One way to think about open-mindedness is through the lens of the habits and practices we might develop to bridge the gap between divisive debate and open-minded dialogue. In recent years many philosophers have focused in on the idea of “intellectual virtues” and one in particular—the virtue of intellectual humility—as a potential way forward.
Intellectual virtues are concerned with the character traits which enable us to be ‘good knowers’, people who acquire, share and use knowledge in morally excellent ways. As one of these intellectual virtues, humility stands in contrast to arrogance on the one hand and diffidence on the other, we might understand it as an awareness of the limits of one’s knowledge.
Drawing on perspectives from history, technology, philosophy, theology, politics and the media the Humility Gap project, an initiative of the Oxford Character Project, seeks to catalyse a constructive discussion on the nature and place of intellectual humility in academic enquiry and wider public discourse. Through a series of podcast interviews with a range of academics, journalists and politicians we hope to identify both the barriers to open-minded debate and the possibilities for nurturing open-mindedness.
Taking the challenges to open-mindedness and intellectual humility seriously we hope to question the role of open-mindedness in issues of justice; what humility means to those on the margins of public debates; and the difficulty of presenting convictions founded in personal experiences, emotions or identities in ways which both command attention and leave room for ongoing dialogue.
Over the academic year 2018-19, the Humility Gap will produce a series of podcasts, host an event in Parliament and release a number of editorials to catalyse wider conversation around these complex questions.
The Humility Gap project is funded by a fellowship from the University of Connecticut’s Humility and Conviction Project and is led by Dr Bethan Willis.