Many would say that the close-minded individual is not willing to consider different ideas or opinions. Dictionary definitions deem close-mindedness as being firmly and stubbornly unreceptive to new ideas or arguments, hard to convince, rigid in opinion, narrow in outlook, and not tolerant of the beliefs or opinions of others. It is possible to outline four points of the close-minded individual.
1. Unwilling to provide a fair representation of an opponent’s worldview
When one fails to exercise fairness when critiquing the beliefs of others it can often be a sign of one’s ignorance of the ideas of others he attempts to critique. Sometimes this person will wrongly attribute beliefs to an opponent’s worldview in question that his opponent does not even subscribe to.
One ought to learn first and critique later. The opposite (to critique first and learn later) will likely make one look foolish or ignorant, especially when coming up against an informed intellectual opponent. To critique without adequately learning what one is critiquing is likely going to produce a caricature or strawman of an opponent’s position. Strawmen are typically easier to dismantle than the actual position itself. Producing strawmen is often a sign of dishonesty. Here one’s agenda is to use any criticism to undermine an opponent’s belief. It is like slinging mud at a wall and hoping it sticks. It doesn’t matter how good an argument is, it only matters that one has an argument.
2. Unwilling to admit the challenges to one’s own worldview
No philosophical worldview is without its own set of challenges in that some fact about the world can threaten to undermine its truth claims. In an intellectual debate, although a challenge is not necessarily a defeater of a worldview, it can become one if put into a logical argument with a conclusion that follows from the premises. It is incumbent on the one defending his worldview to respond to the argument and try to show that its conclusion does not follow from the premises.
Nonetheless, a humble individual will admit that there are challenges to one’s worldview. This is a sign of open-mindedness rather than a dogmatic close-mindedness refusing to concede that there is any challenge to one’s own views. This close-minded individual is so dogmatic about his worldview being right that it becomes pointless engaging him in an intellectual discussion. Such dogmatism can also be suggestive of an underlying insecurity that might lead to such a person raising his voice and becoming contemptuous of others.
3. Unwilling to change, alter, or reject previously held beliefs given new evidence
Evidentialism says that a belief should be proportionate to the evidence in its favor and that people should consider evidence when forming beliefs. But some have insulated their worldview to such an extent that it becomes immune to evidence. For many, evidence does not matter. What only matters is the belief being held to. One can also be selective in intentionally selecting some evidence for his belief while ignoring swaths of counter-evidence.
Scientists in the historical, sociological, and physical domains are meant to be open-minded about altering or revising their views in light of new evidence. A belief might be held for a time until new counter-evidence emerges to challenge it. The willingness to revise beliefs in response to new evidence is a strong sign of open-mindedness, the appreciation of evidence, and the desire to follow evidence where it leads. This need not only be applicable in the sciences, but also in one’s daily life on various questions in philosophy, theology, and so on.
4. Becoming angry and agitated when challenged
A strong sign of the close-minded individual is a response made in anger toward and contempt for others. This person does not like his views being challenged. This could be because he is so committed to his views that he elevates them beyond critique and contention. Alternatively, he might be aware that his views do not stand up to honest critique and scrutiny, which would explain why he lashes out at others who do not agree with him.
Open-minded people often see disagreement as a positive. Disagreement can be a means through which one can expand his own knowledge. He can become more familiar with the views of others. This individual is often humble in admitting that he has much still to learn. The Greek philosopher Socrates was a good example. Plato tells us that he had a gifted intellect and that his method was to engage in debate on various philosophical questions (i.e. “beauty,” “the good,” and “piety”) with Athenians in public spaces. He did this while fully aware of his own lack of understanding and knowledge, even famously declaring the only thing that he knows is that he “know(s) nothing.”