Monday, April 9, 2007

What is real dogmatism?

Today I was thinking about dogmatism. Is there a more or less fixed amount to be doled out to each person? Often those who appear the most dogmatic are, on most issues, the most open-minded. Take a highly religious person who believes that her favored social structure follows directly from the World of God, and is convinced as such. That same person might be especially open-minded on many empirical questions in social science. Her favorite social structure is not, in her own mind, threatened. She can pursue truth on the empirical questions and she doesn't see much "dangerous" at stake.

The non-religious, in contrast, might base the case for their favored social structures on empirical questions. They might be very dogmatic on empirics, precisely because so much is at stake in the empirical debates.

When looking for open-minded people, should we look for people who are closed-minded but in a very concentrated way in just a few areas? Their dogmatism is "soaked up" by the religion, and then they are free to be open-minded.

Or does a dogmatic attitude in one area simply predict dogmatic attitudes more generally?


Daniel Klein said...

Perhaps decided" rather than "dogmatic." One might feel very decided or sure, but still not be dogmatic in affirming whatever it is that he is decided about. To me, being dogmatic means reverting in argument to certain lame tenets. Being decidedly Christian or whatever does not necessarily mean that one does that. Your point would still work.

Matthew said...

Here's a nice example of dogmatism. . .

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For Catholicism and Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity, the dogmata are contained in the Nicene Creed and the canon laws of two, three, seven, or twenty-one ecumenical councils. These tenets are summarized by St. John of Damascus in his Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, which is the third book of his main work, titled The Fount of Knowledge.

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