Worship
June 12, 2009 — 11:13

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Christian Theology Concept of God Religion and Life  Comments: 34

I have a question maybe people on this blog can help me answer.
1) What is worship? (I take an answer to this question to be in the form of a filling in of the analysans of an illuminating biconditional of the form: S worships T if and only if … )
‘Worship’ is sometimes used as an adjective, and I’m not concerned with understanding what ‘worship’ means when people talk about “worship services”. I’m concerned with ‘worship’ as a verb. Here are some paradigm worship ascriptions. Call this group A:
– Sally worships her boyfriend.
– Todd worships money
– Gina worships God.
Now I’m wondering if ‘worship’ in these sentences is different from ‘worship’ in these sentences:
– when John was appeared to by the Lord in Revelation, he fell prostrate and worshiped.
– the Israelites worshiped the Lord at Mt. Sinai.
– “Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.” (John 9:38)
Call this group of sentences Group B. Are these uses of ‘worship’ different? The latter sentences appear to be true at more localized periods of time. The former appear to be about a more general attitude towards an object. Do people see what I’m getting at?
I’ll be happy to analyze ‘worship’ once I get clear on whether there are two different senses of ‘worship’ in Groups A and B or not. If people want to take a stab at an analysis anyway, that’d be welcome as well.

Comments:
  • Adrian Woods

    I would want to make a plug for a construing of worship which does not seem to fit with any of your colloquial observations above.
    Worship as a form of practice through which the HS transforms the participant into the image of Christ.
    – as the Wide Receiver monotonously and repetitively runs the 10-and-out to become the Football Player
    – as the man with the guitar practices rifts to become the guitarist.
    So the Christian Worships.

    June 12, 2009 — 13:42
  • A.P. Taylor

    Andrew,
    This may help. A quick check of the lexicon for John 9:38 show the relevant verb to be Gr. “proskuneo”, which mean to fawn, crouch, fall prostrate, and adore.
    I strongly suspect that Sally and Todd are falling prostrate before their boyfriend/money as the case maybe. Rather they are simply adoring these things.

    June 12, 2009 — 13:58
  • Hi Adrian,
    Thanks for the thoughts. However, I am interested in what a lot of analytic philosophers are interested in, which is an analysis of the concept expressed by ‘worship’ as the word is used in some of the examples I gave above. This is what I was intending to convey by that question. Insofar as one means something else by the word ‘worship’, that’s not my interest.

    June 12, 2009 — 14:44
  • A.P.
    Thanks for that. Suppose there are two concepts. Let’s let ‘worship1’ express the concept expressed in the sentences in Group A and ‘worship2’ to do the same for Group B. Maybe this is the case, as a rough approximation?
    i) S worships1 T iff S takes an attitude of submission to T as an authority in S’s life, and S adores T.
    I’m not sure if the second conjunct in the analysans is needed, but I’ll have to think about it. (i) is an attempt at an analysis of the property expressed by the sentences in Group A.
    Then
    ii) S worships2 T iff S makes a symbolic act of worship1.
    This would explain why ‘worship’ in the sentences in Group B seem more localized, but ‘worship’ in the sentences in Group A is not.

    June 12, 2009 — 14:49
  • Matthew Mullins

    AP,
    Are you the suggesting that adoring is the essential aspect of worship that unifies these cases? I would think that what ever attitude worship engenders, it is one that actions should follow on.

    June 12, 2009 — 14:58
  • Matthew Mullins

    Andrew,
    I wonder if the fact that group A is present tensed, while group B is past tensed, isn’t coloring your judgement about localization. I just put this in the previous comment, but I’d be more sympathetic to an account that doesn’t separate act and attitude. I guess I’m sympathetic to something like what Adrian suggests above.
    S worships O at t iff S takes an attitude of X and acts in an Y like way.
    You are picking up the action part in your (ii), but your (ii) isn’t going to work as an analysis because (i) doesn’t have any action built into it, just an attitude. You might think that actions should follow on some attitude, but they needn’t.

