Can an anti-dogma philosophy prevent becoming a dogma itself?

I think it can, but I would appreciate the scrutiny of philosophy buffs on this.

In any philosophy there's always the threat of ideological hijacking. A well-meaning idea can easily turn into Jonestown, if precautions are not taken to prevent the natural human tendency to create dogma and authoritarian hierarchy. The hijacking can come from inside, as in the case of cults like Jim Jones'. It can come from outside invasion, as in the case of the Republican political party being hijacked by the Christian Right. It can come from outside adoption of the philosophy as a convenient dogma, as in the case of Stalin's adoption of Marxism.

Are all philosophies doomed to this fate? Is there any way to prevent it?

Many philosophies try to prevent such a fate by becoming dogmatic themselves. Religions are prime examples. The Catholic church was invented to establish doctrinal purity. They even tried to be somewhat democratic, voting on particular doctrines such as the trinity. But it was still dogma. And we all know where that lead.

My case in favour of non-dogma anti-dogma comes from a few of sources. The two most prominent are science and open-source. Science has various mechanisms built into it to act as a kind of 'immune system' to identify and bust dogmas, such as peer review and evidence-based reasoning. Open source has useful mechanisms for allowing multiple independent contributors to collaborate even if they might have personal differences of opinion, and to prevent any single group from gaining monopoly on the idea.

I suppose democracy might be a third example. However, our current democracies have many flaws, and are susceptible to popular whim, which can include dogmas. But maybe there are ideas out there for how to improve democratic procedures (such as voting, legislation, and courts). Can democracy be improved in this way, despite its current flaws? Still, a black guy for president in the US? It's gotta say *something* positive for the potential of democracy to break dogmas (like racism).

I'm interested in this because I'm working on my own philosophy (see What is wonderism?) which I would like to remain as non-dogmatic as possible. I think I'm on the right track with allying with science and evidence-based reasoning. I'd like to develop a strong 'immune system' for it. I'm inspired by how people like Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond helped develop and promote open source by building a kind of 'immune system' to prevent monopolization of copyright.

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If one component of your philosophy is for each individual to subject the philosophy itself to critical analysis on a regular basis, I don't think dogma could take root.
If you made the philosophy a process (like the scientific method) rather than a product (list of rules), you might also prevent dogmatic shit. I like humanism, but it can easily be made into dogma by nature of the "rules."
it is almost inevitable that members will do their best to create dogmatic versions

If you look at the history of humanity, creating dogmas seems as much a human trait as the creating language. I made this argument in my "dancing bear" blog:
"If you made the philosophy a process (like the scientific method) rather than a product (list of rules), you might also prevent dogmatic shit."

One line of thought I had a while ago regarding this is the idea, "What if you made the philosophy such that the more rigidly and dogmatically you try to interpret it, the more it teaches you how to stop being so dogmatic." For example, if there were core ideas about how our human thinking is inherently imperfect, and we should be aware of our own tendency to be dogmatic and strive to always question ourselves, and follow where the evidence leads us. In other words, intellectual honesty and integrity.

So, if someone comes along with a dogmatic mindset and tries to adopt these ideas dogmatically, they will end up de-programming themselves from dogma (with the help of evidence, peer review, free and open public discourse, etc.).

I kind of think this is how critical thinking tends to work anyway. Once you think you understand logic, you start to try to fit everything into logical pigeon-holes, and start to point out logical fallacies everywhere you see them. Eventually, you come to the realization that nobody is perfectly logical, not even yourself, and we all hold false beliefs while thinking they are true. Then you shift from that dogmatic mindset to a more forgiving and flexible mindset of striving to eliminate false beliefs and to learn new true beliefs, while realizing you can't ever finish the task.

I don't know if that idea is really possible, but it might be. The more 'dogmatic' you become in the anti-dogmatic philosophy, the more you learn how to break free from your dogmatic mindset.
That's a good start. I agree. Critical thinking and self-reflection. Very important, I think.

On the other hand, I know a lot of 'woo woo' kinds of people who spend a lot of time in self-reflection and all they come up with are elaborate justifications for their weird beliefs. Also, scientists are also prone to 'pet theories' which they examine with a critical eye, but are simply unable to spot the flaws, due to being 'too close' to the idea.

I think there also needs to be an inter-subjective component to anti-dogma, to counteract humans' ability to fool ourselves. I like to paraphrase Feynman this way: "It's very easy to fool people. And the easiest person to fool is yourself." Evidence-testing is also a good way to invalidate false ideas we may hold.
I'm not sure any of the examples discussed qualify as philosophy. Sociology, politics, religion, science--yes; philosophy, no.

