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Dogmatism

DOGMATISM

In general, the positive assertion of opinion or belief; it frequently connotes authoritativeness or arrogance in such assertion, as well as lack of argument or evidence in its support.

The term has its historical origin in Hellenistic times. In that period the first dogmatists were a group of physicians, following the tradition of hippocrates, who practiced their profession with definite assertions about the causes and cures of disease. They established themselves in opposition to the methodists, another group of physicians who practiced medicine with definite theories about, and emphasis on, the method to be followed in the treatment of disease. Further opposition came from the empirics, a third group who excluded theory altogether in their practice.

Immanuel kant (17241804) applied the term dogmatist to any previous philosophers who had neglected to examine critically the nature and limitations of the human mind in the acquisition of knowledge. Seeking to unite rationalism, which he equivalently identified with dogmatism, and empiricism, which he equivalently identified with skepticism, he intended his philosophy to rectify the errors of both. (see criticism, philosophi cal).

In defense of Christian thinkers who are often charged with dogmatism, it should be emphasized that the positive statement of objective and certain truth is not dogmatism. The human mind unconditionally assents to what has been divinely revealed, once it has intellectual conviction of the divine origin of the truth. Again, as regards the truth of reason, the mind's assent to what can be demonstrated or conclusively proved, and therefore held with natural certitude, is not dogmatism.

See Also: demonstration; dogma; evidence.

Bibliography: g. di napoli, Enciclopedia filosofica, 4 v. (Venice-Rome 1957) 1:170406. r. eisler, Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe, 3 v. (4th ed. Berlin 192730) 1:291293.

[m. w. hollenbach]

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