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Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity

Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity

by Charles TaylorCharles Taylor
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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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674824263
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 03/01/1992
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 316,677
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Charles Taylor is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at McGill University and author of influential books including Sources of the Self, The Ethics of Authenticity, and A Secular Age. He has received many honors, including the Templeton Prize, the Berggruen Prize, and membership in the Order of Canada.

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.

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Surely one of the most important philosophical works of the last quarter of a century.

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