Odium theologicum

Odium theologicum

The Latin phrase Odium theologicum (literally meaning "theological hatred") is the name originally given to the often intense anger and hatred generated by disputes over theology. It has also been adopted to describe non-theological disputes of a rancorous nature.

The skeptic philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell argued that the antidote to odium theologicum is science, which he characterized as dealing purely with fact, devoid of any personal commitment.

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion.[1]

John Stuart Mill, discussing the fallibility of the moral consensus in his Essay "On Liberty" (1859) refers scornfully to the odium theologicum, saying that, in a sincere bigot, it is one of the most unequivocal cases of moral feeling. In this Essay, he takes issue with those who rely on moral feeling rather than reasoned argument to justify their beliefs.

The early linguist Leonard Bloomfield believed it necessary to develop linguistics as a cumulative, non-personal discipline; a "genuine" science in Russell's sense. In a talk in 1946, speaking of the development of the American Linguistics Society, he stated the fostering of such a discipline had saved it "from the blight of the odium theologicum and the postulation of schools . . . denouncing all persons who disagree or who choose to talk about something else," and he added "The struggle with recalcitrant facts, unyielding in their complexity, trains everyone who works actively in science to be humble, and accustoms him to impersonal acknowledgement of error."

Philosopher and historian of science Thomas Samuel Kuhn argued that scientists are strongly committed to their beliefs, theories and methods (the collection of which he termed "paradigms"), and that science progresses mainly by paradigm shifts. He claimed that scientists with conflicting paradigms will hold to them as dearly as theologians hold to their theological paradigms. Philosopher of math and science Imre Lakatos, a student of Karl Popper, described the nature of science in a similar manner. According to Lakatos, science progresses by continual modification or else supersession of what he termed "research programs" (roughly equivalent to Kuhn's "paradigms"). Lakatos claimed that a research program is informed by metaphysical beliefs as well as observation of facts, and may infinitely resist falsification if a scientist wishes to continue holding it in spite of problems or the discovery of new evidence. If this view is correct, science does not remedy odium theologicum, it provides another field in which it may manifest.

In the controversy over the validity of fluxions George Berkeley addressed his Newtonian opponent:

You reproach me with "Calumny, detraction, and artifice". You recommend such means as are "innocent and just, rather than the criminal method of lessening or detracting from my opponents". You accuse me of the odium Theologicum, the intemperate Zeal of Divines. . .[2]

Whatever view of science and the sociology of scientific knowledge is correct, it is a fact that in the history of science there have been many instances of new theories (e.g., germ theory of disease, finitude of the speed of light, radioactivity) being ridiculed and shunned by the greater scientific community when first proposed or discovered, only later to be adopted as more probably accurate.


  1. ^ "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish" in Unpopular Essays, 1950
  2. ^ Defence of Free-Thinking in Mathematics, 1735

See also

External links

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  • Odium theologicum — Odium O di*um ([=o] d[i^]*[u^]m), n. [L., fr. odi I hate. Cf. {Annoy}, {Noisome}.] 1. Intense hatred or dislike; loathing; abhorrence. [1913 Webster +PJC] 2. The quality that provokes hatred; offensiveness. [1913 Webster] She threw the odium of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Odium theologicum — Cátedra de Fray Luis de León en la Universidad de Salamanca. Se vio involucrad …   Wikipedia Español

  • odium theologicum — | ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷ˌthēəˈläjə̇kəm noun Etymology: New Latin, literally, theological hatred : bitterness developed during or typical of controversy about religion and giving rise to an unyielding refusal to continue a discussion the odium theologicum… …   Useful english dictionary

  • odium theologicum — noun rancor generated by theological disputes …   Wiktionary

  • Odium — O di*um ([=o] d[i^]*[u^]m), n. [L., fr. odi I hate. Cf. {Annoy}, {Noisome}.] 1. Intense hatred or dislike; loathing; abhorrence. [1913 Webster +PJC] 2. The quality that provokes hatred; offensiveness. [1913 Webster] She threw the odium of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Odium — may refer to: Gorky 17 or Odium, a turn based computer game Odium (album), an album by Morgoth Odium theologicum, the often intense anger and hatred generated by disputes over theology Appeal to spite or argumentum ad odium, a fallacy in which… …   Wikipedia

  • odium — (n.) c.1600, fact of being hated, from L. odium ill will, hatred, offense, related to odi I hate (infinitive odisse), from PIE root *od to hate (Cf. Armenian ateam I hate, O.N. atall, O.E. atol dire, horrid, loathsome ). Meaning hatred,… …   Etymology dictionary

  • odium the|o|log|i|cum — «THEE uh LOJ uh kuhm», rancor or acrimony characterizing or resembling theological dissensions. ╂[< New Latin odium theologicum (literally) theological hatred] …   Useful english dictionary

  • Leibniz (from) to Kant — From Leibniz to Kant Lewis White Beck INTRODUCTION Had Kant not lived, German philosophy between the death of Leibniz in 1716 and the end of the eighteenth century would have little interest for us, and would remain largely unknown. In Germany… …   History of philosophy

  • Misjudgment — (Roget s Thesaurus) < N PARAG:Misjudgment >N GRP: N 1 Sgm: N 1 misjudgment misjudgment obliquity of judgment Sgm: N 1 miscalculation miscalculation miscomputation misconception &c.(error) 495 Sgm: N 1 hasty conclusion hasty conclusion… …   English dictionary for students