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Goods and life-forms


Goods and life-forms
Relativism in Charles Taylor’s
political philosophy
Hartmut Rosa
John Gunnell, in a recent paper in Political Theory. I

want to turn first to Taylor’s ideas about the nature of

argues that a concern with the problem or threat of








relativism is a, or even the, central structuring theme of

exemplification of these in his analysis of modernity. I

contemporary political and social philosophy. It is the

will then go on to articulate my critique of Taylor’s

common element of approaches as different as the

conception of practical reason and of our alleged

Critical Theory of, say, Habermas, the postmodernism

obligation to adopt the goods of modernity. In the last,

of Rorty or Foucault, liberal ideas such as those of

short part of this paper, I will offer a brief, rather

Dworkin or Rawls, or more communitarian approaches

preliminary suggestion of my own about how to cope

such as the one advocated by Charles Taylor. Of course,

analytically with the problems of cultural and ethical

not all of these authors are equally critical of any

difference and change.

relativistic implications in their theories or equally
anxious categorically to rule out any such consequences
from them. On the contrary, for many commentators the
ideas of Rorty or Foucault are plainly historicist and
relativist. However, virtually no author, not even
someone like Peter Winch, would openly accept for himor herself the label of relativism. They all shy away from
this term as if it referred to something like rabies.

Forms of life and modernity
A recurrent theme in almost all of Taylor’ s writings is
his objection to all kinds of ‘naturalist’ positions which
hold that human agents and/or human societies or forms
of life can be analyzed from a disengaged, or


perspective, that is, from a neutral observer’s stance
which is independent from the point of view of

By contrast, Charles Taylor, on whom this paper will
focus, considers himself as an outright anti-relativist, and
he directs quite a substantial amount of his thinking and

participants. The crudest forms of naturalism are those
which we see in scientific approaches such as
behaviourism or empirical positivism. However,

writing towards refuting what he calls (relativist) Neo-

naturalist ideas also guide attempts to analyze the

Nietzschean thinking, particularly of the Foucauldian

predicament of modernity from an ({cultural perspective.

brand. I want to argue in this paper that, contrary to

The distinction between cultural and acultural analyses

Taylor’s intentions, and apparently quite unnoticed by

of modernity has recently been taken up again by Taylor



in his ‘Modernity and the Rise of the Public Sphere’.1 It

reintroduce the problem of relativism more radically and

is of great help for the clarification of his standpoint.

pressingly than do most of the other contemporary

Cultural approaches set out to compare the life-form of





theories. In opposition to an argument made recently by

modernity as just one amongst many possible cultural

James Bohman,2 according to which Taylor has moved

forms with other, particularly pre-modern, forms of life.

over time from an early, more relati vist position to a more

The idea of a form of life thereby follows Wittgenstein in

value-objective or realist position in his recent writings,

that it focuses strongly on the linguistic constitution of

I will argue here that Taylor has not really changed his

culture and personal identity. Inherent in the institutions

view over time (except perhaps for some change in

and practices of every life-form is a distinct, specific

emphasis). The crucial point is rather an inconsistency

view of the essence and nature of the world, of the

between Taylor’ s fundamental project of a philosophical

position and function of the individual in society and the

anthropology – which in a broader sense includes his

world writ large, of the best or just ordering of the

methodological writings – and his conception of practical

community, of the good life for the individual and of the

reason. In order to bring out this problem to the full, I

common good, of what constitutes real or solid


Radical Philosophy 71



knowledge and so on.

of human knowledge are such that they indispensably

By contrast, acultural explanations assume that the






require the self-definition of human subjects against a
solid background of values

and meanings (or

secularization, the rise of instrumental reason, the

significances). This background is linguistically and

distinction between facts and values, different processes

intersubjectively constituted, but within a specific life-

of rationalization etc. are universal developments which

form it is necessarily taken as an ontological given. In

could in principle occur in any traditional culture, or

other words, human agency, identity and knowledge are

which in fact inevitably will occur in every traditional


culture since they enable man to master and use his

acceptance of some final and ultimate or highest goods.





