Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Things I Did Today
  • Worked from 9:00 a.m. to 11:15 p.m.
3 Recommended Links
Thoughts -- Open-Mindedness

It is difficult to be sufficiently open-minded, especially if one is smart and capable of defending his positions against the vast majority of criticism. It is important to recognize that these positions may be wrong or exaggerated, even if it seems that it would be unreasonable for one to disagree with them. Of course, one shouldn't engage in excessive self-questioning, but I think the real danger lies in not questioning enough and holding beliefs too closely. "Reasonableness" is an indispensable concept to some extent, especially in law, but one should be wary of using it as a means for imposing underexamined prejudices.

This is one of the reasons why I think academic philosophy is worthwhile: it shows us that many seemingly obvious and commonsensical views really aren't so obvious or necessarily sensible, so we should be even more vigilant about avoiding dogmatism. For example, even the apparently straightforward concept of maximizing overall human happiness is fraught with fundamental difficulties. And more elusive concepts such as the nature of time have spawned all kinds of debates -- with smart, reasonable people on both sides. As Bertrand Russell put it: "Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect."

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