So I think the place to learn about dogmatism and its antidotes would be in sociology and psychology. These fields study how individuals and groups interact--not just with each other but with ideas. Where is the power? Where is the money? Where is the prestige? Who are the gatekeepers? What are the myths and Just So stories underpinning the activity?

Critical thinking is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of woo-fighting. Keeping it honed and at hand is crucial to maintaining whatever idea you want to keep alive. Being willing to use it as ruthlessly as necessary is the next step. But don't let it be the only weapon in your arsenal or you might be outflanked and outgunned. Remember the secret of ju-jitsu and let the force and direction of the opponent defeat themselves.

Personally, I find any 'ism' dogmatic. Even wonderism. But wondering is a pretty great place to be.
I don't make such a strict division between science and philosophy. Science is an extended and refined philosophy and method for investigating nature. The only distinction I make, which again is not strict, is when trying to distinguish between science itself and the other non-scientific philosophies. Other than that, I see philosophy as a pretty broad thing, akin to 'thinking about thinking'.

I agree critical thinking is not quite enough to combat dogma.

Not sure how wonderism is dogmatic. If we take 'dogma' to mean 'unquestioned or unquestionable belief', then what is the dogma of wonderism? Personally, I'm questioning my beliefs all the time, including wonderism. In fact, that's a fairly good description of one aspect of wonderism, to question everything.

Do you also find atheism dogmatic? It's an 'ism' too, right? If so, what is its dogma?

I think for something to have a definition, does not necessarily make it a dogma. The dogma is in the enforcement of the "You can't question that!" of a particular tenet or belief. The enforcement can either be external, as in a church authority, or internal as in self-brainwashing or simply fear of the consequences of questioning (e.g. fear of hell). These are exactly the kinds of mechanisms wonderism is intended to break through.

I mean, I believe the Sun is (more-or-less) at the centre of the solar system. You could call me a heliocentrist. Does that mean heliocentrism is a dogma? If so, doesn't that make all beliefs dogmas?
I think the scientific method and the rules of logic are our dogma...
Again, I don't see this. If they were unquestioned or unquestionable, I could see your point. But I and many others question the scientific method and the rules of logic all the time. The scientific method has adapted over the years to handle various problems; for example, the recent shift to falsifiability, improved statistical methods, improved cross-domain collaboration (e.g. biochemistry, evolutionary psychology, etc.). Likewise, there are all sorts of various systems of logic being invented and developed all the time, like modal logic, fuzzy logic, etc.

We use the scientific method and rules of logic because they work, not because they are handed down to us as a dogma. You are free to question them as you wish, and if you find something that works better, we'll use that instead. That's the antithesis of dogma. We use them because they are useful. See my post on pragmatism.
Are the scientific method and rules of logic our dogma, or are they reliable tools for adding to the body of useful knowledge?

I'm a troubleshooter by trade (at least when I'm working, which ain't right now!), and logic is a tool which, if it were a screwdriver, would be long since worn and in need of replacement for all the use I get out of it. I positively HATE shotgun diagnosis and resist it wherever possible, but prefer to let the symptoms of the failure mode lead me to the source of the problem. If logic equates to dogma, then I'm dogmatic as hell!

A field service engineer has to be very VERY pragmatic, because someone's widget is down and costing them thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars for every hour it is not chunking out product. That being the case, the tools I bring to the task had better be effective and efficient. Long ago, I developed the phrase, "If it works, USE IT; if it don't, LOSE IT," with emphasis on the first portion. There are multiple tricks of the trade I've developed or learned over the 30 years I've been a troubleshooter, and I generally don't drop a troubleshooting technique unless it repeatedly proves itself unreliable. Those tricks are my tools as surely as my screwdriver and voltmeter are, and I cannot see labeling them as dogmatic simply for my reliance on them.

They are the means to my end: a working system and a satisfied customer, and they WORK. If you can argue against that, you are invited to try!
You owe me ROYALTIES! [Hey, I gots to make money SOMEHOW!]
I overspoke a little but that's pretty common around here. I'm immediately suspicious of anything that turns perfectly good verbs, adverbs, or adjectives into nouns. That's the first step of reification which, if not guarded against, can lead to mistaking metaphors for things. I'm a big fan of metaphor as both a way of providing information and a way of receiving information. But too many battles--both real and virtual--have been fought over mistaking the map for the territory.

As long as any "ism" comes with appropriate disclaimers (either explicitly or implicitly), I usually don't have a problem with it. But too often the ground rules are not clear and then words, concepts, or discussions get very fuzzy around the edges.

Science as "an extended and refined ... method for investigating nature" is fine. But as soon as "philosophy" is added to that, I think you're putting the cart before the horse. Philosophies can (and have) grown out of the findings and understandings of science; sometimes those philosophies have inspired future paths of investigations. But I think to make philosophy and science (almost) the same thing lessens the effect they can have on each other.




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