"Slarrow" refers to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" from Hamlet's soliloquy. Here are the chronicles of such darts and whatever attempt there may be to take arms against such a sea of troubles.

Location: Ozarks, United States

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A Pet Peeve: Open- v. Closed-Minded

I was reading Dean Esmay's Are You A Liberal?" post, and it reminded me of one of my own pet peeves: what constitutes open v. closed minded.

One day I happened to get into a political conversation with an elderly liberal woman about President Bush. I was polite and amused; she grew more flustered the more we discussed matters. I don't think she'd had her views seriously challenged in many years, and I think she found it especially discomfiting when I pointed out I wasn't breathing fire or anything. She finally said, "I hope you can learn to be more open-minded about these things."

Now that's just an abuse of the term "open-minded." What I've always understood the term to mean is that one comes to one's beliefs through reasonable thought, weighing reasons pro and con. It also means one is willing to hear new evidence and seriously consider changing one's mind on an issue. Being closed-minded, on the other hand, is to reach conclusions without evidence or reason and being so set in those beliefs that contrary arguments or evidence isn't even acknowledged.

There may be some quibbles about what these definitions cover and don't cover, but I think that's what most folks understand these concepts to mean. But here's the thing: they describe how one develops one's beliefs. They do not describe the content of those beliefs.

But that's not how that woman used the terms. Rather, she thought that because I believed X, Y, and Z, I must be closed-minded because she believed I could not reach those positions rationally. On the other hand, if I were "open-minded," I would naturally change the contents of my beliefs to match hers--even though I was quite adept in telling why I believed what I did (more so than she was herself.)

This is a common abuse of "open-minded," and it's committed most by those on the modern Left, I would venture. It's not a mere distasteful mangling of syntax. Rather, it indicates an extraordinary arrogance and anti-intellectual bias that absolutely refuses to accept that contrary positions can be reached through reasonable and rational means. It is parochialism masquerading under the guise of cosmopolitanism, and it hacks me off.

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