Saturday, July 29, 2017

The road not taken

"The new interest in nature was not a step outside of a religious outlook, even partially; it was a [subsequent] mutation within this outlook.  The straight path account of modern secularity can't be sustained.  Instead, what I'm offering here is a zig-zag account, one full of unintended consequences.  That the autonomy of nature eventually (after a number of further transpositions, of which more anon) came to serve as grist to the mill of exclusive humanism is clearly true.  That establishing it was already a step in that direction is profoundly false.  This move had a quite different [and profoundly theological] meaning at the time, and in other circumstances might never have come to have the meaning that it bears for unbelievers today.
". . . an interest in nature for itself, either in scientific study, or aesthetic portrayal, or ethical reflection, isn't always the same kind of thing.  It can be something very different, depending on the background understanding within which the things of nature show up for us."

     Charles Taylor, A secular age (Cambridge,MA:  The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2007), 95.

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