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Doxa (δόξα) is a Greek word meaning common belief or popular opinion, from which are derived the modern terms of orthodoxy[1] and heterodoxy.[2] Used by the Greek rhetoricians as a tool for the formation of argument by using common opinions, the doxa was often manipulated by sophists to persuade the people, leading to Plato's condemnation of Athenian democracy.

The word doxa picked up a new meaning between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC when the "Seventy" (evdomikonta) Hebrew scholars in Alexandria translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. In this translation of the Scriptures, called the Septuagint, the scholars rendered the Hebrew word for "glory" (כבוד, kavod) as doxa. This translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was used by the early church and is quoted frequently by the New Testament authors. The effects of this new meaning of doxa as "glory" is evidenced by the ubiquitous use of the word throughout the New Testament and in the worship services of the Greek Orthodox Church which reflects behavior or practice more so than personal opinion. This semantic shift in the word doxa is also seen in Russian word слава (slava), which means glory, but is used with the meaning of belief, opinion in words like православие (pravoslavie, meaning orthodoxy, or, literally, true belief).

Doxa, a philosophemeEdit

Plato tended to oppose knowledge to doxa, which led to the classical opposition of error to truth, which has since become a major concern in Western philosophy. Thus, error is considered in Occident as pure negativity, which can take various forms, among them the form of illusion. As such, doxa may ironically be defined as the "philosopher's sin". In classical rhetoric, it is contrasted with episteme. However, Aristotle used the term endoxa (commonly held beliefs accepted by the wise and by elderlose rhetors) to acknowledge the beliefs of the city. Endoxa is a more stable belief than doxa, because it has been "tested" in argumentative struggles in the Polis by prior interlocutors. The use of endoxa in the Stagirite's Organon can be found in Aristotle's Topics and Rhetoric.

The use of "doxa" in sociology and anthropologyEdit

Pierre Bourdieu, in his Outline of a Theory of Practice,[3] used the term doxa to denote what is taken for granted in any particular society. The doxa, in his view, is the experience by which “the natural and social world appears as self-evident” [4]. It encompasses what falls within the limits of the thinkable and the sayable (“the universe of possible discourse”), that which “goes without saying because it comes without saying”.[5] The humanist instances of Bourdieu's application of notion of doxa are to be traced in Distinction where doxa sets limits on social mobility within the social space through limits imposed on the characteristic consumption of each social individual: certain cultural artefacts are recognized by doxa as being inappropriate to actual social position, hence doxa helps to petrify social limits, the "sense of one's place", and one's sense of belonging, which is closely connected with the idea that "this is not for us" (ce n´est pas pour nous). Thus individuals become voluntary subjects of those incorporated mental structures that deprive them of more deliberate consumption.[6]

Doxa and opinion denote, respectively, a society's taken-for-granted, unquestioned truths, and the sphere of that which may be openly contested and discussed.[7]

References Edit

  1. Harper, Douglas (November 2001). ""Orthodox" Etymology". Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=orthodox. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  2. Harper, Douglas (November 2001). ""Heterodox" Etymology". Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=heterodox. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  3. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977 [1972]. Outline of a Theory of Practice. R. Nice, transl. Volume 16. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  4. ibid. 164
  5. ibid. 167, 169
  6. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1979. La Distinction. Critique Sociale du Jugement. Paris: Les éditions de minuit. Page 549
  7. Pierre Bourdieu - AnthroBase - Dictionary of Anthropology: A searchable database of anthropological texts