Beyond Fundamentalism

Jamie Jamie Follow Aug 05, 2022 · 2 mins read
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Religious conservatives have given fundamentalism a bad reputation. “Epistemology of Descartes is known as Fundamentalism. In his book of Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes tries to find some basis of knowledge. He is searching for total certainty, and by doing so, he subjects everything to doubt. Through it comes to the only thing he thinks he has the certainty of, his existence.” (UKEssays, 2018) Descartes’ approach has been used to describe mathematical systems and some scientific theories. First principles are adopted as true from which everything else is logically proven or demonstrated. Euclidian Geometry is often cited as an example.

Christian Fundamentalists motivated by a desire for absolute certainty have adopted a list of tenets they hold as unquestionably true. One such tenet is the Christian Bible is inerrant. Here everything written in the Bible is believed to be the word of God and therefore must be taken as true. The position runs into trouble when the logical inconsistencies within scripture are pointed out. Christian Fundamentalists have to engage in a significant amount of mental gymnastics attempting to rationalize these inconsistencies away.

Abandoning the requirement for absolute certainty allows us to escape and move beyond fundamentalism. First principles can be viewed pragmatically as useful starting points for creating a system. The first principles can be seen as approximations rather than absolute truths. Geometry assumes space is continuous and infinitely divisible. Physical space-time may actually be digital. The results in geometry, however, can still approximate the same outcomes whether space-time is infinitely divisible or digital. This is because the resolution of our physical universe is so high that discrepancies become the two models are indistinguishable to human perception. Similarly, as the resolution increases, digital music recordings are superior to their analog equivalents particularly because analog records contain noise which is eliminated through digital representation.

Where to Begin

In selecting a set of principles to create a system the essential characteristics are as follows:

  1. Each principle should a single, simple item rather than a compound collection of ideas.
  2. The principles should be independent. The validity of any one principle should not affectthe validity of the other principles.
  3. The principles should be essential with no principles being derived from the other principles.
  4. The principles should be necessary where removing a principle reduces the set of provablemembers within the system. The principles generate a system through logical reasoning.


Some systems may be possible to construct using different sets of first principles. The reinforcing circulator logic for these systems yields a loop architecture. The loop is like the question, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” Structures with this circulator and self-referential quality are detailed by Douglas Hofstadter in his books—Gödel, Escher, Bach (Hofstadter, 1979) and I Am a Strange Loop (Hofstadter, 2007).


Hofstadter, D. R. (1999). Gödel, Escher, Bach: An eternal golden braid. Basic Books.

Hofstadter, D. R. (2007). I Am a Strange Loop. Basic Books.

UKEssays. (November 2018). Descartes Epistemology Known As Fundamentalism Philosophy Essay. Retrieved from https://www.ukessays.com/essays/philosophy/descartes-epistemology-known-as-fundamentalism-philosophy-essay.php?vref=1

Written by Jamie Follow
Hi, I'm Jamie, an author here at On Knowing. I hope these posts add to your understand of what knowledge is!