‘Me’ versus the Enlightenment

One topic that will be delved into further in a summer project I’m involved in is the ethics of worship.

Is it ethical to worship something? I’m not entirely sure what the definition of worship is (and for once I won’t run straight to Wiktionary.com) but I’d say it includes some aspect of humbling one-self before someone/something else. This kind of action is deemed impermissable or at least a  bit suspect or immature in modern secular culture. The Enlightenment ideal, or so I have gathered, is to be a truly autonomous agent, forging ahead in the world and charting out a brave new course for humanity. Worship is, on this view, so medieval! (and that’s an insult, for reasons yet to be fully determined).

According to my simplistic view of intellectual history, while before the Enlightenment authority was bound up in various institutions and persons such as the monarchy, Church and Deity, after, in the glorious Dispensation of Reason, it is more about the Self. Self-worship in various forms is the logical corollary of this doctrine.

The problem, however, is that modern ontologies are now materialistic. Traditional, ‘naïve’ views of the self are consequently jettisoned. But what of the easy move of locating authority in one-self (kicking it downstairs as it were) – must that too be dumped? Could even self-worship and the quest for autonomy just be superstitious nonsense?

How scarily bleak the picture when there is no real authority at all – not in a benevolent charismatic leader or the will of the people, or even in you! Of course, a bleak Weltanschauung devoid of any significant hope is not by that reason a false one – but if the materialistic view is bleak, let its apologists not pretend otherwise! And I do suggest that the fact that we do hope should not lead to us giving it up immediately but rather give us some of the personal motivation required to rigorously question materialism, to explore the possibility that there is more, that our vague hopes are in the end well founded and able to be built on – for they were in fact intended.

Now a question for you. What do you worship?

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