    June 12, 2009 — 15:09
  • Andrew Moon

    Matthew,
    Hmm, how about I fine-tune (ii):
    ii) S worships2 T iff S acts out both the attitude and adoration of worship1.
    This is what I was getting at with the original (ii), but I think that this (ii) is more explicit.

    June 12, 2009 — 15:35
  • Andrew Moon

    The verb expressed by the sentences in Group A reminds me of sentences like
    “Ted loves his children.”
    The verbs express an attitude, and I’m not even sure that any action is necessary. But compare that to:
    “Jesus looked at him, and loved him.” (Mark 10:21)
    This seems to be a specific sort of action. (Although what confuses mere here, is that Jesus doesn’t seem to be acting at all, but perhaps experiencing an emotion.)
    I’m wondering if something like this is what distinguishes Groups A and B.
    I also wonder if it’s a mistake to use examples of English examples which are translated from nonEnglish texts. Also, Matthew, I’ll have to think about your point about the present/past tense.

    June 12, 2009 — 15:42
  • Ben

    Andrew,
    Here’s a stab.
    S worships T iff 1. T has some property P (or set of properties) which has an intrinsic value V; 2. S is aware that T has P qua bearer of V; 3. S bears some intentional state of approval (fill in the blank here) towards T in virtue of T’s having P; 4. S does not possess P.
    The idea is supposed to be that in worshiping another thing, we manifest some kind of pro-attitude towards another in virtue of some intrinsically valuable property they have. It seems like if I have the exact same property that I’m picking out as worthy of my pro-attitude, I’m not worshiping, but appreciating that property. There has to be some kind of asymmetry in the having of the property, but I don’t think that the overall intrinsic value of the object of worship has to be greater than the worshiper: Sally can worship her boyfriend even if Sally doesn’t think she’s better, all things considered, than her boyfriend.
    Like I said, it’s a stab, maybe even a stab in the dark.
    Ben

    June 12, 2009 — 15:43
  • Andrew Moon

    Adrian,
    Maybe I was a bit quick. But if you were attempting an analysis and I misunderstood you, let me know.

    June 12, 2009 — 15:43
  • Ben,
    Stabs in the dark are welcome. =)
    Hmm, on 1., I wonder why it has to be intrinsic value. It seems possible for someone to worship money, and money has only instrumental value. I wonder if 2. is entailed by 3. (or if 3. is fleshed out, it will end up entailing 2.).
    Also, about 3., the expression of approval might be the adoration already mentioned. However, I included the “surrender of will” aspect, since there does seem to me to be something important in worship in the recognition of the other as a complete sovereign authority over you. Suppose I meet all the requirements you give with respect to my girlfriend, but I still say, “I’d rather do things my way, not my girlfriend’s.” I don’t think I count as worshiping her. Unless you think the attitude of approval entails the surrender of will.
    On 4., I wonder if it’s possible to worship yourself. There certainly are people whom we might think worship themselves. (More of us might worship ourselves than we think!) It’s not obvious to me that this is a genuine case of worship, however.
    I also wonder if you think, along Matthew’s lines, that some sort of action is required.

    June 12, 2009 — 15:54
  • Dan

    Andrew,
    It seems to me that an analysis of worship needs to be consistent with the idea that it is only appropriate to worship God. At least, this will be a desideratum for theists in any of three major western monotheistic religions. Hence, your worship2 and worship1 seem problematic, because there is nothing wrong with worshipping1 someone’s parents, for instance; it is in fact appropriate for me, at least up to a certain age, to have an attitude of submission to my parents as authorities, and to adore them – provided they are good parents.
    I think cognitive content is an essential ingredient in any act or attitude of worship, and it may be that beliefs about the object of worship T are in fact partly constitutive of what it is to worship T. That is, the nature of my worshipping God will surely be largely conditioned by my beliefs about His attributes (and actions). On this line of thought, then, normative religious worship would involve, in part, having (and perhaps expressing) certain true beliefs about God. The lack of this truth-criterion is something present in many, and perhaps all, cases of inappropriate worship. For example, in worshipping a statue (or similar object) one imputes characteristics to the object that are false (e.g., Exodus 32:4; Isaiah 44:9ff.). Muslims think Christians express falsehoods when worshipping Christ (namely, that he is divine), and Protestants (at least historically) thought ‘veneration’ of Mary constituted inappropriate worship largely, I imagine, because they thought such acts/attitudes ascribed powers to her that only God has.

