Open vs Closed Cultures
Posted: 24 December 2007 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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This discussion began in another thread in this forum and seemed to need its own thread.  The last posting related to the discussion is below.

burt - 24 December 2007 02:27 AM
ender!krum - 23 December 2007 08:14 PM

[quote author=“burt” date=“1198406796]You misunderstand.  This is incorrect.  What you generally see is that the children of Christians become Christians, the children of Jews become Jews, the children of Muslims become Muslims, and so on.  You also get occasional conversions but that is an matter of individual psychology.  We all perceive the world with pre-assumptions, without that there is no way to interpret events and know what is going on.  In a sense, it comes down to what story you are willing to buy into.  The assessment of evidence is most often simply to confirm that we have made a correct choice, correct meaning that it fits with our expectations.  At some point, you make a commitment to the story (this is generally a self-reinforcing process) and the question is what is really behind the committment.

If everyone simply affirms the assumptions of the world view they grow up with, then you are saying all worldviews are equally found-less, based on “faith,” and any evidence one points to is simply prejudicial.  I disagree.

 

No, there is a distinction that is made by the anthropologist Robin Horton (among others) between open and closed cultures.  Closed cultures have worldviews that are self-reinforcing in the sense that anything that seems to contradict the worldview can be explained away by some other aspect of the worldview.  For example, the Azande tribe in Africa in the 1920s believed in witchcraft, and they had a specific ritual to magically answer questions: a certain quantity of a poisonous plant (benge) would be collected, ritually prepared, and then fed to a chicken.  At the same time, a question would be asked having a yes or no answer, correlated with whether or not the chicken died.  Once an answer had been obtained, more of the poison would be fed to a second chicken with the same question, but with the yes and no correlation reversed.  But if contradictory answers were obtained, or if the oracle obtained turned out false they did not question the value of the process itself, rather they would say that the poison was not good, or some error had been made in the ritual preparations, or a witch had interfered with the process.  In an open culture, on the other hand, basic assumptions are open to question and alternate views.  This introduces a dialectic into the search for facts about reality that leads, if people are careful, to more accurate representations of the world.  One of the things that is required in an open culture is that people become sufficiently aware of their conditioning to be able to step back from it and take a more objective stance toward the world.

Interesting, are you describing a continuum, with ‘openness’ on one end and ‘closedness’ (for lack of a real word) on the other?  Or is a society simply one or the other?  How does one determine if their worldview is sufficiently open?

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Posted: 24 December 2007 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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ender!krum - 24 December 2007 03:21 PM

Interesting, are you describing a continuum, with ‘openness’ on one end and ‘closedness’ (for lack of a real word) on the other?  Or is a society simply one or the other?  How does one determine if their worldview is sufficiently open?

It depends on how easily one is able to assimilate new data. By data, I mean “data”. Not mumbo-jumbo.

The fact that one can survive on roots and berries does not mean that one cannot do better with better nutrition. What do you mean by “sufficient”? I think you mean to restrict us to the “sufficient”, and do not care much for the idea of “choice”. In other words, I think you are an asshole.

[ Edited: 24 December 2007 10:45 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 24 December 2007 11:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Salt Creek - 24 December 2007 03:37 PM

It depends on how easily one is able to assimilate new data. By data, I mean “data”. Not mumbo-jumbo.

It seems you are proposing two criteria for an “open society:”

1. Ability to process and assimilate new information.
2. Strict criteria for what that information can be.

Is this correct?

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Theories should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.
-Albert Einstein

I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity;
I would give my right arm for the simplicity on the far side of complexity.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.
-Albert Einstein

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Posted: 24 December 2007 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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ender!krum - 24 December 2007 04:42 PM
Salt Creek - 24 December 2007 03:37 PM

It depends on how easily one is able to assimilate new data. By data, I mean “data”. Not mumbo-jumbo.

It seems you are proposing two criteria for an “open society:”

1. Ability to process and assimilate new information.
2. Strict criteria for what that information can be.

Is this correct?

No, this is not correct. You do not understand me. Assessing whether a society is “open” or “closed” is a matter of labeling. I don’t think I would care whether one labeled a society “open” or “closed”. I think it is important to be more specific in one’s terminology. That is why I suggested you might consider the capacity to consider (and assimilate if necessary) new data. I don’t care if somebody uses the word “open” or “closed”, but how he or she responds to new data. You don’t respond to new data. I do not have a very high opinion of you, or your prescriptions for society. Only idiots will pay serious attention to you.

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Posted: 24 December 2007 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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ender!krum - 24 December 2007 03:21 PM

This discussion began in another thread in this forum and seemed to need its own thread.  The last posting related to the discussion is below.

burt - 24 December 2007 02:27 AM
ender!krum - 23 December 2007 08:14 PM

[quote author=“burt” date=“1198406796]You misunderstand.  This is incorrect.  What you generally see is that the children of Christians become Christians, the children of Jews become Jews, the children of Muslims become Muslims, and so on.  You also get occasional conversions but that is an matter of individual psychology.  We all perceive the world with pre-assumptions, without that there is no way to interpret events and know what is going on.  In a sense, it comes down to what story you are willing to buy into.  The assessment of evidence is most often simply to confirm that we have made a correct choice, correct meaning that it fits with our expectations.  At some point, you make a commitment to the story (this is generally a self-reinforcing process) and the question is what is really behind the committment.

