Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Reflections on Fanaticism

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Reflections on Fanaticism

Article excerpt

The distinguishing characteristic of the fanatic is his highly simplified and rigidly held view of social reality. He casts aside the complex and unintegrated beliefs about causality which others use to make rough sense out of their world, in favor of a tendency to see the cause of all problems in a single force for evil and the solutions for all those problems in a single force for good. He rejects the complex and unintegrated values which serve others as guidelines for moral behavior, in favor of a tendency to view as moral any behavior which contributes to victory for the forces of good and to view as immoral any behavior which delays or endangers that victory. Finally, he views with contempt the willingness of others to act without explicit reference to their basic beliefs and values. He sees it as weakness to act in accordance with different and often contradictory sets of guidelines in different areas of life, and insists that all behavior conform strictly and explicitly to his highly simplified set of beliefs and values.

Fanaticism of this kind in isolated individuals can be traced to highly varied individual causes. But the waves of mass fanaticism which have moved history have been generated and focused by ideologies.

Those ideologies contain beliefs, which shape our view of why things happen, values which govern our sense of worth and self-respect, and prescriptions about the appropriate form of social relationships with others. …

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