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Francis Garden - 1878 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt


A Short History of Philosophy




Dogma, Dogmatic, and Dogmatist

Dogma, Dogmatic, and Dogmatist. These words are used in a variety of senses, not unconnected, however, with each other. They come from the verb δοκέω, to think, to seem—ὡς ἐμοὶ δοκεῑ, as it seems to me, as I think; also as it seems good to me, as I determine. Hence a dogma like the Latin placitum means both a decree and a pronounced opinion.

It is in the former sense that the word is used in the New Testament.


In the latter sense, it implied in the philosophical language of the ancients, the real or supposed possession of a true knowledge of the law or principle on which phenomena are grounded. Hence when the sceptical school arose, philosophers were divided into dogmatists and empiricists; the later Academics, who denied the possibility of such knowledge, dogmatising negatively as much as their opponents did positively. The empiricists or Pyrrhonists on the other hand ventured on neither position, but retreated on the ἐποχή, refraining, prescribed by their master.

Phenomena, matters of experience, were the sole objects in their view of legitimate study. Hence their title of empiricists.

The distinction seems to have been expanded from medical to all polemic. The school of physicians who grounded their practice entirely on rule and principle were called methodists, and their opponents who would trust all to observation and experience, empiricists, from ἐμπειρία. Between the two there arose the intermediate school of dogmatists, headed by Galen, who contended for the union of the two modes of inquiry and practice. When, however, we extend our view to philosophy, it is plain that we have but two sides to choose between. Unless we can adopt unqualified scepticism, there must be something of which we think and speak with undoubting certainty. Hence Bacon says that all philosophers before him were either dogmatists or sceptics, and Pascal that every man must be one or the other. Pure Pyrrhonism or scepticism is, however, impossible, since, as I have just said, the doubter must at least be certain that he is, and that he doubts.

A dogma. The following explanation has been given of the words dogma and dogmatical.

"By dogmatism we understand, in general, both all-propounding and all-receiving of tenets, merely from habit, without thought or examination, or, in other words, upon the authority of others; in short, the very opposite of critical investigation. All assertion for which no proof is offered is dogmatical." This I think rather a conversational than an accurate use of the term.

In theology a dogma means the formulated presentation of that which is considered revealed truth. This is quite in harmony with the philosophical sense of the word. The man who should merely read his Bible, and speak of its disclosures in no language but its own, would be an empiricist, recognising only the phenomena of Revelation. This is a state which no man has ever succeeded in maintaining; nor, however great the evil of excessive or unwarranted dogma, is it desirable that any man should.

The earliest fathers used the words the Divine dogmas to denote the whole of revealed truth. Subsequently the word was employed in the sense which we have just been considering, and meant the scientific theology alike of the Church and of the heretics. In the present Church of Rome it seems to have sometimes a more limited signification, and to denote not every formulated statement, but such as is authoritatively imposed, and its reception made part of necessary faith. "It may be true or not, but is it dogma?"

Dogma then is the logically formulated and peremptorily enunciated statement of the law and principle of that which apart from it is but so much phenomenon, is seen but not understood. The results of science are thus dogmatic, though the investigations by which we hope to arrive at such ought to be the reverse. The great truths of the faith are set forth dogmatically; nor could this have been avoided, if the bonds of Christian communion were to be cognisable and fixed, or if Christian worship was to be offered with distinct purpose and meaning. More dogma than is required for these ends is enforced on their teachers by nearly every religious community; but be such additions to their dogmatic stores advantageous or disadvantageous, their enforcement ought to be confined to the teaching class, not extended to the private worshippers. And few but will admit that there may easily be an excess even with this limitation, that there may be an amount of dogma rashly arrived at, the enforcement of which tends to discord and division among the many, and to hardness and stiffening of heart and thought in the individual; over and above the evil which must be involved in all premature dogma, that of obstructing instead of promoting our arrival at truth.

In conversational use, dogmatic, dogmatiser, and dogmatising are terms of reproach, denoting a love and habit of what is called laying down the law, a man's regarding his own ipse dixit on the subject as sufficient.



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