Open-mindedness: Living Socratically

I begin to note that, in my experience in academia and beyond, most people are close-minded. It was a marvel to me to discover, and this only very recently, that one can make sense of people by ascertaining whether they are close-minded (the many) or open-minded (the few). The apparent crudeness of the distinction (“There are only two kinds of people…”) should not bely the power of its disclosure. Something in the world, about the world opens up to us as we see other people in this light. Open-minded or close-minded? I observe too that I used to be close-minded (very) and further that the Socratic dispensation, being one that I finally adopted in 2011 and after, absolutely requires, even as it teaches, open-mindedness. It is through the Socratic dispensation and through the way of inquiring daily that I have changed from close-mindedness to open-mindedness. Thus am I able to pick out both.

Further observations are in order before an inquiry into the nature of open-mindedness. How striking is this: that many of those in a spiritual community are close-minded, as are academics, consultants, business leaders, engineers, entrepreneurs, psychologists, and (well) most professionals. Many are the dogmatists who believe that they have all the answers to life, that a particular domain is one that they have mastered, or that everything can be explained in a reductive set of terms, the same set at that. The lingo of “openness” and of “asking good questions” has not pierced the illusion of dogmatism.

With ancient skeptics, I am warranted, I think, in calling most people dogmatists because they go around asserting that something is indubitably true without, of course, being willing it to submit their assertions to systematic questioning. You might find the charge of dogmatism ill-fitting when it comes to academics or even creative leaders, but I have reason to think that it sticks: they are staked to holding onto a body of knowledge and, whatever else may be challenged, that body cannot.

Continue reading “Open-mindedness: Living Socratically”

Say what you believe, do not insist, be open: A paradox

Say what you believe. Do not insist that it is so. Surrender in openness.

Can any sense be made of these three statements, of this apparent paradox?

Yes. ‘I believe that P’: this is where we begin.

You do not claim to know that P. You do not insist that P must be the case. (When you say that P, you add, ‘but I may be wrong.’) So, we inquire to discover: is it true that P?

As we inquire, we surrender in openness. Could it be Q? Or R? We ease into the otherwise.


A case may illustrate the three-fold character of stating what you believe, of not insisting that it is so, and of being open to whatever comes to pass.

You believe that X is the best way to proceed with this business project. But you do not know that X, and you could be wrong about X. We inquire about X, both of us being open to the possibility of Y or Z, etc. It turns out that X is not the best way to proceed. We discover that Y is.

We affirm the conclusion Y.

And… we begin again with another question by saying what you believe, by not insisting that it is so, and by being open to whatever comes to pass as the line of inquiry unfolds…