    June 12, 2009 — 15:56
  • Andrew Moon

    Hi Dan,
    That’s a good point, and that points out a flaw in (i). I think it might be simpler to revise my (i) to say:
    i’) S worships1 T iff S takes an attitude of complete submission to T as an authority in S’s life, and S adores T.
    This would block off the bad implication of (i) that it would be permissible for me to worship my parents.
    Furthermore, an attitude of complete submission might entail that one has beliefs about the ultimate worth of the object of worship. I’m not sure. Maybe there does have to be an additional belief condition.

    June 12, 2009 — 16:04
  • Ben

    Andrew,
    Good points. 1. would have to change to perceived value, but you need to keep it as being the grounds upon which the proattitude is taken.
    The reason I didn’t use “adoration” as the proattitude is that it seems no clearer than the idea of worship. If we can adore things without worshiping them, then something further needs to be added–the objects can’t do it since anything you can worship you can adore and vice versa. So it seems like there is something in the intentional state itself.
    As for worshiping oneself, two questions–does scripture ever talk about people worshiping themselves? No doubt there is talk of self-love, but plausibly love and worship can come apart (insofar as I love my enemy but don’t worship her). The second question is what a plausible case of self-worship would be that isn’t a case of self-love.
    -Ben

    June 12, 2009 — 16:05
  • Dan Speak

    Here’s the account I recently trotted out on an episode of the radio show Philosophy Talk:
    S worships T iff S gives authentic expression to the excellence of T in some respect or other, with a view toward sincerely declaring T to be worthy to be a fundamental organizing principle of S’s life.
    I would need to know more to say whether or not there are in fact two different senses of worship in your groups A and B. My temptation is to think that most of time when we utter sentences like the first two we are speaking loosely… and using the terminology of worship simply as shorthand, or poetic exaggeration, for unusually high commitment. But nothing in the account of worship I’m offering would render it impossible that those two expressions be false, even speaking strictly. Some sad souls probably are willing sincerely to declare their boyfriends or money worthy of being a fundamental organizing principle of their lives.
    But it looks like your biggest concern is to capture the difference between dispositional and occurent instances of worship. That looks like a real distinction to me. It also seems to me that the occurent cases are basic. Group A sentences are made true by dispositions of the agents to act in the ways expressed by the sentences in Group B.

    June 12, 2009 — 16:30
  • Matthew Mullins

    Dan,
    I really like the analysis that you give above, especially that your analysis captures the idea that worship involves some kind of expression. In fact, it strikes me as close to what an account of proper worship should involve.
    Here is a worry though. It seems quite felicitous to say that a fetishist worships the object of his/her desire; e.g. X engaged in some foot worship last night. In such cases it does seem to me that the fetishist is giving “authentic expression to the excellence” of the object, yet it wouldn’t necessarily be the case that the fetishizing of the object is the “fundamental organizing principle” of the fetishist’s life. This kind of worship talk doesn’t strike me are loose or poetic, even if the worship in question is deformed.

