It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle
What does that mean?
I’m not sure ‘educated’ is the word I would use (it might be an artifact of the translation), but I would consider it as a measure of how open-minded a person is. Can you think about an idea, roll it around in your head, and consider it? Do you just accept an idea because it sounds interesting, because your friends like it, or someone you trust said it?
In my mind, that is what the quote is about. Someone exposes you to a new idea. Do you reject it out of hand, accept it blindly, or entertain the idea, exploring its strengths, weaknesses, and applicability to the situation? Do you test its merits and adopt it if the new thought works better than your prior thinking?
Why is thoughtful consideration important?
Have you known people who flit from idea to idea, like butterflies flit from flower to flower? They land briefly, then move on to the next. I’ve known a few, and found it amazing that they wouldn’t (or couldn’t) give each idea a good examination and only adopt those which are more useful than the previous idea.
Perhaps it’s part of the engineering mindset, but I have always tried to see what a new thought, concept, idea, or theory held before jumping on the bandwagon. I try not to approach an idea with pre-conceived notions or prejudices, but to consider the thought on it’s own merits.
In this manner, I hope to find out if the thought is worthy, or just another idea in search of a reason to exist. By examining the thought, one can hope to determine if it makes sense. Sometimes the thought will show itself to be badly flawed or even false, but rarely will we be able to tell if it is true. All that can be done is to test it to the best of our abilities and decide if it is worthy or not.
Where can I apply this in my life?
I don’t know about you, but I try to apply this method to every aspect of my life. Pick a story from the headlines. Does it make sense? What is in the article and what are the facts? Sad to say, but the two are not always the same. Entertain what was written or said, but give it thoughtful consideration.
To do that, I start with some research. If I am familiar with the author, I have an idea what their track record is. I can look for other viewpoints I have grown to trust over the years (either as factually accurate or as having opinions that generally match my own). Then I can start comparing what I presently believe with what my research as found, and adjust my thoughts as indicated.
As an aside, this is part of why I used to love the movie critics Siskel & Ebert. They would review a movie factually, giving the high points and low points. Only at the end would they give their opinions. Being a die-hard action flick aficionado, I would often go to see movies that got two thumbs down, but only because their factual review told me I’d be getting what I desired.
In this manner, their show was a very useful resource for evaluating movies, despite my frequent disagreements with their end valuations. In a similar fashion, I would urge you to develop sources you can trust to get you useful information, even if you disagree with their value call at the end of the day.
The more essential to your beliefs a thought is, the more carefully it should be examined, in my opinion. I was caught off guard a few times in my youth by believing things told to me by (then) trusted people and not doing my own research. Does anyone remember the Global Cooling and coming Ice Age scare of the mid 1970’s?
Since then, I have become a bit more careful about accepting thoughts without first entertaining them for a while (and by that, I mean grilling them mercilessly). Many people, with the advent of the internet, have become a bit more careful to research new ideas. However, that has been counterbalanced by social media, which offers new ideas (and often contradictory ideas) at an astonishingly quick rate.
Only you can decide to accept or reject a new thought or idea. Therefore it is up to you to do the necessary research to confirm the validity of the idea. It also helps in defending the idea later, if you have done your homework, as there will always be people of differing viewpoints.
From: Twitter, @SkepticSheep
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aristotle100584.html
Photo by Barrett.Discovery
On the 7th of March, 322 BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle dies.