Reforming the self Charles Taylor and the ethics of authenticity

Abstract

Concerned with the state of the self in modernity, Charles Taylor engages in an act of cultural retrieval in order to allow for a meaningful struggle against the pernicious developments of the modern age. To avoid a loss of meaning, rampant instrumentality, and ultimately a loss of freedom, Taylor suggests that we must arrive at a new understanding of the self. To this end Taylor positions himself between contemporary liberals and communitarians, arriving at what he deems holistic individualism or an "ethic of authenticity". He holds that, in order for this notion of authenticity to be realized, we must be in contact with the constitutive goods which underpin western society. After prolonged consideration Taylor arrives at the conclusion that the only publicly available constitutive good in the modern age is religion. Although he is at times hesitant to admit it, Taylor contends that religion is an invaluable source for the self and the only good able to meet the challenges of modernity.

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