you're being "open minded". I think that being open minded refers more to being willing to listen to another's ideas. You don't necessarily have to accept them and make them your own, but that initial "testing" time is what counts. I don't think that its possible to be too open minded in that sense, because all you're doing is listening to another viewpoint. But when it comes to accepting ideas, it is what you morally and ethically believe in. When you have something you believe strongly in, you have the right to stand by it for all you're worth...but don't forget to listen and reevaluate, or else whatever it is will eventually become antiquated and you'll only be an out-of-touch individual standing by old values. Its the willingness to be proven wrong with due justification that determines whether or not you're too close minded, in my opinion.

I. Kennedy said...

I think that open-mindedness is a willingness to understand and listen to other people's beliefs or opinions. Open-mindedness is NOT blindly agreeing with or accepting any opinion you hear. I think that understanding and respecting people's opinions is being open-minded.

Likewise, blindly shooting down anyone else's ideas because they are not the same as yours is being closed minded. I take this from the language we use to describe this. Think of it like a door. If it's open, things can pass in and out freely. If it's closed, nothing gets in or out. Applying this to the mind gives us our definitions. With and open mind, ideas flow in and out. With a closed mind, new ideas don't get in, and you think that what is inside the door is all that exists.

As far as needing to stand up for your own beliefs, I think that expressing your opinions is enough. You don't need to argue, or prove the superiority of your opinion to someone else's. If an issue that polarizes people (think abortion) appears on a ballot, just vote. You don't need to constantly argue about it, just vote, and let the ballot decide. I think expressing yourself is fine. Expressing yourself to the exclusion of understanding other viewpoins is not.

Nathan B. said...

Nathan Blau's awesome small suggestions to helping out:

Number 1.
One thing I really wanted to try to preach to everyone in TOK is to not just say you care for the environment or for human rights but to actually do something about it!

My first address is something easy... your clothes! If you have the time I'd like you all to get on your computers and Google "American apparel" and "simple shoes". It may be new to some of you but many companies (American eagle, Hollister, Gap, Nike, and Adidas, uh pretty much everything) all have little tags that say "made in china/bangledesh/indonesia/vietnam". I love many of these countries and I don't want to offend anyone but many of them do not have good ethics in their labor industries. If you want to debate the meaning of "ethical" I will do so gladly but I can safefully assume that most of us would agree that children as young as eight working for less than 100 dollars a year in environments that are extremely dangerous and without any healthcare or support from their governments is unethical.

American Apparel and Simple Shoes on the other hand are both made in the US where our minimum wage is humane and the dyes used in AA's shirts are organic. For those of you who love the environment, SS is even better because there shoes are made with recycled car tires for the bottom and hemp/plastic bottles/organic cotton for the top.

For those of you who have to be styling, however, it is only my opinion that American Apparel and Simple Shoes look sweet. You won't find any fancy logos on AA's shirts or any cool swishes on SS's shoes but you will feel much more comfortable in these garments knowing that they were made without sweatshop labor

Nels said...

Well, I believe that one should have an open mind. I do however agree with CJ and Justina. Ian also brings up a good point with the door analogy.

You want to be open minded where you can listen to other peoples ideas, however you do not want to be too open minded. If you are too open minded you become this amoeba that is just accepting random ideas, using up resources and thus being detrimental to society.

I believe that one should weigh the facts and make a decision. Then they should be open to new ideas in case they come upon an idea that changes there perspective on things and shows them that another idea may be right.

Erin said...

Ian, I really like your definition of the present as perception, and therefore subjective. My question is, what is wrong with having your brains fall out? To continue the metaphor, in picking them back up, you get to know them better. To be forced by consideration of another belief or idea to return to the beginning and re-evaluate your subjective perceptions is to better understand them. To do so isn't necessarily to reject a belief arbitrarily. You might even return to your former belief, but this time a little more convinced of its truth or validity for having questioned it from another perspective.

Now for a concrete example: If you are convinced that 2+2=4, and someone else is convinced that 2+2=5, being open minded is to listen while they explain, try to understand where their reasoning differs from yours (and perhaps show them their mistake) By no means do you need to convert your own opinion, which will now be stronger for having been shown, one more time, to hold true.

Michelle Madsen said...

i believe that there is a thing as being too open simple belief is that if you dont have a background, if you are not first rooted in something that you believe in or have some strong personal ties, then you can be swayed into many different directions, you will never find any personal truths if you cannot define things you believe and others you dont.