Sunday, August 11, 2019

Is open-mindedness a virtue?

Theists: when you read something by an atheist (about God's non-existence), do you genuinely try to read with an open mind, or do you read it with an intention of finding ways to refute it?

John Mark N Reynolds
I don’t think one can ready any text or adequately without first trying to agree with it or see/feel the perspective of the writer as charitably as possible.

Fellow atheists: when you read something by a theist (about God's existence), do you genuinely try to read with an open mind, or do you read it with an intention of finding ways to refute it?

Martin Gentles
I look to refute it. But I do the same with naturalistic arguments.

I applaud your consistency.

1. The problem with this comment thread is how it takes a principle with some legitimacy, then overextends it. Open-mindedness can be, and often is, an epistemic virtue, but elevating this to a universal absolute is far too abstract. Part of rationality is having a filter to screen out certain ideas. Is it incumbent on me to read about Ramtha, Raëlians, Dianetics, Tarot cards, Hare Krishnas, or Aleister Crowley with an open mind? Can I not read it adequately unless I try to agree with those examples? 

Consistency is a virtue when treating like things alike. But every idea doesn't merit the same consideration. It's rationally and morally subversive to be in a chronic state of open-mindedness. That's a euphemism for indecision. 

2. Open-mindedness can be a virtue when you study an issue for the first time. But it's not a virtue to be perpetually open-minded. There ought to be a process of elimination. 

3. There's the danger of being prematurely closed-minded. However, even closed-minded people can change their mind. There are people who read the opposing position with the intention of finding ways to refute it, but end up being convinced by what they read. 

4. Suppose, for argument's sake, that atheism appears to be true. But even on that hypothetical, my impression might be mistaken. And if, in addition, I conclude that atheism leads to moral, existential, and/or epistemic nihilism, then I'd be justified in discounting atheism. Although I perceive it to be true, open-mindedness includes the possibility that I might be wrong. And when you combine that with the radically skeptical consequences of atheism for meaning, morality, and reason, a closed-minded attitude towards atheism is not only warranted but necessary.  

5. A Christian can be critical of bad arguments for Christianity. We can be open-minded in that respect. 


  1. Reminds me of something GK Chesterton once said:

    “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid. Otherwise, it could end up like a city sewer, rejecting nothing.“

  2. Speaking of insane tweets, I see Dawkins is spreading the Gospel of the simulation this morning. Fun times.