Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, makes a thought-provoking observation regarding the thought processes of people who are usually correct
vis-a-vis those who usually aren't. As relayed by Jason Fried of 37signals:
[Bezos has] observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they'd already solved. They're open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.By contrast:
What trait signified someone who was wrong a lot of the time? Someone obsessed with details that only support one point of view. If someone can't climb out of the details, and see the bigger picture from multiple angles, they're often wrong most of the time.Regarding people who are "right a lot", Fried adds that, "This doesn't mean you shouldn't have a well formed point of view, but it means you should consider your point of view as temporary."
I don't know enough about the philsophical views of Bezos or Fried -- or the full context of Bezos's remarks to be able to say I agree with Bezos (or Fried's interpretation of what he said). That would depend on whether they view such statements as, "A is A," or "Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses," as mere points of view -- or as truths the human mind can grasp.
Assuming that the two agree that men can discover truth with their minds, I would have to agree with the above. In any event, I am reminded of the following passage by Ayn Rand regarding a commonly-held false dichotomy, that between "open" and "closed" minds:
[There is a] dangerous little catch phrase which advises you to keep an "open mind." This is a very ambiguous term--as demonstrated by a man who once accused a famous politician of having "a wide open mind." That term is an anti-concept: it is usually taken to mean an objective, unbiased approach to ideas, but it is used as a call for perpetual skepticism, for holding no firm convictions and granting plausibility to anything. A "closed mind" is usually taken to mean the attitude of a man impervious to ideas, arguments, facts and logic, who clings stubbornly to some mixture of unwarranted assumptions, fashionable catch phrases, tribal prejudices--and emotions. But this is not a "closed" mind, it is a passive one. It is a mind that has dispensed with (or never acquired) the practice of thinking or judging, and feels threatened by any request to consider anything.Do Bezos and Fried advocate open minds or active ones? I suspect the latter, but whether their remarks want correction or clarification, I found the thinking they evoked profitable.
What objectivity and the study of philosophy require is not an "open mind," but an active mind--a mind able and eagerly willing to examine ideas, but to examine them critically. An active mind does not grant equal status to truth and falsehood; it does not remain floating forever in a stagnant vacuum of neutrality and uncertainty; by assuming the responsibility of judgment, it reaches firm convictions and holds to them. Since it is able to prove its convictions, an active mind achieves an unassailable certainty in confrontations with assailants--a certainty untainted by spots of blind faith, approximation, evasion and fear.