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In Defence of Open-Mindedness

In Defence of Open-Mindedness

Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 136
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  • Book Info
    In Defence of Open-Mindedness
    Book Description:

    William Hare believes that open-mindedness - the disposition to form a belief, and if necessary to revise or reject it, in the light of available evidence and arguement - stands in need of a defence because it is under widespread attack. In this sequel to his highly regarded Open-mindedness and Education [1979], he examines the numerous ways in which opposition to open-mindedness is expressed, and shows how these criticisms can be countered. He argues that the general indictment of open-mindedness as a habit of mind leading to nihilism and scepticism, as well as to neglect of the emotions, is based upon a misunderstanding of the nature of the concept, which in his opinion is by no means incompatible with personal commitment and confidence. Similar confusions are exposed in such areas as elementary schooling, moral education, educational standards, methods of teaching, the administration of schools, and the teaching of science. In each of these areas, examples are taken from the writings of influential critics to illustrate the nature of the doubts concerning open-mindedness - doubts that are carefully analysed and show to rest ultimately upon erroneous assumptions. And since he believes that many who set out to champion open-mindedness manage to confuse this ideal with other notions, Hare undertakes in a concluding chapter to protect the ideal from its would-be friends and supporters.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6124-3
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Jonas F. Soltis and William Heard Kilpatrick

    In this volume, William Hare continues his long-term scholarly engagement with the idea of open-mindedness for the benefit of all of us. Open-mindedness is a fundamental and fecund idea in western liberal thought, both educational and political. In Hare’s treatment, it is at once a saint-like attitude of fairness and willingness to consider other views and a dogged commitment to reason, evidence, and truth.

    Hare’s arguments are sharp and his willingness seriously to consider a host of arguments from a vast literature which stretches across disciplinary boundaries but is always relevant to education attests to his own exemplary commitment to...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. CHAPTER ONE The Attack on Open-mindedness
    (pp. 3-15)

    It is now fashionable to regard as naive in the extreme any attempt to promote open-mindedness as an educational ideal. We have heard much in recent years about the hidden curriculum, the inevitability of bias, the political nature of educational decisions, and the impossibility of cross-cultural judgments, to refer to just a few popular and influential sceptical arguments in this context. The defender of open-mindedness is faced with a veritable network of arguments, anyone of which is thought to be decisive against such a position. And collectively, the effect is to make this enterprise appear hopelessly misguided. Indeed, the espousal...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Open-mindedness in Elementary Education
    (pp. 16-25)

    Open education has been a fashionable and influential idea in recent years,¹ and the interest here has produced useful work on discovery learning, creativity, learning by experience and growth.² As a result, we are much clearer than ever before about the value and limitations of the practices associated with these ideas. The emphasis, however, has been on certain approaches to teaching and methods of inquiry, as the concepts would suggest, rather than on the important matter of one’s attitude to knowledge. Given that the open education movement was clearly concerned about authoritarianism in teaching, it is curious that the central...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Open-mindedness and Moral Principles
    (pp. 26-38)

    Many moral philosophers, including those who have thought deeply about moral education, argue in effect for closed-mindedness in certain areas of moral life. This stands in sharp contrast to the generally favourable esteem in which open-mindedness is held, nicely illustrated by the rhetorical way in which one philosopher recently asked: Who could be against open-mindedness?¹ This elliptical question really means to ask how anyone could reasonably be opposed to open-mindedness; and it is rhetorical, because the implication is that once we understand the concept, the question answers itself. The reason here is that this attitude – being willing to form...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Standards as a Threat to Open-mindedness
    (pp. 39-52)

    If liberal attitudes in general are in a somewhat unhealthy state of confusion these days, open-mindedness is surely an endangered species. Indeed, its nonexistence has already been declared by those who judge the attitude to be purely mythical. Others take the view that it should not, in any case, be protected, since it only serves to promote unwelcome consequences. I have dealt with these matters earlier,¹ and here I wish to address a different, albeit related, concern. It is often claimed that various practices and phenomena associated with the idea of standards in education threaten the ideal of open-mindedness. This...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Open-mindedness and Teaching
    (pp. 53-64)

    Educational theorists have long debated the respective merits of different methods of teaching as ways of fostering open-mindedness. These empirical disputes have had conceptual aspects, for particular methods have been labelled open-minded or closed-mindedper se.¹ In recent years, however, a much more fundamental and pervasive doubt has begun to emerge in the suggestion that the very act or process of teaching, quite apart from the particular form it may take, strikes at the heart of open-mindedness. The suggestion comes through in talk of passivity, conformity, hegemony, compliance, legitimation, incorporation, and a host of other notions which indicate how thinking...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Open-mindedness in Administration
    (pp. 65-75)

    Is open-mindedness an administrative virtue or liability? So much confusion surrounds the concept of open-mindedness that an intuitive response, if we had one at all, would not be very useful. Let us be clear then that open-mindedness is that attitude which is manifested in our ability and willingness to form and revise views in the light of evidence and argument. Even with this clarification, however, our reactions to the question may be uncertain. Herbert Simon has shown how most administrative principles have an equally plausible but inconsistent running mate.¹ In the context of open-mindedness, we may think at once of...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Open-mindedness in Science
    (pp. 76-86)

    Not surprisingly, open-mindedness is one of a number of ideals invoked in attempts to characterize the nature of scientific inquiry. In science, we expect dogmatism, prejudice, and personal preference to be set aside in favour of an open-minded inquiry which strives for objectivity, impartiality, and intellectual honesty.¹ The ideal of objectivity, however, is not to be confused with absolute certainty and infallibility. Scientific theories have a tentative character, subject to revision and outright rejection.² Objectivity means rather that independent and public standards must be appealed to in the assessment of scientific claims. Open-mindedness cannot, of course, guarantee that such standards...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Open-mindedness, Liberalism, and Truth
    (pp. 87-98)

    The attitude of closed-mindedness obviously does not preclude the possibility of the closed-minded person having, and coming to acquire, true beliefs. We may cling at all costs to our beliefs and yet those beliefs may be true. Again, we may accept uncritically the teachings of a church or a party, but in so doing come to acquire true beliefs. The attitude specifies the way in which we hold our views, or come to learn them, and does not determine the truth value of those views. Conversely, the open-minded person, who is prepared to form and revise his views as impartially...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 99-114)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 115-118)
  15. Index
    (pp. 119-121)