    June 12, 2009 — 19:03
  • Adrian Woods

    I am a theologian by training, but have long sense taken up the plea from Dean Zimmerman to engage Analytics. So, I primarily wanted to throw in some commentary from that perspective. However:
    i’) S worships1 T iff S takes an attitude of complete submission to T as an authority in S’s life, and S adores T.
    The “attitude of complete submission” seems, to me at least, to be the end of worship not the act or meaning of. Patristic Theologians would call this (attitude of complete submission) dispassion which entails, among other things, the acquisition of Virtues – primarily humility. So is S humble iff S has an attitude of complete submission?
    I’m thinking that when we say, “S worships her boyfriend” we don’t actually mean that in any strict sense. What we mean is something like S1 has growing affections toward S2 bordering upon obsession.
    So then is worship some sort of “attitude” like love? What is love without action? God’s love creates, heals, comforts, and atones. There seems to be a necessary engagement in Love. I submit the same is true of worship.
    S Worships T iff S (1) intentionally engages in a particular set of practices (2) resulting in the transformation of S
    (1) Intentionally because people certainly pray or sacrifice goats or whatever in a manner in which we would call – going through the motions. This would seem to consist of some beliefs about the practices whether implicit or explicit.
    (2) Transformation is a reason why one ought not to engage in any kind of worship other than God; foot fetishes being obsessions with now transforming power.
    Of course, I could be crazy.

    June 12, 2009 — 20:41
  • I think Andrew is on the right track, but he inverted the priority of each group. Let me give you a stab. Call the sense of worship in group A ‘worship1’ and the sense of ‘worship’ in group B ‘worship2’. Then
    (1) S worships1 T if and only if S is disposed to worship2 T in such-and-such state of affairs.
    and
    (2) S worships2 T in state of affairs X iff S submits to T as an authority in X, and S loves T in X.
    I think that ‘love’ is clearer than ‘adore’ – though perhaps others will disagree. At any rate, I take as necessary in worship that S love T, but I don’t think it’s necessary that S love T to adore T.
    My motive is that I believe S can worship2 T without worshipping1 T. Isn’t it possible that a generally unrepentant murderer have a brief moment of clarity, only to revert back to his evil ways? Andrew’s definition, if I understand it, does not allow for this. It requires that one take an attitude of submission over one’s life in order to worship2.
    The question then is what are the “such-and-such” state of affairs. I don’t have much thought here. Perhaps they are ALL future state of affairs, or perhaps they are grounded in psychological continuity relations. I’m not sure.

    June 12, 2009 — 22:26
  • Dan Speak

    Matthew,
    I’m not sure exactly what to say about the your foot fetisher. See if this helps, though. My account insists only that S sincerely declare the worthiness of T to be ONE fundamental organizing principal of S’s life. It’s an open question whether or not there can or should be more than one such fundamental organizing principal. So your fetishist will still count as worshiping feet as long as his expressive activity (maybe he sings songs to feet?) is in part an effort to declare feet worthy of organizing his life. That could be right about some sad souls, I suppose (again). But if its just that our fetishist really digs feet, is perhaps sexually aroused by feet, etc… well, I’ll stick by my account that this won’t count as worshiping them.
    I like Adrian’s point about the transforming power of worship (whether the object of the worship is worthy of the worship or not). I think we might not want to include the standard results of worship in our account of the activity, however, in the way that Adrian’s (2) does. I hope, by contrast, that my own account captures the dispositional power of worship to transform us by characterizing worship as involving the sincere declaration of the worthiness of the object to play an organizing (and therefore transforming) role in our lives. Thus, someone who worships is very likely to be transformed into the likeness of the object of worship. But the transformation won’t be part of the very concept of worship itself. Partly I prefer this because it seems to keep the distinction between the activity and its results and partly I like it because I am inclined to think that I have worshiped on some occasions and have failed (because of my own will) to be changed in the appropriate way.
    NB: it looks like there are two “Dans” commenting here so I’ll keep using my last name to avoid confusion.

    June 12, 2009 — 23:29
  • Andrew Moon

    Hi Irenaeus,
    You may be right that that’s a better way to go. I like your example with the generally unrepentant murderer.
    Maybe the ‘such and such SoAs’ should be all the nearby worlds (which includes the actual world)?

