Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

A recent conversation with our visiting teachers from Holland reminded me of the historical struggle between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Let’s define orthodoxy as the belief in a singular idea as correct, and heterodoxy as the willingness to consider multiple ideas as a means of finding which is correct.

 

Orthodoxy is comforting. I know it gets a bad rap as it is associated with extreme religion, but orthodoxy is really any singular belief. Parents will always love their children; breakfast is the most important meal of the day; education is the key to being successful: each is an example of orthodoxy. We believe them (if we do) completely, and do not admit challenges to them. Once we decide to believe in any idea as orthodoxy, the multiple other possibilities for explaining the universe disappear and we can dwell calmly inside of our own singular belief.

 

Heterodoxy, on the other hand, is messy. It allows for multiple possible ideas to lead to an answer, and even invites the post-modern notion that there is no one answer to a question. It fosters calamity in our minds, but for the very best reason: plurality of thought. Without heterodoxy, inquiry would only look like inquiry, but seem a farce. We wouldn’t be thinking critically, just pretending to be walking the path of those who have thought before us. Scholasticism would be banal, heartless, and flat.

 

Which do you honor more? What are your core beliefs and how willing are you to admit true, honest inquiry to them? I suggest that both orthodoxy and heterodoxy have important places in our lives: neither meets all of our needs and neither is wholly insufficient. While we favor heterodoxy at The Academy for the reasons presented above, it is not to argue that orthodoxy does not and cannot exist for us, but merely that it does at a price.

 

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