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No one is open to all points of view no matter what they might say. There are almost always some views that seem repellent on the face of it and it is difficult to overcome that perspective. In some cases, this is a good thing since not all points of view are equal in terms of plausibility and validity.
Of course, for many people, this raises the question: Who decides what counts as plausible and valid? In reality, no one decides this. What ultimately ought to decide this is a fair and objective evaluation of the evidence. This is best done by several people each independently investigating the claims and evaluating them according to the best evidence and reason we currently have access to.
What is more important than being open to other points of view is being open to challenge one’s own point of view in light of reason and evidence. Since we all hold beliefs about a large number of topics and no one is infallible it follows that everyone is currently holding wrong beliefs. The question is what do we do about that.
For most people, it is difficult to have their views challenged from the outside. Studies have shown that even when presented with clear, objective, irrefutable evidence that their views are wrong, this causes most people not to alter their views but to dig in deeper, double down, and deny that evidence which shows they are wrong.
So, the challenges that we need to our ideas can often be most effective if they come from ourselves. How do we do this?
We begin by being open to examining our ideas and being open to learning more about the topics in question. This is the real value of open-mindedness. We all have to be willing to read more about topics and include in this reading material we may disagree with. We all have to be willing to question the claims made regarding these topics. Especially when the claims being made are ones we agree with.
Why? Because it is easy to find flaws with ideas we disagree with. What is more challenging is to find the flaws in the claims made that we are sympathetic to.
Our points of view are not infallible nor should they be unchanging. We should regard points of view as we do eyeglasses. Eyeglasses are designed to allow us to see better. When they work they are very useful. But, when they begin to fail us we do not cling on to them irrationally. We replace them with a better prescription.
Similarly, our points of view should help us to see and understand the world around us better. When they fail to do this (and we determine this by examining the available evidence; when it piles up against our point of view we know our POV is facing us) we should not hesitate to replace them with better ones.
This takes practice, diligence, courage, and work. Critical thinking is not a skill that comes naturally. The human mind is not wired up to find the truth about how the world works. It is wired up to help us survive, bond to others who are close to us and defend ourselves against others who are not close to us. So, we have to work against several cognitive biases to evaluate the evidence available for any given point of view. This is the work we should all be engaged in.
KEVIN J. BROWNE
Philosopher / Educator