Voltaire called fanaticism the "monster that pretends to be the child of religion". Philosophers, politicians, and cultural critics have decried fanaticism and attempted to define the distinctive qualities of the fanatic, whom Winston Churchill described as "someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject". Yet despite fanaticism’s role in the long history of social discord, human conflict, and political violence, it remains a relatively neglected topic in the history of philosophy.

In this outstanding inquiry into the philosophical history of fanaticism, a team of international contributors examine the topic from antiquity to the present day. Organized into four sections, topics covered include:

  • Fanaticism in ancient Greek, Indian, and Chinese philosophy;
  • Fanaticism and superstition from Hobbes to Hume, including chapters on Locke and Montesquieu, Shaftesbury, and Hutcheson;
  • Kant, Germaine de Stael, Hegel, Nietzsche, William James, and Jorge Portilla on fanaticism;
  • Fanaticism and terrorism; and extremism and gender, including the philosophy and morality of the "manosphere";
  • Closed-mindedness and political and epistemological fanaticism.

Spanning themes from superstition, enthusiasm, and misanthropy to the emotions, purity, and the need for certainty, Fanaticism and the History of Philosophy is a landmark volume for anyone researching and teaching the history of philosophy, particularly ethics and moral philosophy. It is also a valuable resource for those studying fanaticism in related fields such as religion, the history of political thought, sociology, and the history of ideas.

section 1|46 pages

Fanaticism in Antiquity

section 2|61 pages

Fanaticism in the Early Modern Period

section 3|100 pages

Fanaticism in the Late Modern Period

chapter 11|16 pages

Fanatical Abstraction

Hegel on the Hazards of Pure Thinking

chapter 12|20 pages

The Need for Certainty

chapter 14|12 pages


Jorge Portilla on Value Fanaticism

section 4|101 pages

Contemporary Explorations of Fanaticism

chapter 15|23 pages

“Grand, Ungodly, God-Like Man”

The Symptomatology of Fanaticism

chapter 17|15 pages

Fanaticism and Terrorism

chapter 18|14 pages

Extremist Women and Fanaticism

chapter 19|16 pages

Fanaticism and Closed-Mindedness