Piety Towards the Universe

Piety Towards the Universe
StreetlightX
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#11 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 12, 2012 - 5:22 PM:

William Connolly has some very elegant writings on what he calls a "nontheistic reverence for life" which I deeply admire and perhaps accords nicely with what you're trying to get at:

"One is implicated ethically with others, first, through sharing an identity with some of them, second, through the stirrings of unpursued possibilities in oneself that exceed one's identity, and third, through engagement with pressures to resent obdurate features of the human condition. Reflection on these connections can also encourage one to reflect on how life overflows the boundaries of identity. You could not be what you are unless some possibilities of life had been forgone ("to do is to forgo"). And you now depend upon the difference of the other for your identity. Recognition of these conditions of strife and interdependence... can flow into an ethic in which adversaries are respected and maintained in a mode of agonistic mutuality, an ethic in which alter-identities foster agonistic respect for the differences that constitute them, an ethic of care for life...

...Nontheistic reverence for existence redraws the line between secularism and religion by refusing either to eliminate reverence or to bind the element of reverence to theism. Such an ethic has reverence for life because life is never exhausted by any particular identity installed in it. Its reverence is sustained through its nontheism...

...To embrace publicly a nontheistic source of ethical inspiration without claiming universality for it is to support an active pluralization of ethical sources in public life. It is to propel another source into public and political life without claiming that everyone must affirm it. It is thus to break both with a secularism that seeks to confine faith to the private realm and with a theo-centered vision that seeks to unite people behind one true faith. It is to bind ethico-political life to negotiations and settlements between chastened partisans more than to common confession of a universal faith or a consensus forged by the putative power of the better argument. The idea is to attend to the persistence of multiple ethical sources in political life while dramatizing the comparative contestability of the candidates, and to work on ourselves and others to affirm, without existential resentment, the contestability of each in the eyes of others." (Connolly, Identity\Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox)
Legion
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#12 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 12, 2012 - 6:27 PM:

Here are the facts as I see them. The natural world is complex and mysterious beyond our ability to fathom. And no where is this more manifest than with organisms. Piety is shown by asking bold questions of the universe, and humbly seeking the answers. Reverence is shown through meditation upon what the universe is telling me. I fulfill my purpose of consciousness by being one of the consciousnesses of the universe. I look at a mere photo of a Thai man taken by my roomate. I could stare at it for a long while. Life and vast implication.

Take me.
I am undone.
Tears of gratitude.
Solemn acknowledgement
of death and impermanance.
Of joy for the gift
of experience
and the pain that
makes it real
love, love
I cry out to you
I have tasted victory
thank you


Edited by Legion on Jan 12, 2012 - 6:34 PM
Mr. Natural
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#13 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 12, 2012 - 6:39 PM:

ciceronianus wrote:
...is it possible for an atheist to feel piety towards or reverence towards the universe?


Like so many discussions in philosophy the question hinges on your definition of the word.

I assume your moniker - Ciceronianus - owes its origin to the Roman senator and orator, Cicero. Cicero defined pietas (the Latin origin of the word) as the virtue "which admonishes us to do our duty to our country or our parents or other blood relations."

The Roman goddess, Pietas, was a mother god, so in this sense of the word one could extend duty beyond allegiance to country and family to include the universe, viewing it as the ultimate parent of all living things.

The Romans also understood the word to have a religious context - reverence toward the gods - which is how the word is most often used today. In Catholicism piety is one of the seven gifts of the holy spirit. In this sense of the word it is difficult to see how atheists can feel piety for the universe without slipping into a Spinoza-like pantheism.

How are you using the term in your question?
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#14 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 12, 2012 - 7:31 PM:

I can imagine it to be a hard thing to give reverence to an object not intellectually endowed with the attribute of being, or consciousness. If one has faith(or logic) that the universe is itself conscious, then admiration of ones sacred environment is quite effortless, as long as the co-creator chooses to emphasize the beauty of life.
ciceronianus
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#15 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 13, 2012 - 8:12 AM:


StreetlightX wrote:
...Nontheistic reverence for existence redraws the line between secularism and religion by refusing either to eliminate reverence or to bind the element of reverence to theism. Such an ethic has reverence for life because life is never exhausted by any particular identity installed in it. Its reverence is sustained through its nontheism...

