TED Conversations

william clegg


This conversation is closed.

Can we ever be free of the caustic influences of fundamentalism?

The fundamentalist is one who is fixated upon the rigid, strict and literal interpretations of a particular belief or practice. The fundamentalists use circular reasoning to support their rightness by believing themselves to be morally right and they are righteous in the belief of being right.

As a consequence, their righteousness of 'being morally right' then allows them to see all those who disagree as heretics and potential enemies deserving of their scorn, contempt and even violence in the most extreme cases.

Most are familiar with the religious fundamentalists that can be found in every religion ever devised and who have been behind so many of the atrocities perpetrated in the name of religion and religious rightness. .

But few people are aware of the political fundamentalists found on both the left and right of the political spectrum who keep fanning the flames of conflict in society and who, once in office go out of their way to destroy whatever good the other party might have accomplished..

The economic woes besetting the planet today are a direct result of the adherents of Milton Friedman's economic philosophy which has been summed up as "greed is good' while ignoring all the criminal and corrupt adherents that have exploited this particular belief system.

Of course, the majority of people would rather seek common ground and compromise over conflict and strife. But invariably it is the fundamentalists that want to incite conflict and who seek to inflict their narrow-minded rigidity upon the rest of us, making them no less dangerous to human populatons than any other infectious disease. .


Closing Statement from william clegg

I think Frank Bierbrauer put it best "I believe that fundamentalists of all forms will be around as long as people believe themselves either be superior or possess superior knowledge to that of others". In other words, humanity's inherent arrogance may well be its greatest failing.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Dec 28 2013: If the rule of the game is to break the ground rules, I am no less game :) But with it we lose the 'win-lose' objectivity too!
    In the normal and popular understanding, Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa were not fundamentalists, they were change agents - just opposite to fundamentalism. If you read about their lives, you will see how profoundly they changed their own lives, beliefs and therefore there actions.
    In the normal and popular understanding fundamentalism is way more than being unwaveringly attached to a set of irreducible beliefs, in fact it is the unwavering urge to propound and spread those beliefs at any cost. Since there is no moral/reason based control mechanism to that unwavering urge, it is only statistically probable that at some stage its influences will be caustic.

    When the social definition of fundamentalism is lifted, I am half fundamentalist. I have this unwavering attachment to the irreducible belief that that there is NO, I repeat NO, absolute and common standard of good or bad / right or wrong for eternity. All we have are the choice and action with sincerity to seek the good and right for now and for me, us or all. The unwavering attachment to one other irreducible belief is that my core is too precious to live with the bondage to one single idea.

    Since I have no unwavering urge to propound or spread this irreducible belief to you, I am only half fundamentalist.
    • thumb
      Dec 28 2013: I apologize if I was not clear. The only fundamentalism I attributed to Ghandi was that of "freedom" an existence that is undeniable important and which requires a rigid adherence and constant vigilance for those who seek to limit certain human freedoms. A vigilance all those you mention would have been on. Yes, even freedom has to have compromise, but if it is not voluntary and consensual then conflict is inevitable.
      • thumb
        Dec 28 2013: No apology is necessary William. No hard feeling here.
        I have a question. If A devises a system that is good but need constant strict vigilance to be functional and B devises a system that is comparatively less good but does not work under strict vigilance rather self learns and readjusts on its own, which system will you choose?
        • Dec 28 2013: Seems to me that in order to learn the self requires strict vigilance between what they think to know to be corresponding to what happens to be in order to readjusts what they think to be according to what happens to be... I know some individuals that work the other way around... they seek to readjust what happens to be to correspond to what they think to be... I even know some individuals who manage to do both to bring about graceful divine transformation in both what they think to be and what happens to be as they cultivate beautiful well beings...
        • thumb
          Dec 28 2013: Pabitra, I confess I have no idea since I cannot compare either the content or the context of either system. Nor am I sure that a systems approach fits a discussion about ideologies and the self-righteous who seek to impose their ideologies on others.

          Esteban, I have actually heard people say 'looking good is more important than feeling good'., suggesting image is preferable to reality, a premise I find extremely disturbing.
        • Dec 28 2013: William,

          I find feeling good and looking good preferable :-)
          By the same token I find preferable to experience think, feel and be... rich/right/happy/ good/knowledgable ...
          In a slight different context if I had to choose between looks and being:
          I would prefer to look poor while being rich than looking rich while being poor

          I too know some who would prefer it the other way around... for some image is preferable to reality...they judge the book by the cover and think to know what the book contains... and that's not even getting into the subtleties related to the book contents! Especially when these may vary depending on the readers attitudes feelings beliefs values and expectations! I once read a book only to discover halfway through it that it dealt with a completely different subject matter than the one I was expecting and thinking off; that is the physical arrangement provided by the author lead me to envision a completely different book than the authors conceived and I preferred much more the one I conceived thanks to what the author had provided... it would be akin to booking a safari to shoot animals and half way through the expedition realizing that one had sought to shoot at the animals with a camera to capture them rather than a gun to kill them... I would enjoy more an expedition shooting the photos rather than the guns.

