By Rachel York
In his essay The Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell uses a term, “arrogant dogmatism,” to describe the personality of someone who has never “travelled into the region of liberating doubt.” He examines the separation of practical men from philosophical men, stating that practical men focus on providing food for the body with materials goods, while philosophical men focus on providing food for the mind with knowledge. And, while practical men look for definite answers, philosophical men ponder the uncertainty of the universe. According to Russell, the practical person is “The man who has no tincture of philosophy. Therefore, he goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense. From the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the cooperation or consent of his deliberate reason.” This is someone who has never traveled into the “region of liberating doubt” because they have never philosophized. To travel into the region of liberating doubt is to philosophize, because philosophy “is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom.”
A person who expresses arrogant dogmatism is a practical person with a set system of thinking. Because of this closed-minded way of thinking, they believe strongly in their own opinion and assert what they believe as if it were fact. A modern example of someone who expresses arrogant dogmatism is Bill O’Reilly. He is an author and the host of his own political commentary program on Fox News Channel, “The O’Reilly Factor.” Fox News Channel is widely criticized for biased news, and Bill O’Reilly is often targeted for his controversial commentary.
Similarly to Russell’s description, Merriam-Webster dictionary defined dogmatism as, “A viewpoint or system of ideas based on insufficiently examined premises.” Basing conclusions upon insufficient amounts of information often leads to biased ideas. As well as leading to biased ideas, closed-mindedness can also cause prejudiced beliefs. A few years ago, on the September 19th, 2007 edition of “The Radio Factor”, Bill O’Reilly talked about a dining experience he had at a Harlem soul food restaurant, Sylvia’s. He states, “And I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship.” He added, “There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, “M-Fer, I want more iced tea.” These statements are not only prejudiced, but ignorant. Bill O’Reilly’s arrogant dogmatism has caused him to make preconceived judgments of people of a different race than he and then to be surprised when his judgments are wrong. Although he is examining ideas foreign to himself, he is not entering a region of liberating doubt because he is continuing to make biased judgments and ignorant remarks. To philosophize is to ponder perennial questions, not to make conclusions based on personal opinion.
Arrogance is often displayed as having an exaggerated focus on one’s self importance. Bill O’Reilly constantly displays arrogant behavior by asserting his opinion by speaking to others in a degrading tone or cutting them off mid-sentence. He disrespects guests on his show who have different beliefs than he. From the same September edition of “The Radio Factor”, Bill O’Reilly states, “I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They’re getting away from the Sharptons and the Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They’re just trying to figure it out: “Look, I can make it. If I work hard and get educated, I can make it.” First off, this quote is another opinion-turned-fact, Bill O’Reilly has no idea what another person is thinking, regardless of their race. He is very arrogantly making himself seem superior to another entire race, basically indirectly stating that black Americans have been incompetent in the past years and are now “trying to figure it out.” Lastly, he is contradicting himself by criticizing others for promoting a “race-based culture” while he is doing it himself.
Bill O’Reilly and Fox News Channel have been criticized over the years multiple times for biased news and controversial remarks. On his television show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” he displays himself as very over-confident and assertive in his opinions, regardless that they are not fact. Bill O’Reilly is widely acknowledged by the public and media for his arrogant dogmatism by the amount of criticism he receives because of controversial statements. One could even argue that as someone working in the media industry, Bill O’Reilly displays arrogant dogmatism for a reason: publicity. Regardless, a trip to the region of liberating doubt would benefit him and the rest of the public.