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Open and Shut


In Impromptus today, I begin a series on Roger Kimball’s latest book, The Fortunes of Permanence. There is meat in that book to feast on for a year — for a lifetime, actually (though my series won’t run that long).

Let me paste a little excerpt from today’s column, then quote a reader letter:

In reading Roger on relativism, I thought of something I once heard Bill Buckley say: The purpose of an open mind is to close it on some things. This is a well-known aphorism, I think.

I believe someone had said to Bill, “There are no closed questions here at Yale.” “Oh?” said Bill. “Even the question of Nazism versus democracy?”

That shut ’em up (as WFB so often did). Anyway, a reader sends a long and eloquent letter, which includes this mot: “My high-school social-studies teacher used to say, ‘Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.’”

You have probably noticed the same phenomenon I have: Many people who pride themselves on being open-minded turn out not to be so open-minded, when they find you disagree with them.


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