This I think is very good. Theism for me implies a personal God, and the idea of a personal God (one peculiarly human in nature and orientation) is one I find hard to accept. The idea of something wondrous present in the universe, perhaps even active and creative, is something I feel inclined (if not compelled) to accept, and to which I think it is appropriate to feel reverence. I don't know if this is what this author means, but his language strikes a chord.

Is this a species of atheism, or something different?

Thank you for the reference.

ciceronianus
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#16 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 13, 2012 - 8:32 AM:


Mr. Natural wrote:


Like so many discussions in philosophy the question hinges on your definition of the word.

I assume your moniker - Ciceronianus - owes its origin to the Roman senator and orator, Cicero.

Yes, I'm fond of the Old Boy. I admire his many virtues and have sympathy for him for all his faults.


Mr. Natural wrote:
The Romans also understood the word to have a religious context - reverence toward the gods - which is how the word is most often used today. In Catholicism piety is one of the seven gifts of the holy spirit. In this sense of the word it is difficult to see how atheists can feel piety for the universe without slipping into a Spinoza-like pantheism.

How are you using the term in your question?

I would think piety towards the universe would consist of a veneration or reverence of the universe. It's difficult to conceive of duty to the universe, so I suspect Santayana didn't mean it in that sense.

This leads me to wonder whether it's possible to venerate, or reverence, a thing. Of course, ancient Christians would claim that pagans venerated lifeless idols, but plainly no devout pagan would maintain the object is what he/she revered.

So, I wonder whether, If we conceive of the universe as a vast, complicated thing, it is possible to venerate it or revere it, and whether in order to venerate or revere it we must consider it something more than or different from a thing. If the latter is the case, can we be atheists if we consider the universe more than or different from a thing?

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#17 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 13, 2012 - 10:46 AM:

The sheer size, grandeur, and tantalizing mysteries of the universe sometimes inspire great awe and humbleness in me, but I wouldn't say I revere or venerate it. Those words are, in my understanding, more applicable to living beings.

The emotions are very closely related though.




Edited by Odlov on Jan 13, 2012 - 10:57 AM
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#18 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 13, 2012 - 11:42 AM:

Banno wrote:
"Awe" is perhaps a more appropriate word. Reverence and respect follow therefrom. Piety? That requires devotion, and so perhaps ritual. I verge on this occasionally, and have no problem with it if kept very simple.



My sentiments exactly. And who needs piety when you have awe anyway?
mayor of simpleton
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#19 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 13, 2012 - 12:09 PM:

Perhaps Santayana's "piety" is about the same as the "awe" of another? Language does evolves... accumulation and adaptation does lead to refining things with regards to context. This does not exclude language.

As for myself...

I simply co-exist with the universe... for me the experience of it is "cool"... perhaps my "awe" or "piety"?

Maybe my experience of the universe simply demands a different term of description. Ask me later and this term may have evolved.

Meow!

GREG
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#20 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 13, 2012 - 1:30 PM:

mayor of simpleton wrote:
Perhaps Santayana's "piety" is about the same as the "awe" of another? Language does evolves... accumulation and adaptation does lead to refining things with regards to context. This does not exclude language.



Since Banno's post I've been chewing on the question of if there is a distinction between awe and piety, and I would say there is- at least in terms of connotation if not denotation.

Piety, to me, implies obedience of a sort. Whether it be filial piety or piety towards God, it seems a mental "falling in line" with he to you whom you are pious. Awe or reverence seems more open- the universe doesn't give you command or direction but it moves you to the core nonetheless.

I don't know if that is my own personal reaction to these words or if these connotations are shared. So I would say I'm awed by the universe but not pious to it.
On Jan 13, 2012 - 1:58 PM, mayor of simpleton responded: Don't sweat the connotations... the beautiful damnation of individual experience makes it intriguing.
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