Open-Mindedness and Normative Contingency

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


The value of open-mindedness as a virtue is most obviously explained by its truth conduciveness. Being open to opinions that conflict with one's own gives "the truth a chance of reaching us," as John Stuart Mill put it in On Liberty. For Mill, open-mindedness is a virtue of theoretical and practical reasoning alike. Mill's model assumes that in both cases the truths are "out there" to be discovered or to hit us in the head. We do better by being open-minded because a closed mind will not see what is out there (or will not notice when contradictory evidence hits it). But if (as many metaethicists think today) moral "truths" are not out there, what is the point of an open mind? What are we being open to? For those who think that normative judgments are contingent in some way on us, Mill's explanation of the value of open-mindedness seems unavailable. This chapter argues that such metaethical views can make sense of the value of open-mindedness by appeal to some important features of the practice of making normative judgments and the costs of abandoning this practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOxford Studies in Metaethics
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191741661
ISBN (Print)9780199653492
StatePublished - Jun 28 2012


  • Constructivism
  • Contingency
  • Moral epistemology
  • Normativity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Practical reasoning


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