In this inquiry into the sources of modern selfhood, Charles Taylor shows that the modern turn inward is not disastrous but is in fact the result of our long efforts to define and reach the good. At the heart of this definition he finds what he calls the affirmation of ordinary life, a value that has decisively if not completely replaced an older ...
In this inquiry into the sources of modern selfhood, Charles Taylor shows that the modern turn inward is not disastrous but is in fact the result of our long efforts to define and reach the good. At the heart of this definition he finds what he calls the affirmation of ordinary life, a value that has decisively if not completely replaced an older conception of reason as connected to a hierarchy based on birth and wealth. In telling the story of a revolution whose proponents have been Augustine, Montaigne, Luther, and a host of others, Taylor's goal is in part to make sure we do not lose sight of their goal and endanger all that has been achieved. Sources of the Self provides a decisive defense of the modern order and a sharp rebuff to its critics.
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Very Good. Book Soft cover, very good condition. There seems to be a connection, historical and perhaps even logical, between metaphysics and morality; that is, between views about the nature of being or knowledge and views about justice and the good. A vague sense (which is surely all that most of us have) of this connection is one thing, however; an original, rigorous, and comprehensive historical account is something else again-an immense achievement. Yet this is only one feature of Charles Taylor's monumental book, "Sources of the Self" bears out, to some extent at least, a seemingly extravagant compliment proffered by Richard Rorty in reviewing Taylor's "Collected Papers" (1985): "He is attempting nothing less than a synthesis of moral reflection with intellectual history, one which will do for our time what Hegel did for his." Here is Taylor's own statement of his aims: "[T]o write and articulate a history of the modern identity...to designate the ensemble of (largely unarticulated) understandings of what it is to be a human agent: the senses of inwardness, freedom, individuality, and being embedded in nature which are at home in the modern West...to show how the ideals and interdicts of this identity-what it casts in relief and what it casts in shadow-shape our philosophical thought, our epistemology and our philosophy of language, largely without our awareness." Not quite so grand as Hegel's, perhaps, but ambitious enough. What is the "modern identity"? Whatever else may characterize it, at least three elements do. First, inwardness, or the understanding of our selfhood not as externally defined, by the privileges and duties of our station or our relation to the overall order of being, but as something attained through turning inward, taking a reflexive stance, exploring our inner structures, resources, or depths. Second, the belief that ordinary life-work, friendship, marriage and the family-is our proper sphere and an adequate source of meaning and fulfillment rather than the ignoble lot of those not up to the ascetic, contemplative, or military virtues of saint, sage, and warrior-aristocrat. Third, expressivism, or recourse to nature and the feelings it evokes in us as a spiritual and moral counterweight to analytic, instrumental reason. Taylor narrates the history of philosophy (in some cases also of theology, literary theory, and modern literature) in relation to the gradual emergence of each of these elements. For example: according to Plato, correct perception of the cosmic order makes possible self-knowledge and control of the passions; reason is the source of morality and happiness. Augustine modifies Plato's conception: rather than employing dialectic to arrive at the Idea of the Good, the soul reflects on its activities and powers and recognizes God as their source. Descartes turns inward, looking not for God but for intellectual certainty and moral dignity. In Descartes's successors, especially Locke and Kant, this reflexivity or inward turn is further radicalized and secularized. By the end of Taylor's account, what had seemed merely a sequence of philosophical positions now appears as a vast drama whose upshot is us.
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