If everyone simply affirms the assumptions of the world view they grow up with, then you are saying all worldviews are equally found-less, based on “faith,” and any evidence one points to is simply prejudicial.  I disagree.

 

No, there is a distinction that is made by the anthropologist Robin Horton (among others) between open and closed cultures.  Closed cultures have worldviews that are self-reinforcing in the sense that anything that seems to contradict the worldview can be explained away by some other aspect of the worldview.  For example, the Azande tribe in Africa in the 1920s believed in witchcraft, and they had a specific ritual to magically answer questions: a certain quantity of a poisonous plant (benge) would be collected, ritually prepared, and then fed to a chicken.  At the same time, a question would be asked having a yes or no answer, correlated with whether or not the chicken died.  Once an answer had been obtained, more of the poison would be fed to a second chicken with the same question, but with the yes and no correlation reversed.  But if contradictory answers were obtained, or if the oracle obtained turned out false they did not question the value of the process itself, rather they would say that the poison was not good, or some error had been made in the ritual preparations, or a witch had interfered with the process.  In an open culture, on the other hand, basic assumptions are open to question and alternate views.  This introduces a dialectic into the search for facts about reality that leads, if people are careful, to more accurate representations of the world.  One of the things that is required in an open culture is that people become sufficiently aware of their conditioning to be able to step back from it and take a more objective stance toward the world.

Interesting, are you describing a continuum, with ‘openness’ on one end and ‘closedness’ (for lack of a real word) on the other?  Or is a society simply one or the other?  How does one determine if their worldview is sufficiently open?

The authors I’m referencing (Robin Horton above, Christopher Alexander is another) make the point that cultures or societies are multi-dimensional and can be relatively open on some dimensions and relatively closed on others (recall the reaction to the word “communist” in the US in the 1950s).  Salt Creek makes a point (you can excuse his abusive nature, I think he is irritated by the season) in that it is a matter of openess to new data, but also to new ideas.  Being open in that way carries a concomitant responsibility—to be able to judge the value of the new data or idea according to some reasonable non-subjective standard.  That’s why the most open societies have to have science as a basic aspect of their worldview (IMHO).  In another way of looking at it, it is a matter of different ways of thinking—how does one react to change and novelty?

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Posted: 24 December 2007 03:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Salt Creek writes:
The fact that one can survive on roots and berries does not mean that one cannot do better with better nutrition. What do you mean by “sufficient”? I think you mean to restrict us to the “sufficient”, and do not care much for the idea of “choice”. In other words, I think you are an asshole.

And…

No, this is not correct. You do not understand me. Assessing whether a society is “open” or “closed” is a matter of labeling. I don’t think I would care whether one labeled a society “open” or “closed”. I think it is important to be more specific in one’s terminology. That is why I suggested you might consider the capacity to consider (and assimilate if necessary) new data. I don’t care if somebody uses the word “open” or “closed”, but how he or she responds to new data. You don’t respond to new data. I do not have a very high opinion of you, or your prescriptions for society. Only idiots will pay serious attention to you.

Ahhhh, this is why we love ya Salty — and you know that we do.

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Posted: 24 December 2007 10:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Another take on the open/closed culture (or individual mind) is in terms of the Piagetian dichotomy of assimilation/accommodation.  In terms of individual psychology, we all have anchoring beliefs and the natural reaction to any experience is to assimilate it into our existing worldview.  Sometimes, however, we have an experience that doesn’t fit our beliefs.  We can then either: (1) ignore or deny it; (2) explain it away; (3) find an interpretation that squeezes it (and distorts it) into our worldview (the Procrustian solution); (4) accommodate to it, that is, recognize that we need to change our thinking and so alter our worldview.  All individuals and all cultures have an assimilation bias, and that is natural—if something seems to work for us, why change it in the face of a single event.  Open cultures are those that are able to accomodate to new information, closed cultures are those that force everything into a fixed interpretation.

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Posted: 26 December 2007 07:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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burt - 25 December 2007 03:26 AM

Open cultures are those that are able to accomodate to new information, closed cultures are those that force everything into a fixed interpretation.

burt - 24 December 2007 08:20 PM

Being open in that way carries a concomitant responsibility—to be able to judge the value of the new data or idea according to some reasonable non-subjective standard.  That’s why the most open societies have to have science as a basic aspect of their worldview (IMHO).

I agree with these statements.  What do you mean by science?  (I am trying to work this out here)

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Theories should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.
-Albert Einstein

I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity;
I would give my right arm for the simplicity on the far side of complexity.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.
-Albert Einstein

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