natural environment and achieve his ends most

‘However understood, the notion of a human identity

effectively. Now the problem with such an acultural

without such a sense brings us close to the unimaginable

account of modernity is that it fails to realize that the

limit of total breakdown’, Taylor writes in his article on



ideal of disengagement, i.e.

modernityO and this is also one of the central insights in

naturalism, has in the course of the development of

his Sources of the Se(f. 7 At the same time, our

modernity been turned into an overall form or way of

relationships with our fellows and the community we live

life. This is why acultural theorists think they discover

in cannot be of a purely instrumental character but must

human universals when in fact they explore just one

be viewed as constitutive of our identity. ‘We can only

particular life-form.4 The modern individual is thus

define ourselves in exchange with others, those who

interpreted, and views herself, as the isolated, disengaged

bring us up, and those whose society we come to see as

individual who is opposed to a neutral universe which

constitutive of our identity.’x While these two points –

stands at his or her disposal. Acultural accounts of

the constitutive roles of goods and of community –

modernity hold that such a view ofthe individual as homo
oeconomicus and equal rights bearer is the natural
consequence of the crumbling of false metaphysical and
religious beliefs and myths. Once these are rejected, we
find that matters of values and of acceptable grounds for
association with others in society cannot be taken from
the larger order of the universe, or a chain of being or
something comparable. According to the naturalist view,
no conception of the good or the valuable, or of the good
life, can be derived from the way the world is or can be
rationally defended, and our relationship to our fellows
or the community can only be conceived of in
instrumental terms, as is exemplified, for example, in
contractual theories.

From the insight that all horizons of significance and
value have to be set by ourselves, from within ourselves,

represent the central themes around which Taylor’s
thinking evolves and which instruct his multifaceted
methodological, political and ethical writings, they can
only be understood in the larger context of his
(hermeneutical) philosophical anthropology, which I
want to explore a bit further now before returning to the
issue of modernity.

Philosophical anthropology: self·
interpretation and strong evaluation
Taylor’s philosophical anthropology, which centres
around his philosophy of agency and identity, is based
on two core concepts which are a view of man as self

interpreting animal and as a strong evaluator.

Early on in his writings Taylor comes up with the

it follows inevitably that there is a plurality of possible

idea that man is a self-interpreting animal. 9 He does not

perspectives on life and that all horizons of significance,

just mean by that that human beings are always forced to

and therefore of identity, can be challenged and

interpret and evaluate themselves and their environment.

relativized or can be genealogically explained away.

Rather he wants to say that there is nothing like a human

Consequently, it seems that all matters of value and of

self or identity or society outside or prior to such a self-

truth can ultimately be reduced to questions of power,

interpretation. Social reality and personal identity only

and different forms of life appear to be distinguishable

are what they are in virtue of endorsed self-

only with reference to power-structures.) Accordingly,

interpretations. Hence self-interpretation is constitutive

most of the distinct modern conceptions of morality, of

of human identity and society in a very fundamental way.

political institutions and of science strive to be neutral

That is what on the methodological plain accounts for

towards questions of the good. Now in the view of

Taylor’s angry opposition to all kinds of behaviourist or

Charles Taylor, all this is based on a fundamental

empiricist approaches in the human sciences which try

confusion and misunderstanding of the nature of human

to explain human behaviour without recourse to the

existence and of society. For the transcendental

agents’ self-understandings. Meaningful scientific

conditions of human agency and identity and ultimately

explanation for him indispensably requires the


incorporation of the agent’s self-interpretation (this is

evaluative frameworks which implicitly contain an

expressed in the Best-Account-Principle). Thereby it is

ontological account of what ‘really matters’. For Taylor,

beyond doubt for Taylor that self-interpretations are not

human agency and personal identity as well as human

achieved monologically. For the available patterns of

community are inconceivable outside such horizons of

interpretation (and with them the possible contents of

significance or evaluative frameworks. IS

experience) are always encoded in language. As such
they are a shared social possession and they are
intersubjectively conveyed. Furthermore, the ensuing
patterns of significance are quite literally manifested or
materialized in the predominant social institutions and
practices as intersubjective and common meanings. lo
Now it is crucial for Taylor’s view of human selfand world-interpretations that these always have to be
based on what he calls strong evaluations. ‘Our selfunderstanding essentially incorporates our seeing

Consequences for the analysis of
Now it seems clear for Taylor that different cultures,
languages and life-forms contain different moral maps
or evaluative frameworks and consequently live within
different horizons of significance. (This is why, in my
view, Taylor should not be seen as a moral realist. In).

