Dogmatism
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KSU   -   English 1101/55 & 57   -   Mr. Hagin   -   Fall 2002   -   Revised: 27 November 2002
CRC
 

§   DEFINITION

Dogmatism – pushing one doctrine as the only possible approach at a topic.
 

A writer becomes dogmatic when he attempts to persuade us by asserting or assuming that his particular position is the only acceptable conclusion possible.  Dogmatists are intense advocates for their beliefs.  They imply that the truth is self-evident and obvious for all to see, so we had better open our eyes (notice that this shifts the burden of proof onto the audience).  They suggest that we “wisen up” and “get with the program” so we too can share the same point of view.

Dogmatists make their audience feel that only one truth exists (sometimes to the extent that any question or debate on the issue is inappropriate in itself!). The tactic undermines the trust between those making and those receiving the arguments.  We must have proof to accept a claim as valid.  This fallacy is a preachy version of the bandwagon appeal, based on a faulty authority or an only reason fallacy.
 

EXAMPLE

A zealous preacher speaks: “The truth, my friends, is found right here in this book — The Bible.  All our answers are located between these leather covers, and no other truth exists.  Any other belief is evil in the eyes of God.”

I use this example only because we hear it a lot in America.  This example does not attack the bible, but the dogmatic use of it.  This speaker is probably a generous and knowledgeable individual, but his use of exaggerated diction is troublesome.  Taken literally, this man suggests that no other truth exists anywhere else in the world.  However, gravity is a truth about nature that is not addressed in the Bible.  You exist, and this is true, but your name does not appear listed in the Bible.  Dogmatists like to use absolutist diction, which leads us to the point of absurdity when taken too literally.

 
People who use dogma tell you what to think.  The message may be true, valid, or neither — as long as the speaker demands a change of perspective, dogmatism occurs.  Those who use this tactic usually belong to a larger organization or group (or at least identify with an established doctrine of beliefs).  They use that dogma to interpret the world, leaving out all other possibilities and explanations that fall outside the parameters established by the dogma.  They will often insist that their message is the only one of its kind, and that following it will make you a better person.  Parents, teachers, commercials, and preachers all become dogmatic in their extreme forms.