[Based on the following two passages written by Bertrand Russell, it’s hard to know what group he belongs in. The first passage is a sharp attack on dogmatic belief. The second is a vigourous defence of dogmatic definition. It’s a shame that Russell didn’t focus his superb analytic talents on the various meanings and uses of the word “dogma” and “dogmatic” in the way he did with other important terms. Perhaps it might have led him to discover that there is something both unfair and confused in the modern attitude to dogma, an attitude that Russell frequently exemplified.]
I do not believe that a decay of dogmatic belief can do anything but good. I admit at once that new systems of dogma, such as those of the Nazis and the Communists, are even worse than the old systems, but they could never have acquired a hold over men’s minds if orthodox dogmatic habits had not been instilled in youth. Stalin’s language is full of reminiscences of the theological seminary in which he received his training. What the world needs is not dogma, but an attitude of scientific inquiry, combined with a belief that the torture of millions is not desirable, whether inflicted by Stalin or a Deity imagined in the likeness of the believer.
The purpose of this chapter is to state in dogmatic form certain conclusions which follow from previous discussion, together with the fuller discussions of “An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth.” More particularly, I wish to give meanings, as definite as possible, to the four words in the title of this chapter. I do not mean to deny that the words are susceptible of other equally legitimate meanings, but only that the meanings which I shall assign to them represent important concepts, which, when understood and distinguished, are useful in many philosophical problems, but when confused are a source of inextricable tangles.
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