And since all ofthese frameworks implicitly or explicitly

ourselves against a background of what I have called

must contain some conception of the relevant

strong evaluation. I mean by that a background of
distinctions between things which are recognized as of
categoric or unconditioned or higher importance or
worth, and things which lack this or are of lesser value’ ,
he defines in the introduction to his Philosophical
Papers. I I With this concept of strong evaluation Taylor
is drawing on an idea of Harry Frankfurt, who advocated
the view that persons are the only beings capable of
developing ‘second order desires’, that is to say the only
beings who can or must morally evaluate their own
desires and needs and judge them as desired or
undesired. 12 However, Taylor strongly insists on the
point that these second order volitions are not just desires,
but reasoned evaluations or judgements. But we can only
make such judgements if we take some intrinsically
valuable goods (which direct these strong evaluations)
as ontological givens. This we must do by transcendental
necessity, for otherwise we cannot establish the

hypergoods or constitutive goods which inspire and

necessary distance and independence towards our first
order desires and needs. 13
The anthropological argument that we cannot but

motivate human agency within such a life-form, and with
recourse to which conflicts between incompatible life
goods are resolved,17 it follows necessarily that
modernity as a life-form must contain such an evaluative
framework and hypergood conception as well. And the
hypergoods which motivate and constitute us moderns
must inspire our moral and scientific visions as well, no
matter how hard we try to achieve neutrality with respect
to the question of the good. This is why Taylor in almost
all of his writings (apart from the early, strictly
methodological ones) is concerned with uncovering the
motives behind the theories and practices which are
distinct from the modern ‘naturalist’ life-form. Thus he
tries to uncover or identify in a host of articles the
motives or the ideals or goods which inspire and guide
procedural ethics IX and utilitarianism,19 political
liberalism, individualism and atomism,20 scientific
behaviourism 21 and so on.

He thinks that at the fundamental root of all these
theories and practices which together could be said to

make strong evaluations rests on Taylor’s idea that the

determine the naturalist life-form lie the hypergoods of

self, by anthropological necessity, finds itself placed in a

disengaged reason (respectively disengaged identity,

multidimensional moral space in which subjects have to

radical autonomy or freedom and instrumental

orient and define themselves quite in analogy to physical

rationality) which go together with the affirmation of

space. More detailed, we have to define ourselves in

ordinary life. Now the central problem of naturalism for

relation to our fellow human beings, with respect to a

Taylor lies in the fact that the ideals of disengagement

conception of the good life, and with respect to our own

and radical autonomy in the last resort force us with

status or dignity in this moral space. 1-1 In order to define

epistemological necessity radically to deny any

our own standpoint and sense of direction in moral space,

dependence on these very ideals. For dependence on any

we need a kind of moral map that defines the horizons of

constitutive good entails engagement, the loss of

the important and the unimportant, the good and the bad,

neutrality and the end of full autonomy. But this urge to

the beautiful and noble, as well as the ugly and mean etc.

deny the effective and constitutive goods in the long run

Hence, we all are by anthropological necessity equipped

endangers and eventually destroys the very goods and

with such a moral map from which we read off our strong

the derivative vision of the good life that lie at the heart

evaluations. Moral maps are thus substantive ethical or

of the naturalist form of life, since a good which is not


recognized, but denied, cannot be motivating and

nationalism can in part be explained as romantic protests

inspiring and action-guiding; in short, it loses its status

against the dominant naturalist ideologyY Nevertheless

as a moral source. Thus, Taylor feels that one of the

he hopes that the different goods involved will in the end

dangers of modernity and the main source of the malaise

turn out to be combinable and simultaneously realizable.


might be that naturalism could turn out to

However, I do not want to go into this in depth; rather

be merely parasitic and in the long run self-destructive.

