Friday, September 17, 2010

Open-mindedness: the new closed-mindedness -- my debut on The Catholic Thing

Several weeks ago I accepted an invitation by Robert Royal to be a regular contributor to The Catholic Thing. Today is my debut.  Entitled, "Open-mindedness: the new closed-mindedness," here is how my essay begins:
Years ago when my sister was a senior in high school and I was on the philosophy faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, her religion teacher, a feminist nun, began the semester with the instruction that because no one had the truth about morality or religion, we should be open-minded to everyone’s point of view. After consulting with her philosopher-brother, my sister raised this question the next day in class, “If no one has the truth about morality or religion, isn’t that a good reason not to listen to others? After all, if no one has the truth on such crucial questions, why should I waste my time listening to people who can’t teach me anything?”
My sister was suggesting that open-mindedness is only a virtue if there is something that the mind may acquire that would make it a better mind, just as improving his jump shot would make Kobe Bryant a better basketball player. Assuming that the mind’s proper function is to know the truth, then it would seem that a mind that acquires truth is better than one that does not, just as an improved jumper by Mr. Bryant would contribute to his flourishing as a basketball player. So for the teacher to say that a prerequisite for open-mindedness on theological and moral questions is that one believe there are no true answers to those questions is like telling Mr. Bryant to practice his jumper but that it will do neither him nor the L.A. Lakers any good in the final score.
Read the rest here. 


Victor Reppert said...

You're telling me there are nuns with their feet firmly planted in mid-air?

You don't say.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

Sadly, yes.

Christopher Lake said...


I'm glad that your sister had you to consult regarding the nun's relativistic statement. Hopefully, the nun took your sister's answer to heart and experienced a conversion of heart and mind. I fear that here are many, many people in the Church, including even some teachers and leaders, who may still need to experience true Christian conversion (understood in the Catholic Christian sense).