    June 13, 2009 — 0:48
  • Adrian Woods is right. Complete submission is requiring too much: plenty of people worship God without complete submission.
    Here’s another piece of the puzzle. Many early Christians died rather than worship the emperor. What were they asked to do with regard to the emperor? It wasn’t just to acknowledge his authority–the early Christians were strong in the affirmations of imperial authority over them. Nor was it an attitude of complete submission, since in a polytheistic system that is too much to ask for. There were certain liturgical gestures of worship that they were called on to engage in, such as the burning of incense, and which they refused to do.
    One way to a solution, thus, might be liturgical. To worship X is to engage in a certain kind of liturgical action with respect to X. However, pretty soon we get into circularity. What “certain kind” of liturgical action? After all, there are liturgical actions with respect to the devil (the Rite of Exorcism), with respect to fellow human beings (the Kiss of Peace), etc. It seems that to worship X is to engage in a worshipful liturgical action with respect to X. And that obviously doesn’t solve the problem, though it may give a necessary condition on worship, namely that it is liturgical.
    But we’d have to take “liturgical” in a wide sense which includes purely mental and private actions as well, and that dilutes the account. Though, maybe, we could take an Aristotelian focal meaning account on which public liturgical worship is the primary sense, and private actions are worship in a derivative sense.
    Another piece of the puzzle. It seems that it is possible to have insincere worship. Thus, some of the early Christians did worship Caesar, and were therefore excommunicated (though, after much controversy, it was agreed that they could be readmitted to the community after doing serious penance). They were, presumably, by and large insincere in the worship of Caesar. But insincere worship of a false deity is also a violation of the commandment to worship only God.
    This suggests that worship is an expressive act of some sort. If worship consisted in a particular kind of mental attitude of submission or admiration, then worship would necessarily be sincere. But expressive acts can be sincere or insincere. (Even internal ones. I can tell myself, insincerely, in my mind: “I can do it. I can do it.”)
    It seems plausible that worship of X is an act that expresses a creature-to-deity attitude of submission to X (which may or may not be actually present), or acknowledges the divine authority of X over the worshipper, or expresses the divinity of X, or some combination of these. I don’t know which of these is the best account. Each of these, however, contains reference to “deity” or “divinity”, and we need an account of the term as used here. It does not mean “deity in the full monotheistic sense”. For the early Christians were not asked to acknowledge the emperor as having that. Nor does it simply mean a generic kind of “greatness”, since the early Christians would have, probably, been quite fine with acknowledging the greatness of the emperor, who indeed was great in various ways (power, wealth, authority, etc.)
    Here is a yet further piece of the puzzle. The angels of Christian belief probably have powers that are not different from the powers of some of the Greek gods. Like the Greek gods, the angels are finite, caused beings. Now, obviously, it is permissible to acknowledge the greatness of any being that has that greatness. Thus, any greatness that an angel has is a greatness that it is right to acknowledge in that angel, and this had better not be worship, since to worship an angel is impermissible. But if the greatnesses of the Greek gods (at least when they were being good) are similar to those of the angels, then it seems that to acknowledge these greatnesses would not be a form of worship.
    One could make two moves here. One could, actually, deny the whole line of reasoning that starts with the idea that the Christians were asked to worship the emperor. They weren’t. They were asked to acknowledge him, and other beings like Jupiter, as having certain properties, which he and those other beings did not have. Hence, the sin they were asked to commit was not the sin of worshiping someone other than God, but the sin of lying. However, this just does not seem to fit with how the early Christians saw it. They did, as far as I can tell, think lying was a sin, but they did not think the sin of worshiping the emperor was just a lie.
    The second move preserves the line of reasoning, and says that to be divine is not just a purely intrinsic characteristic (for by their intrinsic characteristics, the Greek gods are no more divine than the angels), nor is it a relational characteristic between the divine being and the person (for we could imagine God giving an angel the kind of authority over people that Athena was believed to have). Rather, maybe, it is characterization of a being as great (in some generic way), and perhaps supernatural, and perhaps as having certain relational characteristics, and such that there is no sort of beings that has these intrinsic and relational characteristics with a qualitatively greater greatness, or something like that. Thus, in a world where God exists and there are exact duplicates of all the members of the Greek pantheon (who are, of course, then creatures of God), these duplicates are not gods. But in an impossible world where God does not exist, but the duplicates of the members of the Greek pantheon do, these duplicates may well be gods.
    So worship is distinguished from other acts of admiration, then, by treating the object of worship as a supernatural(?) being than whom there actually is no other being of a qualitatively greater sort. If we drop “supernatural” from this, then it’s easy to see how money could be worshiped.