I want to put into question the status of these goods that

It depends on prior moral goods (which originally have

Taylor invokes. In particular, the question arises about

Christian roots), but it cannot recognize these goods as

how far, if at all, these goods are identifiable with the

effective moral sources. At the same time it is incapable

good per se. Or, put differently, is there any good in

of creating new visions of the goodY

pursuing these particular goods or are they just the

However, this does not mean for Taylor that the

contingent outcome of innumerable ideological conflicts

project of modernity is lost. Quite to the contrary, he is

and manoeuvres which are ultimately bound up with

rather optimistic on the positive potentialities of our
predicament. This optimism is supported by two main

struggles of interest and power, as Quentin Skinner
critically argues against Taylor?2X

pillars. In the first place, he thinks that all we need to do
is to recover and regain our fundamental constitutive
goods as effective moral sources. This, he thinks, can

Goods and the good: the dilemma of
practical reason

best be done by trying to articulate them as fully as
possible, for only articulated goods can be truly

Skinner’s critique closely resembles Michel Foucault’s

motivating and can constitute identity, which in turn

arguments, as put forward, for example, in ‘Nietzsche,

explains Taylor’s emphasis on issues of articulation.

Genealogy, History: ‘To follow the complex course of

Since these moral sources are already out there in our

descent is .. , to identify the accidents, the minute

culture, all we have to do is to resist the misguided

deviations – or conversely, the complete reversals – the

epistemological urge to deny their recognition. This urge

errors, the false appraisals, and the faulty calculations
that gave birth to those things that continue to exist and

only arises when some goods, such as autonomy, are one-

central aspirations of this paradigm is the overcoming of

have value for us; it is to discover that truth or being does
not lie at the root of what we know and what we are, but
the exteriority of accidents.’29 Against thi~, Charles
Taylor, in my view, has a clear tendency to conflate the
cultural goods with the good per se and to account for
historical change in terms of progress and moral growth
etc. 30 The reason for that might be on the one hand his
Hegelian vein and on the other the fact that, as I have
tried to show, his very anthropology demands of us that
we take our goods as ontological givens. At the same
time, Taylor defends a conception of practical reason
which holds that it is possible to judge or evaluate

the naturalist dualisms between mind and body,

different conceptions of the good or different ethical

sidedly taken to the extreme and pursued exclusively.24
In order to avoid such a catastrophic one-sidedness, it
will greatly help us that the goods of naturalism are not
the only ones effective in modern Western society. Quite
to the contrary, Taylor insists that there is a wholly
different ‘rival paradigm’ which he calls romantic

expressivism and which is the second pillar of his
optimism. By this he means a set of ideas and ideals
which, following Herder and the Romantics, centres
around the hypergoods of authenticity, creativity, and
expressive fulfilment or expressive unity. One of the

indi vidual and society or cosmos, spirit and nature and

positions and to show, for example, that one form of life

Taylor argues that in our aspirations and ideas

or individual moral standpoint is superior to another one.

about our private lives (e.g. in our family lives, love

This is the essence of Taylor’s article ‘Explanation and

so on.


relationships or ideas about art) we are all pretty much

Practical Reason’ .31 He tries to show there that, although

romantic expressivists striving for authentic self-

we cannot know whether an ethical standpoint or a moral

fulfilment, whereas in our public or political practices
and ideas we are naturalists. 26 Furthermore, he thinks that

judgements, we can still judge, for example, one position

position is ultimately right, i.e. we can’t make apodeictic

quite a substantial part of the earlier, theistic set of goods

B as superior to a different position A if we can give a

has also survived in one form or other. And since these

plausible narrative account of the transition from A to B

three sets of goods are not easily, or may not be at all,

in historical and theoretical terms but not the other way

compatible, most of our political and moral conflicts are

round. In particular, Taylor thinks that we do achieve



individual or cultural growth when our new position is

expressivism and, to a lesser extent, theism. For example,

more lucid, less self-delusive and truer to our real

he thinks that the Green Movement, Marxism and

feelings, which he now wants to see at least partially


of clashes




grounded in human constants, that is, in universal

of his own philosophical anthropology.

