Part II. Idolatry -

15 May 1998
9.30 – 20.00
Tilburg University

The Legacy of the Twentieth Century

Idolatry needs a measure of what is sacred or profane, true or false, good or bad. In Europe, Christianity provided this measure for a long time. However, the twentieth century is unique since, with ‘the death of God’, this one exclusive measure also disappeared. This has greatly impacted art, culture, and society as a whole. Countless attempts have been made, and will continue being made, to either occupy the place of the deceased God, or to show conclusively that no absolute measure can possibly exist, and that we will all have to make up our own minds. So what is true now? Or good? Or beautiful? Or sacred? What could or should we worship? Is there a measure, or do we have to decide for ourselves? How can the concept of idolatry help us understand the value and significance of the ‘gods’ of the twentieth century, of the role of images in our society, of that which we worship now, of the expectations that remain after the disappearance of the Absolute, of the experience we have gained since then, and of the prospects we are now facing?

Published in

Journal Nexus
2010 or Earlier

Nexus 21

Het testament van de 20ste eeuw Deel II. Afgoderij

Het testament van de 20ste eeuw Deel II. Afgoderij

Dutch publication containing essays from secular and religious humanists about the essence of idolatry in the twentieth century.



United Kingdom, 1965

Lydia Goehr

art philosopher

Uruquay, 1958

Moshe Halbertal

professor of Jewish thought

Canada, 1947

Michael Ignatieff

politician, intellectual and moral philosopher

Poland, 1927 - 2009

Leszek Kolakowski

Polish thinker and historian of ideas

Israel, 1939

Avishai Margalit

Israeli philosopher and author The Ethics of Memory

Greece, 1946

Alexander Nehamas

combines philosophy and literary studies

United Kingdom, 1944 - 2020

Roger Scruton

conservative philosopher and art expert

United States, 1957

Peter Sellars

theatre director

United States, 1952

Gary Smith

director American Academy, Berlin

Italy, 1941

Riccardo Petrella

political scientist, economist

United States, 1943

Richard Sennett


Germany, 1947

Peter Sloterdijk

cultural philosopher

United Kingdom, 1923 - 2003

Richard Wollheim

philosopher of art and emotions

Jordan, 1966

Ghazi bin Muhammad

prince and Professor of Philosophy