jedymastyr

Reclaiming emotion-related words religion corrupted

3 posts in this topic

I'm not sure what would be the proper forum for this type of post. I noticed the post here about the definitions of envy versus jealousy, and that's why I chose this one.

From the intro to The Fountainhead (copied from Oliver Computing's wonderful CD):

Religion's monopoly in the field of ethics has made it extremely difficult to communicate the emotional meaning and connotations of a rational view of life. Just as religion has preempted the field of ethics, turning morality against man, so it has usurped the highest moral concepts of our language, placing them outside this earth and beyond man's reach. "Exaltation" is usually taken to mean an emotional state evoked by contemplating the supernatural. "Worship" means the emotional experience of loyalty and dedication to something higher than man. "Reverence" means the emotion of a sacred respect, to be experienced on one's knees. "Sacred" means superior to and not-to-be-touched-by any concerns of man or of this earth. Etc.

But such concepts do name actual emotions, even though no supernatural dimension exists; and these emotions are experienced as uplifting or ennobling, without the self-abasement required by religious definitions. What, then, is their source or referent in reality? It is the entire emotional realm of man's dedication to a moral ideal. Yet apart from the man-degrading aspects introduced by religion, that emotional realm is left unidentified, without concepts, words or recognition.

It is this highest level of man's emotions that has to be redeemed from the murk of mysticism and redirected at its proper object: man.

Does anyone know of any work done on attempting to give proper definitions of these words?

If not, would anyone be interested in undertaking such a task in a "study group" sort of format? If so, we could:

  • Come up with a list of words that fit in this group
  • Narrow the list down, if necessary
  • Go through them in order, proposing definitions, discussing/refining them, and giving examples

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Does anyone know of any work done on attempting to give proper definitions of these words?

I think that all of these words have fairly proper definitions, though for some not always the sense in which the word is most often used. (Note that Miss Rand said " 'Exaltation' is usually taken to mean" (bold added), not that it's meaning is always taken in the supernatural sense.)

For instance, the first definition in the OED for "exalt" is "To raise or set up on high; to lift up, elevate," and other definitions include "To elate with pride, joy, etc." and "To raise to a higher class, a higher degree of value or excellence; to dignify, ennoble." In fact, it is only the last definition in the OED which brings in the supernatural, and there for a nonce-use with example dating no later than 1890.

"Worship," on the other hand, has an explicit supernaturally-related definition as its first: "To honour or revere as a supernatural being or power, or as a holy thing; to regard or approach with veneration; to adore with appropriate acts, rites, or ceremonies." But further definitions include "To regard with extreme respect or devotion; to ‘adore’" and "To honour; to regard or treat with honour or respect."

Personally, I think the connotation of these words frequently involve some degree of other-worldliness, but I find many man-oriented uses both in literature and everyday life. I don't think it so much the job of properly defining the terms, but of changing the culture so that the supernatural use fades to the background.

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Personally, I think the connotation of these words frequently involve some degree of other-worldliness, but I find many man-oriented uses both in literature and everyday life. I don't think it so much the job of properly defining the terms, but of changing the culture so that the supernatural use fades to the background.

Thanks for that distinction.

I mostly stay away from words like this. It sounds like it's just something I need to personally go through and reduce a couple to understand them properly to resolve any confusions I have about them.

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