anthropological givens. But with this argument, from my

It is obvious that there is little to oppose to Taylor’s

perspective, Taylor falls prey to what can be called the

idea that we, as individuals as well as a community, can

‘fallacy of presentism’ when he – following MacIntyre,2

scrutinize some of our everyday, or superficial, beliefs

– holds that ‘real progress’ or ‘progress towards the truth’

and practices in order to find out whether they are com-

can be identified by the plausibility of the narrative

patible with our sense of the highest goods or with our

reconstruction of the transition from a position (or life-

most fundamental strong evaluations and aspirations.

form) A to a position (or life-form) B. For once this

And we might justly be said to achieve greater self-clar-

transition has been made, it is clear that the language of

ity and growth if we reduce some contradictions, errors,

B and the corresponding conception of the good, which

or inconsistencies between our beliefs and practices and

is embedded in a particular horizon of significance, only

our basic vision of the good or evaluative framework. By

allow for a plausible defence of B, which seems to

doing this, we might indeed acquire a truer sense of ‘what

preserve all the values and achievements of A while

we really are’. But this talk of growth, progress and truth

avoiding its errors and failures. However, it is simply

only makes sense as long as we consistently apply one

mistaken to consider such a parochial narrative of

coherent evaluative framework, or one consistent set of

transition to be a valid meta-narrative.

If on the other hand Taylor wants to claim that the

hypergoods. If we take one such set as our basis, then
different self-interpretations might rightly be judged as

narrative of transition is convincing even for someone

more or less adequate or ‘self-lucid’. But as soon as we

within the horizon and language of A, then this transition

allow for a plurality of ethical frameworks and hyper-

cannot be anything resembling a paradigm-shift in the

good conceptions, the problem of incommensurability

sense of Thomas Kuhn, with whom in fact both Taylor

and hence of relativism reappears.

and MacIntyre are concerned here. For a change which

This is because ethical positions, visions of the goods,

is a veritable improvement from both perspectives is not

are ineradicably bound up with languages, social

a (,revolutionary’) transition between two incommen-

practices and life,.-forms. As Taylor puts it, without

surable paradigms, but a piece of evolutionary progress

appropriate language some goods are not even options.

within a prefixed horizon. Kuhn has been stressing all

Hence, to judge neutrally between two very different life-

along that a paradigm-shift in his sense involves gains as

forms would mean to possess a neutral language, but this

well as losses and, first of all, a radical change in the

is something the possibility of which Taylor alw.ays

standards of measurement, in the range of possible

rejected. Thus, to use an example, although it is not

questions and answers and in the lexical structure of the

altogether clear what exactly Taylor considers to be the

perceived world, such that those within different

most fundamental hypergoods of modernity writ large, if

paradigms literally live ‘in different worlds’ .”
Now the point is that Taylor must defend something

we take, for example, the three elements of modernity
which are identified by Russell Hittinger’:’i in his

like his view of practical reason if he wants to avoid

interpretation of Sources (~fthe Se(fas the decisive moral

relativistic consequences in his theory. And Taylor is

sources of our age, the problem becomes obvious. These

under much greater pressure to reject ethical relativism

three are ‘inwardness’, the affirmation of ‘ordinary life,’

than for example Jiirgen Habermas, since he holds that

and an ‘expressive view of nature’. Now without making

rights are derivative of goods and in this respect refuses

the attempt to explore what these three terms involve in

to distinguish between morals and ethics. Hence he

detail, it immediately springs to mind that apart from

seems to be forced either to defend a kind of ethical

these a variety of other moral sources are conceivable

realism (or strong hermeneutics, as Nick Smith would

and in historically or geographically different cultures

have it-‘4) or to accept moral relativism. At the same time,

do or did obtain. As Taylor himself shows in Sources

the relativism problem weighs much more for Taylor

the Se(f, it has been a long, gradual historical

than it does for postmodern theorists such as Richard

development with many contingencies which led to this

Rorty. For, contrary to the latter, Taylor does not think

distinct modern world-view or paradigm. Before that,

that we, as human agents and selves, can accept with a

very different horizons of significance or conceptions of

sense of irony the plurality of incompatible goods and

the good life prevailed, which included, for example, the

values and life-forms, since we are forced by

ideals of the monk and a contemplative life or the ideal

transcendental necessity to give an ontological

of a knight which in our modern world no longer make

grounding to what we see as the fundamental goods.

