Dogma
Introduction
An introduction to dogma, the distinction between positive and negative dogma, and some examples of each.
We motivate the discussion by reference to August Comte.
We define dogma, describe its role in sceptical philosophy, and introduce the distinction between positive and negative dogma.
Dogma and Positivism
We motivate the discussion by reference to August Comte.

It is perhaps more natural to think of skepticism when we talk about dogma, skepticism having been the ancient philosopy most preoccupied with the avoidance of dogma. However, it is worthwhile to put the discussion of dogma in the context of Comte's conception of progress, since that gives our attitude towards dogma a place in a positive conception of progress through stages of civilisation.

The Law of The Three States

Comte describes three stages in the development of the human mind (I prefer to think of these as stages in the evolution of civilisation):

  • Religious
  • Metaphysical
  • Positive
For Comte these represented stages in our understanding of the world. For our present purposes they are stages in the liberalisation of human thought from the most extreme dogmatism to more open minded enquiry.

Religious

At this stage, the world is explained via one or more supernatural beings. Typically the explanation is delivered through some elite priesthood, who represent themselves as revealing devine truth. The religious institutions are likely to be heirarchic and authoritarian, and hence ultimately controlled by one individual.

Metaphysical

We naturally think of the philosophers of ancient Greece in this matter, who were free from religious authority and able to speculate freely about how the works.

Though there is no dogma imposed by religious authority, the various metaphysical systems are themselved nevertheless dogmatic in character. They go so far beyond the available evidence that to hold to such a system is like an act of faith, and hence is likely to be done with greater assurance and rigidity than is properly warranted by the evidence.

Positive

This stage was Comte's last and embodied his conception of positive science in which scientific theories are based on observation and experiment and do not go beyond what is manifest from the evidence. This is the least dogmatic of Comte's stages because it is expected that scientific theories are subject to refutation if contrary evidence comes to light.

Dogma and Scepticism
We define dogma, describe its role in sceptical philosophy, and introduce the distinction between positive and negative dogma.
What is A Dogma

Positive Dogma
Negative Dogma

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