Fears and Symbols: An Introduction to the Study of Western Civilization

By Elemér Hankiss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
THE MORAL UNIVERSE

“What have children to do with it, tell me, please.”

Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

IN this chapter we study another important generative force of (Western) civilization: people’s need to believe that they live not in a fearful and absurd, but in a ‘moral’, universe; that there is a kind of moral law functioning in the universe; that justice is being done in this world. We also discuss how the constant and anxious efforts of people to expel evil from the world shapes human civilization.


AMULETS AND SACRAMENTS

It is not new to state that the experience of evil—human suffering, fear, destruction, death—and the fight to control and subdue it, has been a major factor in the generation of civilizations. But it is surprising to see how little scholars have studied this factor with a view to better understanding the genesis and inner organization of human civilizations.

The experience of evil must have been overwhelming and terrifying from the very beginning. At least this is the only way to explain the diligence, or even more, the almost paranoid urge with which people all over the world have tried to expel it from their lives and world, using all possible and impossible means. It seems as if mankind has lived, throughout its history, in a permanent state of siege, assailed by innumerable foes and fiends. The number and variety of the protective devices people of all ages have

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Fears and Symbols: An Introduction to the Study of Western Civilization
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - Fear and the Social Sciences 5
  • Chapter Two - The World of Symbols 47
  • Chapter Three - An Alien World? 69
  • Chapter Four - The Garden of Eden 91
  • Chapter Five - The Image of the World 113
  • Chapter Six - The Moral Universe 137
  • Chapter Seven - The World of Guilt 157
  • Chapter Eight - The Rational World 181
  • Chapter Nine - The World of Beauty 205
  • Chapter Ten - The World of Play 219
  • Chapter Eleven - The World of Jokes 245
  • Chapter Twelve - The World of Trivialities 261
  • Chapter Thirteen - Symbols and Civilization 275
  • Bibliography 283
  • Index 299
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