    June 13, 2009 — 8:53
  • Andrew Moon

    Hey all,
    Thanks for all the comments so far. There’re a lot of good things being said, and some parts I don’t really follow; I’m a little lost in the dialectic w/r/t certain threads of conversation.
    So maybe we can take things a little slower and go for necessary conditions instead of all the way to the hard sufficient conditions. Let’s see if the following are true:
    1) S engages in an act of worship toward T only if S loves T.
    2) S engages in an act of worship toward T only if S adores T.
    3) S engages in an act of worship toward T only if S considers T to be the most valuable object in his life.
    4) S engages in an act of worship toward T only if S sincerely intends his action to represent a submitting of his will toward T.
    5) S engages in an act of worship toward T only if S sincerely intends his action to represent a complete submitting of his will toward T.
    6) S engages in an act of worship toward T only if S considers T to be a deity.
    I think I agree with (1)-(4), though I’m less sure about (5) and even less sure about (6). What do ya’ll think? Also, if anybody has other necessary conditions for worship, I’d be happy to hear ’em.

    June 13, 2009 — 15:34
  • John Edge

    Hi,
    Perhaps another contender for a necessary condition concerns prudence, such that:
    ‘S engages in an act of worship towards T if acting thus is of prudential benefit to S.’
    S believes that acts of worshipping T will lead to some form of enhanced existence (e.g., an existence in paradise) that S could not expect to enjoy if she were to refrain from worshipping T.
    Pascal might have us believe that such a condition is not necessary but sufficient, as he explains via his ‘wager’ argument.

    June 14, 2009 — 5:12
  • I am inclined to deny 1-6, because insincere worship seems also to be worship. I think if we replace “worship” by “sincere worship”, then 4 and 6 are plausible. The following is a counterexample to 1, 2, 3 and 5: Fred is a polytheist; among the gods in the pantheon he believes in, there are some rather nasty deities which will zap you and your family if you don’t make the requisite sacrifices to them; Fred sincerely makes the sacrifices, submitting himself to these deities; he in fact dislikes the nasty deities, does not love or adore them, does not submit completely to them (because after all, there are other deities, he thinks, so he only gives partial allegiance to any one deity). Sincerely making sacrifices to a deity is a paradigmatic act of worship, however, I think.

    June 14, 2009 — 9:38
  • Andrew Moon

    Alex,
    Whoops, if I had paid better attention to your previous comment, I would’ve been able to predict the type of examples you just gave.
    So what do you think about
    4′) S engages in an act of worship toward T only if S is aware that his action represents a submitting of his will toward T.
    6′) S engages in an act of worship toward T only if S is aware that his action represents that his action represents that S acknowledges T to be a deity.
    Also, I wonder if these “engagements in acts of worship” only hook up with ‘worship’ as in my Group B rather than Group A.

    June 14, 2009 — 13:04
  • Andrew:
    I worry that the awareness conditions may be too strong. George sincerely says to you: “Thank you.” Does it follow that George is aware that his action represents (say) that he gratefully recognizes a benefit as given to him of your good will? If one thinks of cases of small children who are being taught manners, as well as cases of unreflective adults, I think the answer will be negative, unless “aware” is understood in a pretty weak sense–some sort of implicit, inchoate awareness, one that perhaps even a Socrates would not be able to draw out.
    In that weak sense of “aware”, 4′ and 6′ may be true. And that would allow “worship” to also cover cases in your group A.

