Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Dogmatic Learning and True Knowledge

Nasir Khan, November 4, 2015

“Scholastic learning and polemical divinity retarded the growth of all true knowledge.”

— Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776)
I assume many educated readers (excluding the indoctrinated or brainwashed ones) would readily understand that by ‘scholastic learning’ David Hume meant the traditional dogmatic learning. In his days, this was the case not only in European countries but also in many other countries in Asia and Africa.

For the ordinary people – especially poor peasants, paupers and labourers – the clerics played a pivotal role in imparting some traditional knowledge that was primarily focused on religious dogmas, scriptures, rituals and rudimentary skills in writing and reading. Religious dogmas and rites were akin to knowledge, the true knowledge. Everything else was of secondary importance. However, under the impact of Renaissance and then the Enlightenment, European nations also ventured into new directions relating to teaching and learning. Nonetheless, the hold of the Church still affected the vast majority of the people.

In these times, the dominating position the clergy had enjoyed for so long has gradually weakened because of the political and social struggles of the democratic and socialist forces. Nevertheless, the situation in traditional societies in Asia remains precarious. For instance, we witness an alarming degree of institutionalised religious indoctrination that has become an accepted norm in the socio-political systems of some Muslim countries.

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