Firstly, I want to distinguish fundamentalism from extremism. Fundamentalism is a way of understanding that’s not necessarily pathological, though it’s inviting to pathological persons because fundamentalism is simplistic.
Yet, good might be done by bringing extremism back from the jungle to a non-violent fundamentalism—which implies that violent mental illness can be healed. I would not claim that extremism is best healed through fundamentalism! But fundamentalism is not inherently disposed to violence. Extremism is best healed through, first, standard psychiatry (if not correctional services), then through long-tern psychotherapy, maturation of self understanding, and realistic education. Gaining (or re-gaining) authentic spirituality is a normal aspect of professional psychotherapy. Yet, fundamentalism isn’t yet authentically spiritual, I would argue.
Fundamentalism can be non-violent inasmuch as it’s really devoted to a great religion, since all great religions are essentially non-violent. For example, the Christian denomination called Southern Baptist mostly includes devotees who are non-violent (or devotees who are mostly non-violent). No authentic Christian believes that real Christianity warrants violence.
A fundamentalist might be a genuine Christian, even though fundamentalism conceals authentic spirituality. (Of course, all religionists believe that their spirituality is authentic. In any case, I would argue that authentic spirituality is different from genuine devotion to a religious view.)
Yet, fundamentalism is conducive to violent resorts because it doesn’t provide capability for understanding life realistically, I would argue. (I don’t expect any view to be self-evident, but one must first articulate a view before addressing why one has views that would be derivative of baseline views.)
So, what is a very good way—the best way?—to understand being-realistic and to understand being-authentically spiritual? This is a philosophical question (or philosophically model-theoretical question). Religionists would consider this an exactly religious question (though indiginously Asian religionists might not consider this to be ultimately theological). But philosophy is inherently involved with the difference: What is the difference between really philosophical and really religious thinking?
To keep my discussion brief, I’ll stipulate that fundamentalism involves or is conducive to (if not inviting):
- radical dualism, in which all aspects of life are bluntly categorized as either good or evil;
- destructive inclination to interpret authoritative texts, laws, and teachings in the most literal of terms;
- extreme and totalized conversion experience;
- paranoid thinking;
- an apocalyptic world view.
Dualism, literalism, totalization, etc. are not open to dissolution through direct argumentation. Simply put, dissolution requires a lot of education because fundamentalism is a condition of underdevelopment, not primarily a mindset (or rather, all mindsets are developmentally based, so fundamentalism has its developmental background, just as any mindset does). The developmental investment (or underinvestment) of a mindset is not directly dissolved through arguments. Argumentation is part of addressing aspects of understanding, which vary idiosyncratically, yet tend toward types. So, bringing an understanding into play with common types of understanding allows for immanent argumentation.
Curriculum provides a means (scaffolding and substance) for enlightenment, along with good enough chances for working-through. Education is commonly, though implicitly, therapeutic in being developmental. Yet, the real scale of education is located in the community, led by overtly-educational institutions. If the community is not educationally oriented (distinct from indoctrinally oriented), good schools and colleges work with a headwind (if not against the grain).
So, of course, mindsets are cultural (as types of mentality, though commonly not really very “cultural”), and philosophical issues must involve values of understanding realities of development (or underdevelopment and counter-forces of educational efficacy). Though developmentality is commonly appreciated in professional practice (teacherly sensitivity), this is different from making developmentality an integral dimension of philosophical understanding of an issue (e.g., ontogeny of conceptuality as integral to what a living givenness of nebulous conceptuality “is”).
Therapeutic enlightenment becomes complexly expansive in practice—also, then, for theorizing from best practices—through becoming individuationally focused (showing good appropriativity or good hermeneutical mediation of understanding). How is that best theorized?
Need for therapeutic intervention is distinct from need for basic development, yet the former is often the condition for the possibility of the latter. Ideally, a good notion of therapeutic development or developmental therapeutics can be theoretically important to philosophical theory, as well as standardly for educational psychology. (This brings to mind Habermas’ focus, early in his career, on differences between emancipatory reflection and developmental process.)
Briefly put, radical dualism is dissolved by developing capability for thinking and acting comfortably with multiple perspectives, ideally with capability for flexible perspectivity. Literalism is dissolved by developing capability for appropriate interpretation, and pathologies of inclination toward destructive thinking are healed.
But really, the reality of doing this—healing, dissolving, and developing—is long-term and difficult to conceptualize comprehensively. Ideally, therapeutic development is a process of community-based human development. Paradigmatically, special needs education involves a team of persons dedicated to the good of the student—be that an adult or a child—including subject area teachers, a mental health specialist, a coordinative social worker, supplementary-resource specialists, perhaps a disability expert, and health-care services, all working in good coordination relative to a given person. This is very ideal-typical, of course,
Understanding such a school-based paradigm as a distributed community process relative to a given client can lead to a good community-based development model. But the details of such expansiveness involve many aspects of public health and educational thinking. Generally, this involves issues like: What are the conditions for the possibility of good human development? Appropriate address involves broad-based systemic, conceptual, and model-theoretic constellations, coordinations, cooperations, and communications.
One can explicate good ways to philosophically dwell with maladaptive worldviews, blunt dialectics (which breed manicheanism), background investments leading to absolutism, and kindred syndromes. But the results of that are only practically fruitful when translated into programmatic scaffolds which can address developmental avoidance or transformation of such syndromes. It’s easy for academic minds to weave conceptual constellations (to praise themselves for “existential” thinking or “humanistic” or “pragmatic” thinking). I can do that very well. But it’s another matter to bring that into real lives—into “ the lifeworld” really—to progress one’s thinking (so to speak) into being simply conducive, educive, and enabling.
So, I’ve dwelled a little with a question of what is a good way to understand being-realistic. I’ve not dwelled with being-authentically spiritual. Yet, this is a wonderful question, isn't it: mindfulness, wholly flourishive living!
This posting is associated with the “good thinking” area of gedavis.com.