måndag 23 januari 2012

Stevenson och Gud

Ett ytterligare citat av Stevenson känner jag att jag måste anföra. Det belyser på ett föredömligt sätt hur definitioner används som ett "knep" för att övertyga människor och hur ett ords positiva laddning behålls medan dess innebörd förändras. Citatet belyser för övrigt också svårigheterna med att vara ateist när "Gud" kan betyda mycket olika saker (och därför betraktar jag mig själv nuförtiden som "ignostiker").

"Why did Spinoza, so anxious to free thinking from anthropomorphism, nevertheless tempt his readers to anthropomorphism by using the word 'God'? Why did he not speak always of 'The One Substance'?

One points, of course, to the political and social forces of the times, which made a semblance of orthodoxy imperative. But assuredly this is not all. The word 'God' arouses, as if by magic, the very deepest of feelings. By giving the word a new conceptual meaning Spinoza was enabled to direct its emotional force away from the old anthropomorphic fictions and center it upon Substance, which he so earnestly thought would be a more rewarding object for all our wonder and humility.

Had he said, 'there is no God; nothing but Substance and its Modes,' he would have said what he believed, provided 'God' was used in the popular sense. But this would have been poor economy of the emotions. It would have taken away the object of men's wonder and humility, providing no substitute; and so these feelings would have died, to the great impoverishment of emotional life.
The persuasive definition of a word was needed to preserve emotional vitality.

The change in the meaning of 'God' was too abrupt, however, to escape notice. Spinoza 'the atheist' was long in giving place to Spinoza 'the Godintoxicated man'; for the supporters of orthodoxy were not slow to see that his God was God in emotive meaning only."

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