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Intellectual Fairmindedness


This blog is part of a series of reflections based on Philip Dow's book Virtuous Minds*


“Those who are fair-minded earnestly want to know the truth and thus are willing to listen in an even handed way to differing opinions, even if they already have strong views on the subject…they attempt to view the issue from the perspective of their opponents, believing they do not always have the most accurate or complete vantage point on a given issue….. they have chosen to put the truth above allegiance to their ego or cherished opinions…..” (p50)


How hard is it to fairly consider and ponder alternative viewpoints? As busy professionals who are time poor and are committed to a growing understanding of Biblical truth, there just isn’t time to investigate alternative ideas. It is so easy just to dismiss ideas that do not align with our carefully thought out understanding. But to dismiss someone’s ideas is to dismiss the person and an opportunity to know and understand them. It may also be a missed opportunity to refine and grow our own ideas.


Listening in circumstances where we quickly identify our opposing and strongly held viewpoint needs to be deliberate and have a component of listening to the person as well as their ideas. It is often better to ask incisive questions than to bombard someone with our ideas, so if we listen with humility and fair-mindedness the aim is not to impose our ideas but to hear and evaluate the other person’s ideas. This is part of consistently treating everyone as having equal worth and dignity and communicating respect as well as having a genuine caring about the truth (p53,54).


Dow explains that “one’s ego naturally and zealously guards its territory, making the choice to fairly consider other perspectives extremely difficult” ( P51). However, OUR assumptions often act as an intellectual prison keeping us from the truth and the fair-minded person who listens well is much more likely to escape from a prison of false assumptions (p52) and grow in their understanding of the truth.


Philip Dow will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Christians in Teaching Conference in April.


Can we encourage you to delve into his award winning book Virtuous Minds*, be challenged by his call to pursue truth and to build intellectual virtues in your students, and join us for the upcoming Christians in Teaching Conference. 


*Dow, Philip E. 2013. "Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development". Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press

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