So a couple of weeks ago I stumbled across this really interested in TEDTalk about the way in which people argue. You can watch it at the bottom of this post, its well worth the time.
What struck me the most is the idea that we are taught overwhelmingly, from a very early age to equate learning with losing. You see, when you argue about anything, whether science, philosophy or even sports, the so called winner gains nothing. In order to gain knowledge and insight you must be willing to admit defeat.
I think it is this overarching sense of conflict that stifles creativity and actually hinders learning. Nobody wants to look stupid so they accept that status quo and choose not to rock the boat. But what if they’re right all along? How many great discoveries have been made by people who everyone thought was wrong? How many people had to fight and argue their way to the top, only to be vindicated by history and the court of public opinion?
The solution I think is for all of us to take on a posture of learning. To do that we have to enter into all discussions willing to lose something. Usually we lose nothing more than a bit of pride, sometimes a bit of dignity.
All this is not the same however as having an open mind. You don’t need to have an open mind in the sense that anything is possible. You just need to be willing to change your mind in light of new information. As my sister once said “The problem with having an open mind is that all too often it turns into a wind-swept expanse.” What she meant was that if your mind is too open, nothing stays there long enough to form an intelligent position on any subject.
Anyway, watch the video and let me know what you think.