Dogmatism, we were talking about the other day. Via this remark by Simon Blackburn in Truth.

Today’s relativists, persuading themselves that all opinions enjoy the same standing in the light of reason, take it as a green light to believe what they like with as much conviction and force as they like. So while ancient scepticism was the sworn opponent of dogmatism, today dogmatisms feed and flourish on the desecrated corpse of reason.

A day or two after posting that I read a related comment by Hume.

You propose then, Philo, said Cleanthes, to erect religious faith on philosophical skepticism; and you think that if certainty or evidence be expelled from every other subject of inquiry, it will all retire to these theological doctrines, and there acquire a superior force and authority. Whether your skepticism be as absolute and sincere as you pretend, we shall learn by and by, when the company breaks up: We shall then see, whether you go out at the door or the window; and whether you really doubt if your body has gravity, or can be injured by its fall…

That’s from the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, and it’s the epigraph to chapter 4 in Francis Wheen’s Mumbo Jumbo.

There’s another thing I quoted from Blackburn.

In the intellectual world, toleration is the disposition to fight opinion only with opinion; in other words, to protect freedom of speech, and to confront divergence of opinion with open critical reflection rather than suppression or force.

Yesterday I re-read this article on Islamophobia-phobia by Piers Benn.

The real lesson of tolerance is that disputes should be settled by reasoned dialogue rather than abuse or violence, and that we should always accept that we may have much to learn from people whose beliefs initially appear strange. But these virtues are a far cry from the sentimental pretence that all claims to religious truth are somehow ‘equal’…

There, you see? It all ties up. Skepticism and relativism can be hijacked to the purposes of dogmatism, and tolerance doesn’t mean never disagreeing with anyone, it means disagreeing by means of reasoned dialogue not by force. Both of those points are quite useful to keep in mind.

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