Dear Colleagues and Students,
The Program in Cultures, Civilizations and Ideas cordially invites you to the last of its colloquium talks for this semester. On Thursday, April 28, Assistant Professor Daniel Leonard will present his paper, “From Fetish to Idol: Figurism and Humanist Ideology in Charles de Brosses’s On the Worship of Fetish Gods.” The talk will take place in the Bilkent Library Orientation Room from 16.40-18.00. Sandwiches and refreshments will be available.
Dr. Leonard’s abstract is below.
CCI colloquium committee
Dr. Daniel Leonard: “From Fetish to Idol: Figurism and Humanist Ideology in Charles de Brosses’s On the Worship of Fetish Gods”
Best known for coining the term “fetishism” in his On the Worship of Fetish Gods (1760), Charles de Brosses also developed another neologism, “figurism.” Whereas fetish worship is the symptom of a primitive subjection to matter, figurism is a machination of reason that disavows the material origins of belief by inventing allegories of spiritual progress. According to de Brosses, figurists are deluded idealists who refuse to recognize that religion began with the direct worship of material things.
In this talk, I will explore how de Brosses’s critique of figurism broadens to encompass a wide range of ideologies both religious and philosophical. From modern Europeans’ idealization of the ancients to Enlightenment humanist accounts of a universal rational core common to the world’s religions, figurism is a violence of thought that conceals historical and geographical difference. De Brosses’s critique looks forward to other critiques which, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, came increasingly to be directed at the age of Enlightenment itself: allegedly in thrall to a faculty of Reason blind to its own operations, intent on denying that passions and power define truth. Using de Brosses as a case study, I will argue that this enduring stereotype shortchanges the ample reserves of self-critical awareness that characterize critical thought in at least one strand of the Enlightenment.