In the final essay of Totem and Taboo, Freud infamously claims that civilization began when a band of brothers brutally murdered their father. This postulation leads Freud to conclude that "the beginnings of religion, morals, society and art converge in the Oedipus complex,"1 and, accordingly, most readers, regardless of their argument, presuppose that the text depicts a "fundamental oedipal revolt."2 This is how Peter Gay characterizes the action of Totem and Taboo in his short introduction to the Norton Standard Edition, (...) and this is how the text is generally remembered. While we may forget the moves of Freud's argument and the details of his historical narrative—not to mention the first three essays of the .. (shrink)
This is the first comprehensive evaluation of Charles Taylor's work and a major contribution to leading questions in philosophy and the human sciences as they face an increasingly pluralistic age. Charles Taylor is one of the most influential contemporary moral and political philosophers: in an era of specialisation he is one of the few thinkers who has developed a comprehensive philosophy which speaks to the conditions of the modern world in a way that is compelling to specialists in (...) various disciplines. This collection of specially commissioned essays brings together twelve distinguished scholars from a variety of fields to discuss critically Taylor's work. The topics range from the history of philosophy, to truth, modernity and postmodernity, theism, interpretation, the human sciences, liberalism, pluralism and difference. Taylor responds to all the contributions and re-articulates his own views. (shrink)
This interview with Charles Taylor explores a central concern throughout his work, viz., his concern to confront the challenges presented by the process of ‘disenchantment’ in the modern world. It focuses especially on what is involved in seeking a kind of ‘re-enchantment.' A key issue that is discussed is the relationship of Taylor’s theism to his effort of seeking re-enchantment. Some other related issues that are explored pertain to questions surrounding Taylor’s argument against the standard secularization thesis (...) that views secularization as a process involving the ineluctable fading away of religion. Additionally, the relationship between Taylor’s religious views and his philosophical work is discussed. (shrink)
This interview with Charles Taylor explores a central concern throughout his work, namely, his concern to ‘reenchant’ self and world through a careful examination of value as emanating from the world rather than from ourselves. It focuses especially on the status of his central doctrine of ‘strong evaluation’ against the background of mainstream meta-ethical theories, such as neo-Kantian constructivism and robust realist non-naturalism. Additionally, the relationship between Taylor’s theism and his moral–political philosophy is discussed. A key issue that (...) is examined is what ontological background picture can make sense of the strong evaluative experience of higher worth. Some other related issues that are explored revolve around Taylor’s papers ‘Disenchantment-Reenchantment’ and ‘Recovering the Sacred’, which tentatively explore the meaning of reenchantment. (shrink)
Thomas Taylor in England, by K. Raine.--Thomas Taylor in America, by G. M. Harper.--Biographical accounts of Thomas Taylor.--Concerning the beautiful.--The hymns of Orpheus.--Concerning the cave of the nymphs.--A dissertation on the Eleusinian and Bacchic mysteries.--Introduction to The fable of Cupid and Psyche.--The Platonic philosopher's creed.--An apology for the fables of Homer.--Bibliography (p. -538).
What could an empirical theory of the Mind be? Surely one which demonstrated that questions about the existence of minds were empirical questions – to be decided by observation, by the senses. This in turn would require an explanation of the meaning of statements about minds or mental states in terms referring to observable events, states and objects.
To a student audience seduced by the claims of a ‘secular Christianity’, Professor Gordon Rupp once urged the combined loyalties of ‘worldmanship’ and ‘other-worldmanship’. The Muslim world shows little friendship to secularist ideologies which explicitly reject the eschatological dimension, but Muslims are increasingly involved in secularising processes; many of these are ‘Islamised’, if they are compatible with Islamic social or political ideals, and the stigma of bid‘ah , innovation, is thereby avoided. A Lebanese author, Muhammad Darwazah, in his Dustūr al-Qur’ (...) ānī , Cairo 1956, advocated a ‘Qur'ānic Constitution’ for the modern world since the Qur'ān’s world-view is both in-worldly and other-worldly: ‘Islam is a religion of the world , of government, society, morals and order, to the same extent as it is a religion of faith and belief and the next world .’. (shrink)
HR/AL: Professor Taylor, what are you working on these days? CT: Well, several things. One of the things I am working on is something I was lecturing this fall at the New School University, and that I have called ‘modern social imaginaries’. It is an attempt to understand western modernity in terms of the different ways in which people imagine their social existence. These imaginaries are a condition for new kinds of practices that are characteristic of modernity. This research (...) is an internal part of a larger project to understand modern secular civilization, the modern west as a secular civilization. What does that notion exactly mean? What does it amount to? How did it happen? (shrink)
One of the central concepts in Charles Taylor’s philosophy is that of strong evaluation. What is strong evaluation? The crucial idea is that human relations to the world, to self and to others are value-laden. In the first subsection the central features of the concept of strong evaluation are discussed, namely qualitative distinctions concerning worth and the role of strong evaluation for identity. The nature of strong evaluations both as background understandings and explicit judgements is clarified. It is also (...) claimed that strong evaluation is not precisely a matter of second-order desires, but of evaluative beliefs. In subsection 1.2, some additional and less central characterizations are scrutinized: contingent conflicts, articulacy, discriminacy, reflectivity, depth. The claim is that most of these are not criterial for the distinction between strong and weak evaluations. In the third subsection various criticisms are taken up (from Ernst Tugendhat, Jurgen Habermas, Owen Flanagan, Joel Anderson), which are relevant for defining strong evaluations and assessing the role strong evaluation has in ethics. The terminological solutions are here connected to substantive issues in moral theory. I will defend Taylor against three aspects of a Kantian critique that the notion of strong evaluation is too broad, and overlooks crucial distinctions. Should one distinguish between moral and other values more clearly? Should one distinguish between categorical and optional goods more sharply? Should one distinguish between the whole “moral map” and one’s own orientation more clearly? I think these are indeed essential questions, but they are to be answered within the realm of qualitative distinctions concerning worth. The Kantian attempts to segregate one type of issue as involving strong evaluation and another type of issue as not involving it are misguided. In the fourth subsection I put forward three critical claims in an attempt to show that the notion of strong evaluation as Taylor defines it is too narrow (or at least ambivalent about how narrow it is). These critiques are inspired by more comprehensives approaches to ethics (e. g. by Joseph Raz or Paul Ricoeur). First, is strong evaluation restricted strictly to second-order self-evaluation (as some formulations by Taylor seem to suggest), or does it cover value-judgement in general (as some other formulations by Taylor seem to suggest)? In the broad sense, strong evaluations also include first-order judgements made in various different situations, and background commitments to goods. I suggest that the broad sense be adopted. Second, how does the distinction between strong and weak evaluations relate to “small” values? Third, can self-evaluation succeed without the deontic layer of reasons and norms and if not, does the concept of strong evaluation cover that as well? I defend a different line from Taylor on the issues of small values and the deontic realm. This will lead to a suggestion of “strong evaluation in an extended sense”. (shrink)
In this response, I suggest that Black southern women in the U.S. have always been central to the “reconstruction” that Taylor identifies as a central theme of Black aesthetics. Building on his allusions to Alice Walker and Jean Toomer, I explore Walker’s tearful response (in In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983) to Toomer’s Cane (2011). Walker identifies their mothers’ and grandmothers’ informal arts of storytelling and gardening as the hidden roots of both her and Toomer’s work. (...) I suggest that Walker’s tears function to water her mother’s (and othermothers’) gardens, thereby sustaining southern Black women’s foundational work in reconstruction. Through telling their stories and planting gardens, along with crafting meals, designing clothes, and designing and decorating homes, southern Black women have always been necessary to Black aesthetics—filling worlds with aesthetically-rich and energetic artworks that Black formal artists such as Walker channel and transfigure into their formal artistic productions. (shrink)
In this chapter I discuss Charles Taylor's and Paul Ricoeur's theories of narrative identity and narratives as a central form of self-interpretation. Both Taylor and Ricoeur think that self-identity is a matter of culturally and socially mediated self-definitions, which are practically relevant for one's orientation in life. First, I will go through various characterisations that Ricoeur gives of his theory, and try to show to what extent they also apply to Taylor's theory. Then, I will analyse more (...) closely Charles Taylor's, and in section three, Paul Ricoeur's views on narrative identity. (shrink)
Charles Taylor is one of the most influential and prolific philosophers in the English-speaking world today. The breadth of his writings is unique, ranging from reflections on artificial intelligence to analyses of contemporary multicultural societies. This thought-provoking introduction to Taylor's work outlines his ideas in a coherent and accessible way without reducing their richness and depth. His contribution to many of the enduring debates within Western philosophy is examined and the arguments of his critics assessed. Taylor's reflections (...) on the topics of moral theory, selfhood, political theory and epistemology form the core chapters within the book. Ruth Abbey engages with the secondary literature on Taylor's work and suggests that some criticisms by contemporaries have been based on misinterpretations and suggests ways in which a better understanding of Taylor's work leads to different criticisms of it. The book serves as an ideal companion to Taylor's ideas for students of philosophy and political theory, and will be welcomed by the non-specialist looking for an authoritative guide to Taylor's large and challenging body of work. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that moral realism does not, pace Charles Taylor, need “moral sources” or “constitutive goods”, and adding these concepts distorts the basic insights of what can be called “cultural” moral realism.1 Yet the ideas of “moral topography” or “moral space” as well as the idea of “ontological background pictures” are valid, if separated from those notions. What does Taylor mean by these notions?
In the introduction to his Philosophical Papers 1&2 Charles Taylor assures us that his work, while encompassing a range of issues, follows a single, tightly knit agenda. He claims that the central questions concern "philosophical anthropology". Taylor's work on these questions has been presented piecemeal, in the form of articles and papers, and the student has had to imagine what a systematic monograph by Taylor on philosophical anthropology would look like. Neither Hegel, Sources of the Self, Ethics (...) of Authenticity, Catholic Modernity nor Varieties of Religion Today, nor Taylor's forthcoming books on secularization and modern social imaginaries are such treatises on the ontology of the human being. Nicholas H. Smith's monograph Charles Taylor: Meaning, Morals and Modernity (Polity, 2002) puts forward a clear and well-argued assessment of Taylor's entire project, with details on his intellectual biography and political engagement. For the purposes of thinking through Taylor's work so far, this book is probably the best one around. It is divided into eight chapters: "Linguistic Philosophy and Phenomenology", "Science, Action and the Mind", "The Romantic Legacy", "The Self and the Good", "Interpretation and the Social Sciences", "Individual and Community", "Politics and Social Criticism", and "Modernity, Art and Religion". The chapters are thematically ordered, but the order of presentation follows roughly the temporal order of Taylor's career. In this review article, I will begin with what Smith identifies as Taylor's organizing idea, and then focus on Smith's presentation of Taylor's transcendental argumentation concerning 'human constants'. As exemplars, I will discuss two of the.. (shrink)
Medical ethicists conventionally assume that the requirement to employ informed consent procedures is grounded in autonomy. It seems intuitively plausible that providing information to an agent promotes his autonomy by better allowing him to steer his life. However, James Taylor questions this view, arguing that any notion of autonomy that grounds a requirement to inform agents turns out to be unrealistic and self-defeating. Taylor thus contends that we are mistaken about the real theoretical grounds for informed consent procedures. (...) Through analysing Taylor's arguments and showing that they do not stand up to scrutiny, it is possible to defend the view that autonomy is a plausible theoretical basis for informed consent, and to enhance our understanding of the relationship between autonomy and informed consent. (shrink)
The Philosophy Now series promises to combine rigorous analysis with authoritative expositions. Ruth Abbey’s book lives up to this demand by being a clear, reliable and more than up-to-date introduction to Charles Taylor ’s philosophy. Although it is an introductory book, the amount of footnotes and references ought to please those who want to study the original texts more closely. Abbey’s book is structured thematically: morality, selfhood, politics and epistemology get 50 pages each. The focus is on the internal (...) coherence of Taylor ’s work, not in its critique of or defence against other positions. The chapters are self-containing, but together they give a good total picture of Taylor ’s position. The concluding chapter is a highly interesting preview of Taylor ’s unpublished work-in-progress on secularity, which according to Abbey is comparable in magnitude to Sources of the Self. (shrink)
This paper compares the idea of embodied reasoning by Confucian Tu Wei-Ming and Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. They have similar concerns about the problems of secular modernity, that is, the domination of instrumental reason and disembodied rationality. Both of them suggest that we have to explore a kind of embodied moral reasoning. I show that their theories of embodiment have many similarities: the body is an instrument for our moral knowledge and self-understanding; such knowledge is inevitably a kind of (...) bodily knowledge. I will also demonstrate how the differences between their theories can be mutually enriched. While Taylor has provided a philosophical account of the foundation of moral epistemology, Tu’s emphasis of ritual practice and the integration of knowing, doing and being seems to offer a more fully embodied understanding of the moral self. (shrink)
Charles Taylor’s idea of “deep diversity” has played a major role in the debates around multiculturalism in Canada and around the world. Originally, the idea was meant to account for how the different national communities within Canada – those of the English-speaking Canadians, the French-speaking Quebeckers, and the Aboriginals – conceive of their belonging to the country in different ways. But Taylor conceives of these differences strictly in terms of irreducibility; that is, he fails to see that they (...) also exist in such a way that the country cannot be said to form a unified whole. After giving an account of the philosophical as well as religious reasons behind his position, the chapter goes on to describe some of its political implications. (shrink)
Charles Taylor is one of the leading living philosophers. In this book Arto Laitinen studies and develops further Taylor's philosophical views on human agency, personhood, selfhood and identity. He defends Taylor's view that our ethical understandings of values play a central role. The book also develops and defends Taylor's form of value realism as a view on the nature of ethical values, or values in general. The book criticizes Taylor's view that God, Nature or Human (...) Reason are possible constitutive sources of value – Laitinen argues that we should drop the whole notion of a constitutive source. (shrink)
Thomas Taylor’s interpretation of Plato’s works in 1804 was condemned as guilty by association immediately after its publication. Taylor’s 1804 and 1809 reviewer thus made a hasty generalisation in which the qualities of Neoplatonism, assumed to be negative, were transferred to Taylor’s own interpretation, which made use of Neoplatonist thinkers. For this reason, Taylor has typically been marginalised as an interpreter of Plato. This article does not deny the association between Taylor and Neoplatonism. Instead, it (...) examines the historical and historiographical reasons for the reviewer’s assumption that Neoplatonic readings of Plato are erroneous by definition. In particular, it argues that the reviewer relied on, and tacitly accepted, ethical and theological premises going back to the historiography of philosophy developed by Jacob Brucker in his Historia critica philosophiae . These premises were an integral part of Brucker’s Lutheran religiosity and thus theologically and ethically biased. If these premises are identified, articulated and discussed critically—which they have not been so far in connection with Taylor’s reception—it becomes less obvious that the reviewer was justified in his assumption that the Neoplatonic reading was erroneous by definition. This, in turn, leaves Taylor’s Plato interpretation in a more respectable position. (shrink)