Friday, June 17, 2005

Disenchantment

posted by Chet at 6:07 AM UTC

It is a thankless job this business of disenchantment. It has been the fate of science to drive the naiads and dryads from their pools and groves, fairies from their hills, seraphs and cherubs from their celestial spheres. Poltergeists, incubi and succubi, tooth fairies, guardian angels: All sent packing.

Charles Taylor, in his monumental work Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, suggests that the disenchantment of nature is a prerequisite for the secularization of consciousness. For men and women to find their own meaning and develop their own unique potential they first must rid the world of preordained meanings and divinely-prescribed moral purpose. Only then is it possible to understand that individual freedom and dignity is a universal human right. Only then might we work to achieve a global society which places a premium on the reduction of avoidable human suffering and the affirmation of the ordinary life of the here-and-now. Only when we no longer consider ourselves to reside at the center of the world with privileged access to the divine mind can we create a society in which every man, woman and child has an equal claim to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.