          For me reality is preferable to what one thinks of it... Of course what one thinks of it is part of the reality itself... and may be the only way one has of knowing reality ... thus my stand to ensure that what one thinks to be corresponds with what happens to be...
      • thumb
        Dec 29 2013: William,
        A system approach fits the discussion because the main claim of your question is rooted in belief. Belief can be seen as a system. It has a boundary, it interacts with the environment, there is transfer of mass, energy and information across the boundary and depending on the interaction either the system grows or dies.
        Interestingly, at the point f life I am in, I have heard more people preferring feeling good than looking good. Image and objects are both parts of reality and this reality is how we perceive it.
    • Dec 28 2013: Pabitra,

      Even with the notion that you put forth where" fundamentalism is way more than being unwaveringly attached to a set of irreducible beliefs, in fact it is the unwavering urge to propound and spread those beliefs at any cost". The three individuals mentioned still fit the description of what constitutes a fundamentalist. They each where willing and did give their life to spread what they believed!

      I realize that you hold the belief that "there is no moral/reason based control mechanism"... personally I hold the belief that "there is moral/reason based control mechanism". indeed based on some issues you would fit the description of what constitutes a fundamentals. Me too for that matter :-) and many others here too! It's kind of humorous to me to see you state " If the rule of the game is to break the ground rules" especially when I basically used and followed the ground rules you sort of set up. I took the general definition of what is meant by fundamentalism from wikipedia and removed the religious connotations.

      I think that when we take this general definition of what constitutes a fundamentalist and apply it to certain individuals individuals will be surprised to realize that who fits within the description . I am sure that to some it will be unthinkable to consider themselves (or some individuals) as fundamentalists for the cognitive dissonance it generates. Its even possible individuals will resort to relabel some fundamentalists as 'change agents' to work around the cognitive dissonance.

      I realize some reject the truth of the matter because they do not want to know and be bonded to the truth of the matter ... and prefer the illusion/delusion of ignorance. The choice is kind of humorous : 1) Be bound to the truth that enables one to do much 2) be free from the truth while being enslaved into the delusion. In other words we be bond either way while free to choose the truth or the delusion. In one we can do stuff in the other we just think we can
      • thumb
        Dec 28 2013: "The three individuals mentioned still fit the description of what constitutes a fundamentalist. They each where willing and did give their life to spread what they believed!"
        Oh they sure did. But you may notice that they never wanted or made others to give lives to spread what they (these three persons) believed.
        • thumb
          Dec 28 2013: That, in my perception Pabitra, is the big difference. The people you mentioned (Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa) changed their own lives, their beliefs, and therefore their actions. They wholeheartedly participated in change, and in that way encouraged many others to have hope for change. So people embraced their beliefs and practices.

          That, to me is a big difference from someone insisting they are right and everyone MUST follow their beliefs and practices.
        • Dec 28 2013: Pabritra,

          It's sort of humorous to me to see you keep changing the bar/line of what constitutes fundamentalism ... rather than conceding the point. In regards to them wanting something, I take it we would be on speculative territories unless we could directly ask them.... and even then we would have to believe their responses as veridic and corresponding to what actually be ... In regards to 'them' making others to give lives to spread what they believed, I am pretty sure some of them did made others give into giving their lives to spread what they believed... of course rather than through imposing forces through exemplary and convincing forces.

          BTW when one happens to be right insisting one be right and that anyone who disagrees is wrong differs from holding that anyone can be right because someone thinks there isn't a right and wrong. Note one is mostly based on what happens to be; while the other is based mostly on the subjective musing someone happens to think to be. I hold that in theory you seek to belong to the former while in practice do observe you belong to the latter. If you want me to elaborate on why this is so I will.

          FWIIW anyone can get it right if they wholeheartedly participate and embrace what happens to be right. My position is to encourage each to not only have hope for change and being right but to change what ought to be changed when doings so will get them to get it right and be all right!

          Now for the record its up to each to choose what to embrace and what to reject; those who choose what be right get it right; those who don't get it, well, they don't get it (until something happens where they do get it and they they are no longer within the group of those who don't get it). Of course the group of 'those who think they get it' holds A) the ones that do actually get it thinking they get it and B) the ones who just think they get it. It can be difficult for some to differentiate them apart.

          everyone OUGHT follow what be right to do.
      • thumb
        Dec 28 2013: Oh Esteban humor is good. :)
        We have every right to change, though that doesn't mean I keep changing the barline. I am where I am but am kind enough and flexible enough to examine your changes to the popularly and widely understood meaning of fundamentalism. I hope you won't deny that you changed it by removing the religious context.
        Everyone ought to follow what everyone feels is right. If people see him right they will follow, if they don't they won't.
        • Dec 28 2013: Pabitra,

          I hope you saw how I did recognized the removal of the religious context. It was within one of my other responses. I hope you see how I also sought to remove the pejorative negative connotations normally applied to the term and how I used the popularly and widely understood meaning of fundamentalism, sure in a bit broader sense that extends to include some fundamentalists that bring about good ways to society. Holding that all fundys are caustic ignores the fact that some fundys are actually ok and beneficial change agents.

          You said "Everyone ought to follow what everyone feels is right".
          I say : Everyone ought to follow what is right.

          Wether one sees right as right or wrong as right is irrelevant when one follows what is right. I realize that this begs the question of what is right and maybe even the question of what is wrong... still thats a whole different matter to dialogue about... the point here is ought we do what we feel/think/believe/hold/want/dream to be right or do what happens to be right. Seems to me that the rational/logical answer is self evidently clear towards doing what happens to be right! If we agree with that then we can move on to the issue of determining what happens to be right...

          BTW people may follow/not follow someone even when they see him one way or the other way...

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.