Morality & Sociability

Larry F. Norman

in The Shock of the Ancient

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780226591483
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226591506 | DOI:
Morality & Sociability

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In the view of the Moderns, the indecency of the pagan gods exposes more than the purely intellectual and spiritual errors arising from the ancients' misapprehension of divine nature. The scandal of paganism also reveals, as Fontenelle remarked, the day-to-day moral crudeness of the humans who created those illusory gods as mirrors of their own savage nature. The pagans had the gods they deserved. This chapter turns then from gods to humans—or rather to human literary characters, for it is above all the poetic representations of exemplary figures that obsess the Moderns. The two scandals, theological and moral, frequently converge. Just as was the case with the primitive pagan gods, the moral fault that the moderns find most characteristic of “first men”—and most reviling to contemporary norms—is their unreflective brutality.

Keywords: pagan gods; divine nature; spiritual error; literary characters; brutality; sociability; morality

Chapter.  7837 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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