17 feb. 2011

More Dogma

Dogma cannot be disputed; it admits no argument. If a dogma is replaced by a new, contradictory dogma, then there is no argument for the change: there is simply a new party line that must be adhered to. The justification for dogma is sheer institutional authority. Because some official body (a church, a political party) says so.

Justifications for dogma always come after the fact, they are apologetics aimed to justify whatever the dogma happens to be at the moment. Apologetics are always in bad faith.

I have no authority per se. If I put forward my opinion, I have to back it up with my own reasons. My own colleagues do not agree with me, often. By definition, I cannot be dogmatic. I resent the use of the term to refer to someone with strong, well-justified opinions, who does in fact change his opinions with some frequency.

I've never imposed my agenda on a dissertation student. One wrote sympathetically on a poet whom I had criticized. All I told her to do was to at least acknowledge the debate to which I had contributed. When I review an article, I almost never let a point of substantive disagreement lead me to reject it. The exception is when I feel the writer has misrepresented the terms of the debate.

In class, I don't really care whether a student agrees with me. The problem tends to be with students willing to believe everything I say. That's frightening.