    June 15, 2009 — 12:05
  • Russ

    Andrew, you’ve put your finger on a difficult but important issue. On the one hand, you want to determine if there is a normative meaning for the word ‘worship’–one that covers any and all cases (e.g., Group A and Group B). On the other, you seek a definition of ‘worship’ that applies to the strict case of S’s comportment toward a (presumably supreme) deity (Group B). This is a difficult distinction to make.
    I suggest this possible answer:
    7) S worships T when S gives power to T.
    This formulation inverts the notion that T must possess authority over S. At the same time, such authority clearly exists for T if S gives power to T. In this way, however, both one’s girlfriend and God can be worshiped, giving us a condition that allows for a definition covering Group A and Group B. Also note that T’s status as truly having authority over S, or of being worthy of worship, etc., are distinct with respect to 7). Such status is not a necessary, although it may be a sufficient, condition for worship. This allows us to make the distinction between Group A and Group B while still truly asserting an instance of worship for both.
    As a postscript, you might want to take a look at Ch. 1 of James F. White’s _introduction To Christian Worship_. The entire chapter discusses the Christian definition of this term.

    June 16, 2009 — 0:42
  • Andrew Moon

    John Edge,
    You said you were talking of “necessary condition”, but the way you wrote it, you wrote it as a “sufficient condition” (you used “if”, not “only if”). Which did you mean? (So to be clear, “only if” denotes a necessary condition, and “if” denotes a sufficient condition.)
    Russ,
    I guess it seems that your sufficient condition is too strong. I give power/authority to the government or my parents and so on, but I’m not worshiping them. I think those count as counterexamples.

    June 16, 2009 — 15:05
  • Russ

    I think that S giving power to T is a necessary condition for, but not a complete definition of, worship. Having thought about it some more, I think that one might add that S gives power to T because S perceives it to be beneficial to do so. The benefit may be either positive or negative: S hopes or expects T to deliver a boon, or S hopes or expects to avoid harm from T.
    I think your counterexamples can be etymologically defeated. White (27) points out that the English word ‘worship’ has its roots in the Old English word ‘weorthscipe’, which means to attribute worth or respect to someone. I think this applies to your two examples (government and parents). And as you agree, both cases involve giving power.
    It is important to be clear in our meaning. We need to ensure that we do not confuse our common religious connotation of worship with the analytic meaning of the word–particularly if we wish to that meaning to cover all cases (e.g., Group A and Group B).

    June 16, 2009 — 22:08
  • Andrew Moon

    Hi Russ,
    Okay, well, “when” denotes sufficient condition. P is true, when q is true is logically equivalent to the truth of q is sufficient for the truth of p. “only when”, I think, would denote a necessary condition.
    I was unclear on what was “etymologically defeated”, and I’m not sure what it means to be etymologically defeated. Could you explain a little more?
    Also, how is an “analytic meaning” of a word different from the “meaning” of the word? My guess is that “analytic” doesn’t add anything?

    June 17, 2009 — 18:38
  • Russ

    Andrew~
    We can certainly rewrite 7) as
    7) S worships T only when S gives power to T.
    The etymological defeater is an argument from definition:
    P1) The root meaning of ‘worship’ means to attribute worth or respect to someone.
    P2) Giving power or authority to the government or to one’s parents is to attribute worth or respect to them.
    C) Therefore one worships the government or one’s parents when one attributes worth or respect to them.
    It should be clear that to attribute power or respect is also to give power to. That is what I’m arguing.
    With respect to meaning vs. analytic meaning, the distinction I’m making is between the denotation of a word and the connotation of a word. Analytic meaning refers to the former (which is what I think you mean when you mention the ‘meaning’ of a word). We are, after all, trying to define ‘worship’.

    June 17, 2009 — 19:34
  • Yes, there is a difference between Groups A and B. The latter pertains to the act of worship. The former pertains to the attitude or state of worship.

    June 22, 2009 — 16:47
  • Andrew
    I don’t know if it helps but from memory James Rachel’s offered an analysis of worship in an article in Paul Helm (ed) “Divine Commands and Morality” .it lead him to offer an argument against the existence of God on the basis that worship was incompatible with autonomy and seeing humans have a duty to be autonomous a being worthy of worship could not exist. Quinn had a good critique of the argument in the same volume. I will have to dig it out of the library.

    July 14, 2009 — 5:40
  • Andrew Moon

    Matt,
    thanks for the reference! It sounds interesting.

    July 15, 2009 — 7:45