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Defining Skeptics, Dogma and Stoics
This article is simply an attempt to define the difference between skepticism and dogmatism and show a few examples of each.
Ordinary skepticism is loosely defined as questioning attitudes or doubts. However, in scientific circles it usually refers to a permanent mind-set. Skepticism needs solid information supported by evidence before one will change their opinion. People who have a skeptical attitude are called skeptics.
In today’s society, skeptics abound. Reports of UFO’s, Bigfoot, sea monsters and the like continually assault us. There is always a core of sincere believers. And then there are the skeptics…those who doubt their existence. Who can blame them? The media’s thirst for sensationalism fans the fire. Boring doesn’t sell.
A scientific skeptic is one who questions certain claims by subjecting them to rigid investigation. Therefore, some things are considered pseudoscience if they ignore this rule.
In the area of religion, Merriam Webster translates skepticism as “doubt concerning basic religious principles such as immortality, providence, and revelation.” Skepticism, in regards to religion, is often confused with agnosticism since skeptics are usually agnostic. This type of skepticism concerns faith based claims. These individuals focus on such things as the reality of divine beings or earthly miracles.
Another class of people whose opinions often clashed with skeptics was the Stoics. The Stoics were a group of philosophers who originated around the Hellenistic period. Stoicisms’ founder was a man called Zeno who lived from 335-263 BC in Athens. At that time, the city was a great center of learning. Zeno preferred to teach outside on the porch of public buildings in sunny weather. The Greek word for porch is Stoa, therefore his students became known as Stoics. Their philosophy was basically moderation in all things. Thus, our current expression “stoic” came into being.
Dogmatism, on the other hand, is an unfounded positivity in matters of opinion or assertion of opinions as truths. A dogmatist stresses their opinions in an arrogant manner and when confronted with undeniable facts will resort to relative philosophy to defend their position.
Dogmatists usually have unchangeable views. Their minds are closed to information and ideas different than their own. However, this describes most of us when confronted with a new concept. It’s natural for us to resist new things, because it might require us to alter our perceptions and face the fact that we may be ignorant about things we thought we knew. Therefore, one could conclude dogmatism might be the norm, rather than the exception.
Dogma is an established belief not to be disputed. The term comes from the Greek meaning “That which adheres to one opinion or belief.” Or “to think, suppose or imagine. Dogmata, is the plural form.
Dogmata found in religions are considered core principles that must be upheld by all followers. Within many Christian denominations, dogma is referred to as doctrine.
The term "dogmatic" can be used to refer to any belief regarded as truth, including political or scientific beliefs.