Ideologies are thoughts, and ideas, that shape our view of the world around us, but they are thoughts and ideas that tend to reduce reality to a fantasy, belief, or overemphasize an element of reality to make it take over and account for the whole.  Many of us hold ideologies without realizing it and read ideological materials without being aware of the ideas behind a piece of writing.

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Identifying Ideologies

One of the key tasks of the critical reader is to be conscious of that fact that a great many people write and share information with readers that is ideological in nature.  An ideology is a belief or philosophy about the world and human persons that both (1) reduces reality to one small element, or an element that is elevated above everything else (see below, for example, the nature of “biologism”) and in their extreme form (2) ideolgoes are often used to control, manipulate, or otherwise mislead a reader into thinking that a certain position is the only right position to take, and all opposition must be silenced (as was the case for example with Nazism, Stalinism, or Communism).  Most ideologies can be identified by the suffix “ism”.


The belief that the human person is no more than their psychological makeup; everything about the human person can be explained in terms of their psychological characteristics and behaviours (related to behaviourism, which considers the person in respect to their actions).


The belief that life ultimately has no purpose; their is no afterlife, or final justice; even earthly institutions are essentially pointless and only serve to distract us from the meaningless of existence.


The belief that there is no God or divine, supernatural power behind the universe. “Strong atheism” maintains that there is evidence for the non-existence of God, while “weak atheism” maintains that there is, and can be no evidence for the existence of God or a supernatural being.


The belief that the human person is no more than their biology; everything about the human person can be explained in terms of their physical biology and characteristics.


The belief that the human person can be improved through integration with machines. The human person is ultimately only fulfilled through technology and technological aids to help human evolution along. Technological implants in a person, or technological aids in the person’s environment, are both aims of transhumanism.


The belief that certain people are superior to the average masses and are thus exempt from the rules governing the masses. Typically today elitism is most commonly observed among the celebrity class, political class, and technocratic and economic classes. Players at the top of the elite pyramid, and who ultimately hold all the power are called oligarchs.


The belief that there is only physical matter in existence; there is no spirit, or non-material substances in the universe. Materialism is identified, though not exclusively, with atheism.


The belief that morality and culture are simply relative to a particular time or place. There is no absolute morality (consider CS Lewis’ concept of the “Tao”) and moral statements are simply matters of preference that cannot be enforced on anyone else. The term is often used is conjuction with an adjective modifier: "Cultural relativism" and "moral relativism".


The belief that pleasure and/or the avoidance of pain are the highest goals of the human person. Whatever causes pain should be avoided; whatever maximizes pleasure should be accentuated and pursued.


The belief that beauty is the highest human good, and that achieving the beautiful is the path to wholeness and happiness. While beauty is of course a good (and desirable) thing, aestheticism discounts other considerations (such as usefulness) in the pursuit of the good.

Different Ideologies of the Person

People subscribe to ideologies because in theory they seem very attractive and promise to answer basic questions about life.  As we all know from experience, however, life and reality are not simply reducible to our thoughts and feelings in a given period of our lives.  For example, many people report feeling “nihilistic” in their teens and twenties, but grow out of this sensation by the time they are in their thirties.  Ideologies tend to “freeze” ideas in time, and do not allow a full expression of the person to emerge over the course of our experiences and life’s journey.


The following video from our Institute briefly outlines some of the most common ideologies today and asks you to consider, why do these ideologies take hold of us as they do: