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In this extensive inquiry into the sources of modern selfhood, Charles Taylor demonstrates just how rich and precious those resources are. The modern turn to subjectivity, with its attendant rejection of an objective order of reason, has led—it seems to many—to mere subjectivism at the mildest and to sheer nihilism at the worst. Many critics believe that the modern order h In this extensive inquiry into the sources of modern selfhood, Charles Taylor demonstrates just how rich and precious those resources are. The modern turn to subjectivity, with its attendant rejection of an objective order of reason, has led—it seems to many—to mere subjectivism at the mildest and to sheer nihilism at the worst. Many critics believe that the modern order has no moral backbone and has proved corrosive to all that might foster human good. Taylor rejects this view. He argues that, properly understood, our modern notion of the self provides a framework that more than compensates for the abandonment of substantive notions of rationality. The major insight of Sources of the Self is that modern subjectivity, in all its epistemological, aesthetic, and political ramifications, has its roots in ideas of human good. After first arguing that contemporary philosophers have ignored how self and good connect, the author defines the modern identity by describing its genesis. His effort to uncover and map our moral sources leads to novel interpretations of most of the figures and movements in the modern tradition. 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 which 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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In this extensive inquiry into the sources of modern selfhood, Charles Taylor demonstrates just how rich and precious those resources are. The modern turn to subjectivity, with its attendant rejection of an objective order of reason, has led—it seems to many—to mere subjectivism at the mildest and to sheer nihilism at the worst. Many critics believe that the modern order h In this extensive inquiry into the sources of modern selfhood, Charles Taylor demonstrates just how rich and precious those resources are. The modern turn to subjectivity, with its attendant rejection of an objective order of reason, has led—it seems to many—to mere subjectivism at the mildest and to sheer nihilism at the worst. Many critics believe that the modern order has no moral backbone and has proved corrosive to all that might foster human good. Taylor rejects this view. He argues that, properly understood, our modern notion of the self provides a framework that more than compensates for the abandonment of substantive notions of rationality. The major insight of Sources of the Self is that modern subjectivity, in all its epistemological, aesthetic, and political ramifications, has its roots in ideas of human good. After first arguing that contemporary philosophers have ignored how self and good connect, the author defines the modern identity by describing its genesis. His effort to uncover and map our moral sources leads to novel interpretations of most of the figures and movements in the modern tradition. 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 which 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.

30 review for Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elenabot

    “To know who I am is a species of knowing where I stand. My identity is defined by the commitments and identifications which provide the frame or horizon within which I can try to determine from case to case what is good, or valuable, or what ought to be done, or what I endorse or oppose. In other words, it is the horizon within which I am capable of taking a stand.” Taylor locates the problem of self-knowledge at the heart of our naturalistic culture. He shows how the naturalistic paradigm we i “To know who I am is a species of knowing where I stand. My identity is defined by the commitments and identifications which provide the frame or horizon within which I can try to determine from case to case what is good, or valuable, or what ought to be done, or what I endorse or oppose. In other words, it is the horizon within which I am capable of taking a stand.” Taylor locates the problem of self-knowledge at the heart of our naturalistic culture. He shows how the naturalistic paradigm we inherit from modern science operates with an impoverished theory of human nature that fails to do justice to our experience. In his view, the reigning picture of nature provided by contemporary science, in allowing no place for nature as a bearer of meanings and values, leaves no place for experience, since experience just is the disclosure of being as meaning and value. As a result, the one thing conspicuously missing from current efforts to attain a scientific theory of everything is ourselves, as experiencing, meaning-disclosing agents. We cannot know ourselves by locating ourselves in the system of the world that current naturalism represents, with its tendency to eliminate the terms in which we understand our experience. If we could boil down this book to a basic insight, it is that the self is a moral subject before it is a natural object, and that current naturalism fails to offer us a paradigm by which to conceive the subject. In this work, Taylor strives to show how many of our current problems in moral philosophy and philosophy of mind stem from the principled blindness that naturalistic presuppositions impose on us. In his view, these presuppositions lead to an impoverishing of meaning, to a loss of our ability to give content to the central metaphysical concepts that in the past have helped us interpret our experience and characterize it as a systematic whole. Taylor shows how naturalism leaves us with incoherent accounts of ourselves that often implicitly presuppose the richer phenomenological and ontological terms that they attempt to explain away (chief among which are those terms by which we conceive the subject as meaning-making agent and the world as a ground of valuation). He proposes his work as a “recovery of meanings” and as a reconstitution of those experiential phenomena that, being presupposed by naturalistic accounts, cannot be explained by them. Overall, I think that Taylor persuasively shows that in order to attain any account of self that can ground moral philosophy, we must recognize that the goal of explanation still is to “save the phenomena” in their coherence and meaningfulness. Taylor shows how modern naturalism leaves us with an alienated subject and an objectified nature. A stark divide grows between the two which gives rise to the specter of nihilism. Reasoning becomes an empty formal procedure aiming at the control of nature. Reason can no longer acquire content through an experiential engagement with nature in which a meaning is born that temporarily unites subject and object in a single project. Scientific reason benefits from this state of affairs because a disengaged subject better achieves the objectification of phenomena required to control them. However, Taylor shows that the consequences for moral philosophy, for philosophy of mind, for philosophical anthropology, and for our culture generally, are nothing short of disastrous. The “acosmic subject” this naturalist paradigm foists on us, as Merleau-Ponty had previously argued, cannot be the subject that shapes meanings through her experience of the world. One could see Taylor's work as an effort to recover something like the premodern cosmic subject, but within a thoroughly modern framework. In the wake of modern naturalism, meaning itself becomes problematic for us. Philosophy today must begin with the problem of meaning, of accounting for its possibility in a natural world that precludes all emergence of meaning. In particular, meaning becomes problematic when we find ourselves outside any taken-for-granted shared world-picture. In Taylor’s eyes, the crucial philosophical problem of our day stems from the gaping divide that remains between our scientifically-informed picture of nature and our best account of our experience. Taylor argues that naturalism, in failing to give a place to values in nature, thereby fails to account for selves, since selves just are an orientation to being perceived as a value (or "constitutive good," in his terminology). Naturalist ontology has two options: either it eliminates values by defining them out of existence as meaningless (some form of positivism), or it reduces value-talk to talk about contingent facts about psychological states or sociological factors. But then, Taylor points out, values become relative to either personal or group preference. Because naturalism insists on the mind-dependence of values, it leads either to relativism, or to outright nihilism. So much for being able to say to the Nazi that his genocidal views are objectively wrong, despite his culture's defining it as a good! To escape this predicament, we must construct an ontology that allows us to conceive of values as grounded in being itself, rather than its being contingent on conscious states. Taylor offers some persuasive, transcendental arguments that show that current naturalists operate with an incoherent concept of self. Since value judgment is a part of what it is to be a functioning agent, any theory that denies the features of value judgments (objectivity being one of them) is incoherent. Time and again he shows how naturalist ontology, when consistently pursued in the ethical domain, leads to what he calls “practical self-contradictions” - i.e. it leads us to presuppose in practice terms the existence and meaningfulness of which the explicit theory denies. Interestingly, he criticizes both Kantians and consequentialists on this score. He shows how both presuppose a richer reserve of objective, mind-independent values than their explicit theories allow for in order to escape relativism. By refusing to recognize a robust place for values in the natural world, naturalism leads to an impoverishment of our available means to make sense of our experience. Naturalist ontology, by leaving us with a "cramped and truncated view of morality," leads to a similarly cramped and truncated view of selves. Ultimately, naturalist ontology, as it stands, leaves the self unexplained. Rather than showing how selves fit into the world, it fails to place our best account of experience onto the map. Explanation on this model is either the reduction of experience to impersonal terms, or its elimination, never its accommodation. Thus, our intellectual culture is shaped by the crossfire between naturalistic ontology and lived phenomenology. We seem forced to choose between the two, since the conceptual apparatus of modern science precludes in principle the inclusion of any phenomenological terms as explanatory principles. Following such phenomenologists as the later Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, and Heidegger, Taylor argues that it is the lifeworld (nature as lived, as the correlate and background of our experience), rather than the scientist’s abstract, impersonal picture of nature, that provides the proper subject matter for any viable philosophical anthropology. Perhaps the most inspiring thing about this book is that it provides a kind of blueprint for the self-knowledge process. It maps out the kinds of conceptual resources we'd need to have at our disposal in order to come to know ourselves. What surprised me was finding out just how shallow my own understanding of what self-knowledge involves had been. I had always thought, perhaps under the influence of our psychologistic culture, that to know myself was just to survey my own internal states, to consider their origin in my past experiences, and then to coax this disjointed flux of impressions into some kind of coherent narrative pattern. It turns out that narratives of experience are a core part of self-knowledge, but that this psychologistic, subjectivistic view is myopic. It misses the larger (historical, cultural, and ultimately, ontological) context within which we can construct and tell our life stories. Hence the title, “sources of the self.” It turns out that the “sources” of my identity lie outside of my individual life story. Moreover, Taylor makes the stronger claim that our subjective points of view fail to uncover our life stories. Taylor argues that these “sources” that give content to our sense of ourselves have more to do with ontology and ethics than they have to do with psychology. The fact that psychological self-understanding presupposes coming to terms with history, ontology and ethics was the most revolutionary claim that this book brought home to me. To know myself is not just to cobble together the story of my personal life out of the fragments of my past that I have left before me in the present. Rather, it is to learn relate my own personal story to the larger (historical and philosophical) narrative of the collective creation/discovery of sources of meaning according to which we have learned to give shape to our experience. Since I make my story about myself using borrowed materials - materials shaped by those who came before - I cannot know myself without engaging with the historical question of where these materials came from, as well as the philosophical question of what grounds them, and of how each relates me to the world. Taylor argues that in order to fully know ourselves, we must take up this much larger perspective on our lives. We must place our personal stories on this larger map of possible positions in relation to “constitutive goods” that our culture has learned to recognize. Whether the source of our identity is the value of nature as an immanent ground of meaning (Romantic pantheism), the spiritual value of an interior grasp of being (post-Augustinian Christianity), the respect for human rights (Enlightenment humanism), the notion of science as an instrument of control (post-Baconian philosophy of science), the moral value of work (the Puritanical tradition), the value of individual difference and thus of aesthetic expression as an epistemic instrument (Romanticism again), autonomy and freedom (Kant), or the value of radical questioning (post-Nietzschean thought), we cannot know ourselves until we interrogate the value that organizes our life stories by asking of it both the historical question (how has it come about as a way of orienting human experience in relation to the world?) and the ontological question (how does it relate us to the world?) Ultimately, to understand any value is to see it as one branch on the larger tree that represents the various shapes a human life can take in its striving to meaningfully relate itself to the world. Taylor shows that we give shape to our experience, as selves, by relating our movement in life in reference to stable value loci: aspects of being that we take as intrinsically valuable, despite our subjective preferences. They give content to our experience. We figure out “how we are doing” or “who we are becoming” at any time in our lives by measuring our distance from the value that we recognize as binding on us. This is how we judge whether we are missing out on life, or whether we are on the path to becoming more real by more fully engaging with the world around us in the kinds of activities that generate (rather than reduce) meaning. Subjective preference presupposes this objective discrimination of being as a bearer of values at certain points. That is, we only subjectively prefer certain things because we first judged some aspect of being as intrinsically valuable. Because people live by processing being into value and meaning, meanings and values are the central explananda of our ontology. Thus, our ontology must not just explain what grounds the theoretical truths of science and mathematics. Most of us know that by now (except for some die-hard global antirealists). Rather, Taylor argues that we have an additional explanatory task: we must also explain what grounds the meanings and values without which we cannot function as agents, and without which we cannot make sense of experience as we cannot help but live it. Most philosophers tend to shirk this additional explanatory task in their tendency to push more and more of their explanatory load onto science, but science, as an objective inquiry, just lacks the conceptual resources required for the task. Instead, Taylor recruits historical, generative phenomenology. This is the method by which we can come to appreciate how the current horizons of our experience are defined according to the symbolic, meaning-making tools we inherit from past generations. Taylor makes the radical claim that existential knowing, i.e. the kind of knowledge through which we shape experience into a meaningful whole, must take priority in the order of explanation. This is because the self is never known first as a neutral object in a causal order of objects. It is first known through intimate involvement with its world in acts of meaning-making. As we saw above, self-knowledge involves value judgments. The world is first known as the support of those value judgments. It does seem intuitively true that we encounter the world first as a companion to our projects, and not merely as an object or instrument to be abused at our whim. We recognize that value judgment works by directly relating us to the intrinsic features of objects when we are awed by the power of a natural scene, say a stream rolling off a mossy cliff into the darkness of the forest undergrowth. In the creation of meaning and value, I conspire with the moss heap. As we go about our lives, we reason in practice by presupposing that the world is a continuum punctuated by centers of value. We cannot but do so, even when our best theories tell us otherwise. Taylor follows Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger in proposing that it is only through abstraction from this primordial situation of encounter and relatedness that we get the notion of the world as a theoretical, scientific system. Since we cannot place ourselves or the meanings without which we cannot get by in practice on that theoretical map, and since even card-carrying eliminativists end up presupposing meanings and values in order to reason about their lives in practice, we are behooved to explain what we cannot eliminate. If it is ineliminable, as is shown by the fact that it is presupposed by every naturalistic ethical theory that attempts to eliminate it, then we can infer that the lifeworld has ontological priority. Regardless of what our theories state, we cannot help but experience the world as a bearer of values. Insisting on an unaccommodating stance towards experience, as many naturalists have tended to do, leads to an unbridgeable divide between theory and experience, between theoretical/scientific knowing and existential knowing. This divide makes dialogue between the two impossible. This is a problem because practical reason, unlike scientific reasoning, is synoptic and concerns itself with the shape of our life as a whole. As such, it presupposes a unity between theory and practice, between science and experience, that naturalism as currently stated, renders unattainable. That our best theoretical thinking cannot inform our life practices just means that people must seek guidance in making meaning where it’s still offered: e.g., wishy-washy supermarket new ageism, fundamentalism, or, perhaps, the desperate turn to totalitarian solutions that nihilistic times see. Overall, Taylor’s work is essential reading not just for those interested in moral philosophy, but also for anyone interested in philosophy of mind and phenomenology, showing, as it does, the larger significance of current debates regarding the status of experience in the study of mind. He shows that the challenge of explaining mind, as a capacity to engage with being as meaning and value, imposes an entirely different model of explanation on us. He offers his philosophy as an exercise in the recovery of meanings “suppressed” by the standard ontology we all pay lip service to. His philosophy is also an invitation to stop trying to explain away practical, existential knowledge, and to instead start looking for an explanation of it. His work also redefines what self-knowledge means for us in our current cultural predicament. Self-knowledge, in our post-systematic age in which a comprehensive picture of the world seems to no longer be forthcoming, involves going through the fragments of old ontologies and trying to put them together onto some kind of coherent map. This is what Taylor attempts to do for us. I suspect that anyone reading this will find somewhere here a startlingly accurate description of the goods by which they give shape to their day-to-day experience. As such, I'd recommend it to anyone as a kind of field guide to the self-knowledge process. He models the kind of reflection without which no education is complete. I am left wondering in the end what a cross-cultural map of constitutive goods would look like. It seems to me that we cannot fully know ourselves without restating the problem from that more comprehensive perspective. The fact that doing so is inconceivable to us just shows what a parochial state of philosophical development we’re still at.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    I just finished this magnificent book this week. Although it took me a couple of years to read because of my schedule, it completely rearranged my mental furniture. Not many books can do that - for anyone! At least for anyone my age. Haha. In any case, Taylor examines the history of ideas and the sources for our sense of who it is that we are. He finds these sources in a variety of places, and the problem is that we sometimes view the contemporary sources to be in conflict. However, he believes t I just finished this magnificent book this week. Although it took me a couple of years to read because of my schedule, it completely rearranged my mental furniture. Not many books can do that - for anyone! At least for anyone my age. Haha. In any case, Taylor examines the history of ideas and the sources for our sense of who it is that we are. He finds these sources in a variety of places, and the problem is that we sometimes view the contemporary sources to be in conflict. However, he believes that our sense of ourselves is actually constituted by many of these seemingly conflicting sources. Thus, disengaged reason (which helps with science and philosophy) and expressive self-fulfillment (as you might think of in Romanticism and then psychology/self-help stuff) work together to help us create our notions of ourselves. We also have many notions and influences from the people Taylor admits are our contemporaries - the Victorians. Ouch! Yet, we continue to rejoice in their notions of universal benevolence and justice. Meanwhile, Protestant notions about the importance of how we do things - the beauty of everyday life - is more important to us as a whole than the aristocratic warrior culture it left behind. This is an amazing book! While I dispute that the era of the aristocrat warrior mentality is over, I do agree that Taylor's ultimate conclusion - that we create/adjust to the culture our notion of what is good and create, within that structure, a narrative about how we reach closer to that good, is a redemptive view. Oh, and finally, Taylor predicted any number of contemporary controversies, from neo-conservatives (their sympathies are 'narrow,' he says) to the blatantly incorrect stories that are necessary to create a sense of nationalism - as we see with Scalia. Stunning.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Yodar

    I pretended to understand this book in grad school to impress a few professors whom I respected. Frankly, the book confused me and I could not track the author's thoughts or grasp any of the concepts. I keep the book on my office shelf in hopes that someone recognizes it and assumes that I am an intellectual. Three stars because smart people seem to love this book. I pretended to understand this book in grad school to impress a few professors whom I respected. Frankly, the book confused me and I could not track the author's thoughts or grasp any of the concepts. I keep the book on my office shelf in hopes that someone recognizes it and assumes that I am an intellectual. Three stars because smart people seem to love this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alina

    Taylor does something radical and scandalous. He exposes that what we take as an inevitable, natural conception of the self (and the ethical framework of respect and justice that follows from it) is in fact historically contingent. This conception is a product of cultural, political, and religious events over the history of western civilization. In this huge 600 page book, Taylor presents these events, from ancient Greece, to Christianity, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and modernism. We do not Taylor does something radical and scandalous. He exposes that what we take as an inevitable, natural conception of the self (and the ethical framework of respect and justice that follows from it) is in fact historically contingent. This conception is a product of cultural, political, and religious events over the history of western civilization. In this huge 600 page book, Taylor presents these events, from ancient Greece, to Christianity, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and modernism. We do not only get to understand the details of the major philosophical theories produced at each stage, but we also get to see how these theories build upon one another, and have led to the basic concepts (and philosophical, ethical problems that depend on those concepts) that we all take for granted today. Here's a brief description of the self and ethical framework that we, today, take for granted. We are each private selves, who determine and impose values onto an inherently valueless, mechanistic universe. This transcendent role of the self implies that the self is autonomous. So morality is a matter of respecting this autonomy of every individual. Liberty - or allowing different individuals to pursue their own ends as long as they do not infringe on one another's autonomy - gains central ethical importance. We think that people's everyday lives are the locus of fulfillment and morality; careers, parenting, friendships, and so on really matter. The alleviation of suffering for anyone is an ethical imperative. Moreover, we are conflicted over whether the path to ethical living is one of honing our rational faculties and ensuring our impulses are disciplined by them; vs. one of listening to our emotions and being in tune with nature. Taylor starts the story of the developments that have led to these conceptions of self and ethics at Plato. This philosopher held that the self is defined by three faculties: reason, appetite/emotion, and volition. Ethical living is a matter of having reason control and govern the other two faculties. Reason is defined as the capacity to access and grasp Ideas, transcendent, perfect forms of all things that account for all sensible particulars in our world. So the good, ethical way of life is ultimately grounded in these Ideas, found in a realm beyond us. At this stage, with Plato, there is no inner, private conception of the self: the sources of moral living are found outside of our bodies and in this transcendent realm. St. Augustine took this Platonic picture and combined it with Christian doctrine. According to Augustine, God is the ultimate source of morality, rather than Platonic Ideas. Like Plato, Augustine thought that we can grasp this moral source only through reason. Augustine especially emphasized the necessity to introspect, evaluate one's memories, and make confessions, in order to exercise reason and connect with God. This is the first step of the process of the "inwardization" of the western conception of the self: the sources of moral living are found "within" ourselves, as we must examine our inner experiences, rather than directly grasp Ideas. Descartes is another major figure in this historical development. He started with Platonic and Augustinian ideas, and reconciled them with Newtonian physics, newly established at his time. According to this physics, the universe is purely mechanistic. There is no teleology, no inherent value, purpose, or meaning to the external world. Rather, any value or meaning is a product of our inner subjective workings. We form representations of this world, and can arrange these representations in ways as to amount to accurate knowledge of this world. On this picture, ethical living is no longer a matter of attuning ourselves to the cosmos, whether this is understood as consisting of Platonic ideas or God. Rather, ethical living requires that we've constructed our representations in accordance to the demands of inner reason. External things in the world can never serve as standards of rationality of ethics; it is only things found within us, rational demands, that can serve as such standards. Taylor walks through numerous other thinks who preceded and marked the Enlightenment, including Locke and Montaigne, and also theologians of new branches of Protestant Christianity. While promoters of science and atheism, on the one hand, and Puritans and Calvinists, on the other hand, seem to be worlds apart - Taylor shows they are united on one regard. The conceptual developments in both strands involved overthrowing older hierarchies, which made only people from certain ranks in life worthy, and only certain sacred activities as worthy. From this leveled playing field, both strands affirmed that all people matter; and all activities in life, even mundane household activities, are of ethical import. Taylor calls this the elevation of ordinary life; it is central to our contemporary moral thinking. This is another step in the "inwardization" process of our conception of the self, in that now the mundane various experiences we have are worthy of recognition and value. Taylor covers a series of Romanticist philosophers and artists. They rebelled against Enlightenment rationality, the idea that disengaged reason, which steps back from the world, examines it as a totally separate object from our subjectivity, and takes it for its instrumental value (how the object can serve our personal ends and interests). Romanticism instead emphasized the importance of imagination and spontaneous feeling. They held that there is an inner voice within each person, which is the voice of uninhibited nature. We are not cut off from an objective world, which stands to serve our interests, as the Enlightenment held, but rather are a continuation or part of the world. This is another step of "inwardization"; our experiences are expressions of this inner voice, which is deep and unknowable in itself. Goodness is found in trying to know this voice. My only complaint with this book is that its ambitiousness, covering so many ideas and philosophers, makes it difficult to follow the main points, or to see how all the details presented support these points. I lost track of how ethical theories changed in tandem with changes in the conception of the self. I wasn't always sure how certain details amount to a change in this conception of the self. Regardless, this was a very worthwhile read. My favorite chapters were 6, 7, and 8 (covering Plato, Augustine and Descartes); and then 20, 21, and 24 (covering romanticism and the connections modernist art has with that). I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to step out of the box of western thought and be able to see its deepest assumptions. This is a prerequisite for being able to critically evaluate the western tradition. Taylor will help you do this, especially with regard to western ethics.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    Don't tell my dissertation advisers that I hadn't read this before I finished- they might revoke my degree. On the other hand, they might say "well, you don't really need to read this unless you're a convinced naturalist/procedural ethicist/purveyor of socio-biology. Which you're not." And this is the problem. Like reading Wittgenstein when you're not already an analytic philosopher, this is only going to blow your mind if you haven't read any 20th century philosophy and are a little uncomfortab Don't tell my dissertation advisers that I hadn't read this before I finished- they might revoke my degree. On the other hand, they might say "well, you don't really need to read this unless you're a convinced naturalist/procedural ethicist/purveyor of socio-biology. Which you're not." And this is the problem. Like reading Wittgenstein when you're not already an analytic philosopher, this is only going to blow your mind if you haven't read any 20th century philosophy and are a little uncomfortable with your Lockean beliefs. If you're comfortable with them, you'll shrug and say who gives a toss. The first 4 chapters look at late 20th century anglo-philosophical ethics, basically, stuff that follows from utilitarianism, Rawls or Nozick. Oddly, it's much more interesting than the following 21 chapters. CT is better when he's engaging with arguments, rather than when he's laying out his tremendous analysis of the modern self over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, all in slightly different permutations, and all strictly obeying the rule of three. There are three characteristics of *everything*. He nearly slips up when counting the 'frontiers of modern ethical thought;' on page 317 he tells us there are two of them... by 319 he's come to his senses and added in a third. Phew! Close call. He then reverts, still on 319, back to the claim that there are two. Do we have an editor in the house? Aside from being an execrable organizer of his own thought and a long-winded know-it-all, Taylor is quite readable. He thinks about important issues (e.g., just how important *is* the philosophical articulation of the self?) and is willing to take a stand or two: he rejects the twin ideas that we're contextless instrumental deciders, and that we're nothing. He's good on the importance of hermeneutics for understanding human life. He's very bad, though, on separating his own axe-grinding from his historical work; although he claims to be giving us an interpretation of the modern self, there's an awful lot of judgement against rationalism, 'subjectivism,' and so on. This wouldn't matter if he didn't conclude that knowing about these sources of the self can 'empower' us to 'live this identity more fully'. Since he's almost without exception described our identity as bad, why empower us? His readings of modernist texts are terrible; often there's no sign that he's even read the poems he describes. The same goes for many of the thinkers he discusses, most notably Adorno. Taylor has clearly read Habermas *on* Adorno, but that's like reading Obama's Goodreads review of Romney's book. This all sounds bad, but chapters 1-4, 9, and 19-21 are well worth reading. Taylor's book is a cornerstone of much current philosophical thought, and deserves its reputation as a classic. But it needs an abridgement if people are going to keep reading it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I wish I had read this book twenty years ago. In the face of a certain philosophical inarticulacy among 20th century participants in modern Western civilization (which is more or less everyone on the planet to some degree), about why we care so much about, for example, the right to direct one's own life, about the dignity of ordinary people, about the reduction of suffering, Taylor sets out on a voyage of exploration of the historic intellectual and cultural currents which have combined in creati I wish I had read this book twenty years ago. In the face of a certain philosophical inarticulacy among 20th century participants in modern Western civilization (which is more or less everyone on the planet to some degree), about why we care so much about, for example, the right to direct one's own life, about the dignity of ordinary people, about the reduction of suffering, Taylor sets out on a voyage of exploration of the historic intellectual and cultural currents which have combined in creating our modern sense of the self as one possessing depths that demand respect. In so doing, Taylor seeks to expose our continuing dependence on empowering "moral sources"--strong qualitative distinctions about better and worse ways to be and to act--even though much modern moral philosophy denies the legitimacy of such sources in favor of various procedural ethics. There are no undisputed or indisputable moral sources for us, but Taylor clarifies the issues on which our disputes converge, including the role of instrumental reason, the place of sources, and whether morality itself is good for human beings. It's hard to say anything clear and right about this book in so short a space. I learned a lot.

  7. 5 out of 5

    robin friedman

    Charles Taylor's Sources Of The Self The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has written two extended studies of what many people describe as modernity. The more recent of these books, "A Secular Age" (2007) examines the ways in which modern life became increasingly secularized or "disenchanted". Taylor in that book offered a long historical and analytical discussion of how people had, over centuries, tended to move away from a religious, transcendental outlook on life. Taylor received the Temple Charles Taylor's Sources Of The Self The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has written two extended studies of what many people describe as modernity. The more recent of these books, "A Secular Age" (2007) examines the ways in which modern life became increasingly secularized or "disenchanted". Taylor in that book offered a long historical and analytical discussion of how people had, over centuries, tended to move away from a religious, transcendental outlook on life. Taylor received the Templeton Prize for this impressive study. Nearly 20 years earlier, Taylor wrote the book I am reviewing here, "Sources of the Self" (1989). This book is, if anything, more difficult to read than its successor. The book addresses the same complex of questions as does "The Secular Age", but from the other end. Rather than focusing on God and secularization, the book describes "the making of the modern identity" -- concepts of human selfhood and human personality that have helped made modern life what it is. Both books show a great deal of erudition and take an approach both analytical and historical. As Taylor says, in order to know where we are, we have to know where we have been. In "The Secular Age", Taylor identifies himself at the outset as a practicing, believing Catholic. In the earlier book, he keeps his hand somewhat more hidden. His own commitments might even be missed under a casual reading of an extraordinarily dense book. Although the book wanders and lacks strong focus, Taylor's primary interest lies in showing what gives meaning to life. In the opening Part of this five-part book, Taylor explores the relationship between views of personal identity and views of the good. This section of the book is essential to understanding the long historical discussion that forms the remaining four Parts of the study. Taylor attacks various forms of ethical and metaphysical theories that deny the intelligibility of talking about "the good" or "the good life" for human beings. The denial frequently is based on various naturalistic or relativistic theories about the nature of the good which, Taylor claims, are in turn based upon a fractured approach to human knowing that he will describe in detail in the historical sections of the book. Human life, for Taylor, differs from other forms of life or types of things in that only human life possesses dignity. To have dignity, choices, and projects is what it is to be human and a self. By cutting the self off artificially from these sources is to narrow unduly the inquiry into self and goodness at the outset. Further, Taylor claims that thinkers who do so fequently are inconsistent and unaware of their own motivations. There goal is to cut off certain claims to transcendence or elitism as goals of life in favor of exhalting values such as ordinary life -- meaningful work, sexuality and sensuality, family, benevolence towards others, and broad equality. But, Taylor argues, their metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical commitments are insufficient to support the views of the good that these thinkers themselves tacitly hold. Following this long opening part, Taylor seemingly changes track. He discusses various historical concepts of the self that, Taylor claims, illustrate the many strands and tensions that inform the ways people today try to understand themselves. Thus, in part 2, Taylor begins with the ancients, proceeds through Augustine, and winds up with Descartes and Locke in showing how a disengaged, inward concept of the self developed at the outset of the modern scientific age. In part 3, Taylor discusses how "ordinary life" as I summarized it above, became the source of meaning for life; and he equates this with the shift from traditional theism to deism and ultimately to secularity. Taylor then describes the development of romanticism and nature as a response to instrumentalism and disengagement. Romanticism tended to lead to "expressivism" -- the value of individual creativity and subjectivity with the threat to "objective" understanding of good and value. The final part of the book, which covers a great deal with a broad brush begins with the Victorians and proceeds to show how modern thinkers, writers and artists reacted against both instrumentalism and expressivism. Taylor's analysis is dense, careful and difficult. The degree of learning is extraordinary, but it frequently gets in the way of understandability. It helped me to think of the book as something of a combination of Hegel and Heidegger. Very simply, the approach is Hegelian because Taylor tries to show how various concepts of the self developed historically, with each pointing out and attempting to address some perceived deficiency in an earlier approach. The approach is also Hegelian because Taylor is reluctant to reject any approach out of hand. The varying approaches he describes are not so much wrong as partial and incomplete. Taylor's goal is to take what he finds valuable in each of them and work to a synthesis rather than in advocating for one or the other approach. This seems to me to owe much to Hegel. The Heideggerian component of the book consists, I think, in Taylor's discomfort with a move towards objectification -- or separating the "self" from "nature". This truncation is, for Taylor, the result of a too narrow focus on epistemology. Taylor would begin instead with what Heidegger would call being-in-the-world and take life experience, before reduction to a scientific approach, as the source for understanding the self. This approach, Taylor suggests, would allow for the sense of the dignity of human life, and the plurality of goods that constitute a good life. Behind the carefully restrained and analytical prose, Taylor offers a strong critique of over-intellectualization. Among the many other writers that Taylor discusses, he seems also to have a great affinity for Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. This is a long, difficult, provocative,and sometimes diffuse work. Readers who have struggled with questions of meaning and value and who have a strong background in philosophy and literature will find this study, and Taylor's "The Secular Age" challenging and rewarding. Robin Friedman

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul Crider

    Taylor really lives up to the hype, although I must say as someone influenced by a lot of folks themselves influenced by Taylor, the book did feel like a bit of a slog at parts. One of the basic theses is to affirm value pluralism, particularly values prone to conflicting with one another. But Taylor's contribution (in my estimation) is to bring the depth of intellectual genealogy to these values, or "moral sources." He paints a vivid picture of how these moral sources have evolved, and how they Taylor really lives up to the hype, although I must say as someone influenced by a lot of folks themselves influenced by Taylor, the book did feel like a bit of a slog at parts. One of the basic theses is to affirm value pluralism, particularly values prone to conflicting with one another. But Taylor's contribution (in my estimation) is to bring the depth of intellectual genealogy to these values, or "moral sources." He paints a vivid picture of how these moral sources have evolved, and how they interact and borrow from one another, often implicitly and surreptitiously. I buy into this overall view, but I'm skeptical of the view Taylor never quite says but seems to imply, that there was some earlier time when actually living individuals had conflict-free moral sources (or moral sources with full buy-in). Among the ancients, Taylor barely mentions Aristotle. I find this puzzling since his own approach seems broadly Aristotelian based on its contextual pluralism.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    In the absence of context, tradition and culture the modern self is impenetrable. Taylor provides the history necessary in order to understand how modern people (or at least up to the year 1989) got their meaning and purpose. The story presented is not an easy one to follow. A lot of the names he talks about are just names to me (Rilke, Ardono, D. H. Lawrence, Eliot, Yeats, and hundreds of more, I’m very ignorant on literature and poetry). I’m almost certain I could pick a paragraph at random fro In the absence of context, tradition and culture the modern self is impenetrable. Taylor provides the history necessary in order to understand how modern people (or at least up to the year 1989) got their meaning and purpose. The story presented is not an easy one to follow. A lot of the names he talks about are just names to me (Rilke, Ardono, D. H. Lawrence, Eliot, Yeats, and hundreds of more, I’m very ignorant on literature and poetry). I’m almost certain I could pick a paragraph at random from this book and write a page or two beyond what he doesn’t tell the reader because he expects the reader to be familiar with the context and relations inherent with the story. Each paragraph is that compact and dense and challenging. I don’t mind challenging books and this book was challenging. The author builds the foundation for his modern self affirmation through ordinary life thesis by dissecting the Enlightenment, the Romantics, and the modernist and contrasting how they thought about themselves with how we think about ourselves. He makes Schopenhauer a critical character by dividing time by pre and post Schopenhauer. The ‘Futurist’, the pre-runners to Mussolini and the fascist always provide insights for me into Trump and how he likes to manipulate his base through hate and state worship through patriotism and unmerited pride possessed by individuals who make up his hating the others choir (his 48%). The Futurists were mentioned about 8 times throughout the book as the author focuses on the modernist writers and artists. “The world is subsumed under the will” with supreme glory coming from sacrifice to the state through complete obedience to the one person who is the only one can solve their problems (at least according to the narcissistic leader) caused by the other who are not in tuned to their patriotic belief system based on unwarranted pride. Reality based narratives are antithetical to them even to the point of believing ‘climate change is a Chinese hoax’ or ‘Russia did not try to influence the election’. Faith in the words of the leader and what Fox News is telling them that day trumps reality to the point that 'secret societies' exist within the FBI or 'deep state' is real. This book read like ‘The Age of Atheist’ (which incidentally and oddly got renamed as ‘The Age of Nothing’, I guess the word ‘atheist’ in the title turns people off), except in the case of this book, ‘Sources’ the author is not really just dropping names he knows their context and how they fit together in telling the story for the modern self. I got the feeling that the ‘Culture and the Death of God’ author was heavily influenced by this book. He did quote Taylor and his ultimate theme, ‘religion never goes away because culture always remains’ overlaps with what Taylor is trying to get at with in this book. But, to be clear, Taylor in this book sees Leo Strauss and the Frankfurt School for the dead end esoteric system they really are and ‘Culture’ did not. (I need to explain, I used the word ‘esoteric’ because that is a big belief for Strauss and his accolades. I meant it as an insult. They are the original ‘neo-Cons’ incidentally). Yes, overall ‘Sources’ gets detailed and expects readers to see connections through context. The footnotes hid many of the best connections. Joyce and Proust are also presented and dissected within this story. I mention them in particular because of something ‘Culture’ had said. ‘The modernist such as Joyce and Proust use time and remembrance as a reflection for Grace’, this book ‘Secular’ brings in similar sentiments in his weaving of his story (I believe). Surprisingly (for me) Taylor embraces a modern subjectivist outlook for society as it is filtered through the lenses of its historical development. He points out in the book that there is no more vacuous statement then along the lines that ‘our values’ give us our meaning. Our values (our goods) have to have meaning for us as individuals and don’t pop up out of the vacuum. We are not atoms and our meaning and understanding comes about through the whole. We live such that ‘parents without partners’ have no relevance for the individual after the partner is found (he gave that example in the book). I didn’t always agree with the theme or the story he was trying to tell, but I enjoy reading a book that assumed the reader had read other books, and was familiar with history and philosophy from the Enlightenment to today (1989).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adam Gurri

    One of the deepest, most subtle books of philosophy and its history that I have ever read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    J.I.

    This is one of the most important books one can read on modern philosophy from a moderate Christian perspective. It is also readable. I highly recommend it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Clark

    This is my second reading of Taylor's now "classic" text outlining the spiritual and historical origins of modern western culture. To be clear, by "spiritual origins" I mean Taylor primarily dissects Christianity's contribution to the formation of Anglo-American culture. Taylor, a Catholic, is even-handed when handling protestant/catholic issues but covers little of non-Christian religious traditions. First published in 1989, Taylor's analysis has stood up well and remains a key source. (in addi This is my second reading of Taylor's now "classic" text outlining the spiritual and historical origins of modern western culture. To be clear, by "spiritual origins" I mean Taylor primarily dissects Christianity's contribution to the formation of Anglo-American culture. Taylor, a Catholic, is even-handed when handling protestant/catholic issues but covers little of non-Christian religious traditions. First published in 1989, Taylor's analysis has stood up well and remains a key source. (in addition to his newest book continuing and completing his argument ) Sources of the Self is an essential starting point for any student studying at the interface of religious belief and contemporary culture. Although my devoting such a great amount of time (twice)! to this 500 page text may seem excessive, close reading of the text has been more than rewarding. In particular, Taylor's final chapters: "Visions of the Post-Romantic Age" and "Epiphanies of Modernism" provided a helpful intellectual infrastructure for both my long-standing interest in theology and the arts and a newer imaginative literature project. In many ways the twenty plus years since the author wrote the text have added significant validation to his assertions. I know of no other text with such a wide-ranging, thoughtful, yet distilled analysis of modern imaginative culture. However, be forewarned: the writing here is academic and I do not mean simply the presence of numerous endnotes. Taylor's prose while clear is ponderous and without literary style. Worthwhile reading, but Sources of the Self does require a committed reader.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Caleb

    Sources of the Self offers a sympathetic and compelling account of the modern identity. Taylor's approach is historical and interpretative; he aims to explain how it is that the dominant aims and values of modernity, concerns related to interiority, or a subjectivity, ordinary life (i.e., commerce, the nuclear family, etc), and the importance of the natural world can be seen to be compelling, to articulate goods that are valuable and worth pursuing. The result is a complex narrative that, in dif Sources of the Self offers a sympathetic and compelling account of the modern identity. Taylor's approach is historical and interpretative; he aims to explain how it is that the dominant aims and values of modernity, concerns related to interiority, or a subjectivity, ordinary life (i.e., commerce, the nuclear family, etc), and the importance of the natural world can be seen to be compelling, to articulate goods that are valuable and worth pursuing. The result is a complex narrative that, in different ways, resists the decline narratives made famous by Karl Polanyi, MacIntyre, Brad Gregory, amongst others, suggesting that modernity can and must be embraced, because, when sympathetically considered, we cannot but recognize the importance of the constitutive goods of modernity.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Rios

    Expansive, if not quite comprehensive, account of key changes in perception of the 'self' from the ancient world to the present. A fascinating read, although at times cumbersome and a little repetitive. Expansive, if not quite comprehensive, account of key changes in perception of the 'self' from the ancient world to the present. A fascinating read, although at times cumbersome and a little repetitive.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kristian-Alberto

    A must-read interpretative analysis of modernity and our self. Truly a study that help whomever reads it to understand themselves and our times better. While the book could have been organised better and the main argument could have been laid out more clearly, it is without a doubt a masterpiece of the 20th century.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. from the library see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sources_... Table of Contents Preface Part I. Identity and the Good: 1. Inescapable frameworks 2. The self in moral space 3. Ethics of inarticulacy 4. Moral sources Part II: Inwardness: 5. Moral topography 6. Plato's self-mastery 7. 'In Interiore Homine' 8. Descartes's disengaged reason 9. Locke's punctual self 10. Exploring 'l'Humaine Condition' 11. Inner nature 12. A digression on historical explanation Part III. The Affirmation of Ordinary Life: 13. 'God Loveth from the library see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sources_... Table of Contents Preface Part I. Identity and the Good: 1. Inescapable frameworks 2. The self in moral space 3. Ethics of inarticulacy 4. Moral sources Part II: Inwardness: 5. Moral topography 6. Plato's self-mastery 7. 'In Interiore Homine' 8. Descartes's disengaged reason 9. Locke's punctual self 10. Exploring 'l'Humaine Condition' 11. Inner nature 12. A digression on historical explanation Part III. The Affirmation of Ordinary Life: 13. 'God Loveth Adverbs' 14. Rationalised Christianity 15. Moral sentiments 16. The providential order 17. The culture of modernity Part IV. The Voice of Nature: 18. Fractured horizons 19. Radical enlightenment 20. Nature as source 21. The Expressivist turn Part V. Subtler Languages: 22. Our Victorian contemporaries 23. Visions of the post-romantic age 24. Epiphanies of modernism 25. Conclusion: the conflicts of modernity Notes Index.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Taylor has a way of writing about intellectual history that leaves you subtly changed. After reading this, you'll no longer be able to escape the understanding that your imagination, ideas and aspirations are dependent on the streams of thinkers preceding you. Their approaches to timeless problems are embedded in your grammar. This doesn't mean you are trapped inside a narrow band of thinking. On the contrary, you may be able to exercise greater insight and imagination as a result of knowing thi Taylor has a way of writing about intellectual history that leaves you subtly changed. After reading this, you'll no longer be able to escape the understanding that your imagination, ideas and aspirations are dependent on the streams of thinkers preceding you. Their approaches to timeless problems are embedded in your grammar. This doesn't mean you are trapped inside a narrow band of thinking. On the contrary, you may be able to exercise greater insight and imagination as a result of knowing this. Taylor makes a convincing pitch for engaging the full constellation of values that are available to us through this very broad reading of intellectual history. He shows that the frequent excesses of movements of all stripes (left, right, fundmentalist, liberationist, libertarian, communitarian) are the natural outcomes of adopting some single hyper-value to the exclusion of others.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Erin Blaire

    500+ pages on the history of philosophy that composed the modern self and its moral sources. Can it be that Taylor’s account of constitutive goods falls into a potential moral relativism? Or does his suggestion of a cosmic order with a theistic background impinge on a moral authority of some transcendental authority and standard to which our constitutive goods can conform to? For the first matter, yes, if the acceptance of goods without a regard for its consequences perpetuated by subjectivism b 500+ pages on the history of philosophy that composed the modern self and its moral sources. Can it be that Taylor’s account of constitutive goods falls into a potential moral relativism? Or does his suggestion of a cosmic order with a theistic background impinge on a moral authority of some transcendental authority and standard to which our constitutive goods can conform to? For the first matter, yes, if the acceptance of goods without a regard for its consequences perpetuated by subjectivism becomes an unrestrained site of moral perception. For the second matter, we shall see. For he does not make any specific hypergood or framework over and above others—that is not what he sets out to do. He wants to elucidate how such goods can inform who we are and how we live our lives, and how we might access these goods. What is interesting is that though he articulates the modern identity as lacking a providential sense of cosmic order, and even a grounding constitutive good, he does not explicitly deal with the disappearance of telos (as MacIntyre assesses as the modern problem). In a naturalist, reflexive, self-reflective version of modern identity, how may the role of telos inform one’s sense of purpose and belonging in the world? Between the metaphysics of the premodern framework and the autonomy of the modern, the first seems to put metaphysics before agency while the latter rules out metaphysics completely. How can telos conceivably provide some link between modern autonomy and premodern metaphysics of the order or “Form”? It also appears that Taylor stands between some sense of moral projectivism and moral realism. While he holds the hope of a theistic vision for the source of goods, he nonetheless affirms the significance of our moral intuition. But given the modern condition and the state of metaphysics (or lack thereof), can constitutive good rise from Weber’s disenchanting universe, whether it be from our own intuition or a theistic understanding of the Good? Taylor neither articulates a particular constitutive good, nor does he elaborate on a particular background of metaphysics. Despite the nebulous or ambiguous background, he contends that we can come to see and practice the good through some perceived order, some sense of the good, with some language of being. Now, given this backdrop, I wonder 1. Is a theistic understanding of moral sources necessary and 2. Do the constitutive goods efficaciously inform our ontology, or merely our epistemology of the good? His form of inwardness is open to what lies beyond (by necessity) at least, this is what he proposes. We are to articulate what we live through and search for moral sources OUTSIDE ourselves through a language that resonates WITHIN us. In this sense, the source outside the self that resonates with the self is the basis for our affirmation of the ordinary life and reaction to others. Nonetheless, I cannot help but wonder if something outside the universe aligns our desire, motivations affection and the sources of the good, what discriminates who is pulled by that force and who is not? Or is the difference what is within us that is doing the pulling? Without the inner, can we come to recognize what is outside of us? To this, Taylor may align with the hyper-Augustinian view of the two-loves to say yes, we go inward to go beyond. That going outward requires our going inward, nonetheless that very reflexive turn is through the act of divine grace. Yet who or what is it within us that inspires us to accept or reject that grace? Especially if he affirms some moral intuition that we all have? For this, I question two aspects of his moral intuition 1. Is locating the good within us, moral sources within, made possible by a reflexive turn? Taylor himself seems it necessary that we will be limited without a theistic notion illuminating beyond what we do or can come to know. Nonetheless, can our sense of moral intuitions be in some sense an illusory denial of Augustinian’s depravity? Or weakness of the will and motivation? (In kantian terms). This is not to say that there cannot be sources of the good within, but rather a matter of how we come to recognize the good apart from inclinations for evil. And how will we know something is a source within when there are matters within that obstructs our ability to see the good? This is my attempt at leveling a critique against a naturalist understanding of moral intuition (if they were to form one)—how can we see something in our nature that is good, if something in our nature also deters our ability to see the good? 2. Even if we do come to see our own source of goodness through our moral intuition can this be a faithful portrayal of moral realism or accentuating the “good” without the acceptance of the reality of suffering and need for something beyond ourselves? I ask this because I am leery of the confidence put in our moral intuition, especially Taylor’s evaluation to not discredit goods that are potentially destructive. Not only does this heighten the problem of moral relativism and the absence of a sense of hierarchy of goods he himself proposes, it also presents another moral problem—of how the individual stands in relation to one another. Taylor does seem reticent about how the living institutions, organizations, and practices where our identity is embedded, impinge in our sense of who we are and our moral sources. Though initially appearing to be a communitarian, the absence of a sociopolitical discourse, lack of engaging with social transformation and individual participating in democratic politics seem to raise the question—is the modern self now made possible without responding to others and the society he belongs to?

  19. 4 out of 5

    William

    A tome, but even with some dated interpretations of various philosophers, I read this entire book on the red 1,3,9 train and the 7 train heading to work at Citicorp while getting the MFA in NYC-- Taylor's vision of the social, psychological, economic development of the self and his thirst for communitarian principles won me over! A tome, but even with some dated interpretations of various philosophers, I read this entire book on the red 1,3,9 train and the 7 train heading to work at Citicorp while getting the MFA in NYC-- Taylor's vision of the social, psychological, economic development of the self and his thirst for communitarian principles won me over!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eliezer Sneiderman

    Still processing this book. I think the first third worked better than the rest of the work. Taylor documents the development of the modern concept of "Identity" and analyzes how it has changed over time. Self-actualization used to be connected to deeper questions of "Good" and "Existence". Today, the concept is very, very thin. Still processing this book. I think the first third worked better than the rest of the work. Taylor documents the development of the modern concept of "Identity" and analyzes how it has changed over time. Self-actualization used to be connected to deeper questions of "Good" and "Existence". Today, the concept is very, very thin.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Winston

    An incredibly compact (all things considering) historical analysis of selfhood in the Western tradition. Highly recommended to those who are interested.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Hockey

    Rereading some of the ideas in this book, just to clarify my perspective and thoughts relative to it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dale Muckerman

    The question as to what is the good is for Taylor an enquiry into what are the values of our society and where did they come from. Taylor provides an in depth look that might change the way you look at the world. In many ways, our culture is in agreement as to what our values are. The problem is that the values themselves are in some ways contradictory and in tension with each other. We value a neutral disengaged scientific point of view, yet also value universal benevolence, freedom, and the in The question as to what is the good is for Taylor an enquiry into what are the values of our society and where did they come from. Taylor provides an in depth look that might change the way you look at the world. In many ways, our culture is in agreement as to what our values are. The problem is that the values themselves are in some ways contradictory and in tension with each other. We value a neutral disengaged scientific point of view, yet also value universal benevolence, freedom, and the intrinsic worth of ordinary life (in contrast to believing only certain classes have value). The more value we place on one item, the more we tend to devalue another item. For example, disengaged scientific thinking wants to devalue religion and ethical systems in general, even though they often espouse certain values like universal benevolence which developed out of our religious and philosophical traditions. Taylor points out that it is ironic that the disengaged scientific point of view espouses any values since it claims to be neutral and disengaged. Another example of my own is how some egalitarian perspectives seem to belittle the ordinary people they want to represent by seeing them as stupid --- egalitarian values here are in tension with the idea that ordinary lives have some intrinsic value. It is ironic that the egalitarians are rather elitist. Perhaps if these people had read Taylor, they would be more aware of their values. Taylor traces the development of our values, and so readers need to have some understanding of philosophers to follow much of his thought. In the end what Taylor gives us is a way of looking at the world that allows us to discern the real values that are at hand and to strive to understand the moral sources that are behind them. Taylor sees the limits of many points of view, but does not disparage any of them. Rather, he sees what is valuable in them. I previously read Taylor's "A Secular Age" and thought it was excellent, but "Sources of the Self" is more complete in many ways, and develops ideas Taylor explores in another way in A Secular Age. I really think the Taylor is one of those rare philosophers who scope is broad and whose vision is deep.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    An impressive historical exploration of the conflicting moral sources that shaped modernity--the ancient Greek and Abrahamic ideas of an ordered cosmos, the Enlightenment belief in disengaged reason, and Romantic views of Nature and self-expression. Taylor examines the historical trends leading to our modern sense of self -- the gradual evolution of the notion that the self possesses "inner depths"; the gradual "disenchantment" of the world; the dramatic elevation of the worth of everyday life - An impressive historical exploration of the conflicting moral sources that shaped modernity--the ancient Greek and Abrahamic ideas of an ordered cosmos, the Enlightenment belief in disengaged reason, and Romantic views of Nature and self-expression. Taylor examines the historical trends leading to our modern sense of self -- the gradual evolution of the notion that the self possesses "inner depths"; the gradual "disenchantment" of the world; the dramatic elevation of the worth of everyday life --work and family --as opposed to the life of nobility and glory or of asceticism; the escape into procedural (e.g., Kantian or Utilitarian) definitions of ethics that avoid dealing with notions of the Good; evolving views of the moral status of Nature; a movement from unquestioning belief in Providence towards a modernity where even devout believers struggle with doubt; and a movement towards an instrumental relationship with oneself, others, and Nature and its inevitable discontents. Taylor displays an amazing degree of erudition in Western history, philosophy, theology, culture, and art and writes about it with not only great thoughtfulness and judgement, but also with humility, wit and style.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Myles

    When I was younger I felt I could read moral philosophy and epistemology until the cows came home. I am forever curious about the state of reality and humankind’s place it. So I read this book with a little nostalgia about the years before I became tethered by familial and commercial responsibilities. I wondered if I could still read philosophy. This probably wasn’t a good book to start with. I have fond memories or reading an earlier work of Taylor. This voice was clear, his scholarship was profou When I was younger I felt I could read moral philosophy and epistemology until the cows came home. I am forever curious about the state of reality and humankind’s place it. So I read this book with a little nostalgia about the years before I became tethered by familial and commercial responsibilities. I wondered if I could still read philosophy. This probably wasn’t a good book to start with. I have fond memories or reading an earlier work of Taylor. This voice was clear, his scholarship was profound. In this book the scholarship gets a little carried away. Too many references. Too many avenues of thought here. I think the title of the book should have been “Sources of the Good.” He seems more concerned with where to find the good in people, and where people have been looking for it through the ages.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joel Zartman

    "The trouble with most of the views that I consider inadequate, and that I want to define mine in contrast to here, is that their sympathies are too narrow. They find their way through the dilemmas of modernity by invalidating some of the crucial goods in contest." That is in a nutshell what this long, difficult, and crucial book is about. It is an astonishing work of intellectual history. Also, incidentally, but obviously, it is a lesson in what a breadth and depth of reading all the canonical b "The trouble with most of the views that I consider inadequate, and that I want to define mine in contrast to here, is that their sympathies are too narrow. They find their way through the dilemmas of modernity by invalidating some of the crucial goods in contest." That is in a nutshell what this long, difficult, and crucial book is about. It is an astonishing work of intellectual history. Also, incidentally, but obviously, it is a lesson in what a breadth and depth of reading all the canonical books can accomplish.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David Collins

    Fantastic book. Super insightful and illuminating on how history/philosophers have helped or facilitated our current understanding of self. Definitely will be reading again in the future because there’s a lot here to unpack and one reading isn’t sufficient for all the treasure that buried in this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aren Lerner

    Absolutely the most interesting book I think I've ever read! Taylor's discussion is vital for understanding the modern sense of self and the moral dilemmas that have come to characterize the current social climate. Absolutely the most interesting book I think I've ever read! Taylor's discussion is vital for understanding the modern sense of self and the moral dilemmas that have come to characterize the current social climate.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beni Beattie

    Beautiful book full of dialectical embellishments and this and that: a great book to ask the essential modern question what is that is I?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chandrasen Rajashekar

    Time Ferris Show - #447 Yuval Noah Harrari book recommendation Very intense, very difficult and very big book. But it’s really worth.

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