much sense. Thus with the rise of the modern self quite a

Nevertheless, I want to argue that Taylor’ s understanding

lot was lost, for instance the idea of our embeddedness in

of practical reason is untenable when viewed in the light

a meaningful larger order. As Skinner puts it, ‘the march


of the modern self ·Ieft a number of casualties lying on
the roadside of history.’ 36

we cannot prove the absolute superiority of one position

Now, Taylor would have to show that the gains are

over another, we can come to find a dimensional
superiority ..~1

greater than the losses, for otherwise our allegiance to

There is no space to go into this in depth here, but it

the modern goods would indeed suffer a serious blow.

seems clear that we can show even in cross-cultural

But against this demand stand his own claim that there is

comparisons that one form of life is superior to another

no acuItural analysis of life-forms and his invocation of

in one or several special dimensions or respects, for

Thomas Kuhn’s idea of (partially) incommensurable
paradigms in this context. 37 One of his central insights is
that subjects only are what they are and social reality
only exists by virtue of the agents’ self-interpretations.

He even stresses over and over again that not only human
goods but also the relevant and important humanfeelings
are at least partially shaped and constituted by language.

Furthermore, they are reshaped and altered by our
attempts to articulate them, and some level of articulacy

example in protecting human rights, or in establishing

is a prerequisite of strong evaluations. But since every
articulation is at the same time one among several
possible interpretations of those feelings or senses of the
good, it becomes ever more clear that life-forms cannot
be evaluatively or comparatively judged in an exhaustive
sense. For if the language and the corresponding social
practices within a culture allow for just one specific set
of feelings and ideas, and if this set may in turn be
reshaped by attempts to further articulate them, then it
simply doesn’t make sense in a cross-cultural
confrontation to ask about who possesses ‘the truer, more
authentic, more illusion-free’ self-interpretation. 3x As
Taylor himself argued in other contexts, there is no
reality outside or independent of these different selfinterpretations. We literally live in different worlds, with
different lexical structures, as the Kuhnians would have
it, and therefore with different goods, feelings and selves.

That is why I think that Taylor’s attempt to have recourse
to some (substantive) universal human constants at this
point is incompatible with his view of man as a
fundamentally open and self-interpreting animal, and
without this recourse, his talk of growth and progress
and ‘truer grasps of the human condition q<) becomes
implausible and unfounded.

Relativism and dimensional
It follows from all this that Taylor’s philosophical
anthropology, contrary to his intention, is relativistic in
that it does not allow for talk of growth or superiority of
one ethical position or life-form over another in contexttranscending


But this does not mean that it is

relativistic in the sense that life-forms or ethical positions
cannot be compared at all or that choices between them
cannot be defended with any arguments. For although

socio-economic equality, or maybe with respect to



or to



environmental resources and so on. However, this does
not establish or require an assessment of the relative
importance of these different dimensions. Furthermore,
these dimensions of qualitative contrast should not be
understood as ontological gi vens, and not as human
constants either. They are simply the results of particular
human self-interpretations and views of the world and of
their attempted articulation in the appropriate systems of
discourse. Therefore we cannot simply assume that the
same dimensions of qualitative distinctions, which would
require the same horizons of significance, exist in other
cultures as well. However, as language animals we can
come to explore and learn the significant dimensions that
prevail in the moral maps of other cultures and we can
then go on to develop a language of critical difference 42
which allows for a sort of dimensional commensurability.

The idea here is that with the help of this language of
critical difference we can come to indicate where our
own culture would stand on their(i.e. the other culture’s)
significant dimensions and vice versa. If it then comes to
a choice between rival conceptions, we can perhaps give
an account of the relative gains and losses with one or the
other decision.

To accomplish something like this would not be at all
easy, for cultures are always partially constituted by
language, and to reinterpret them in the light of a
comparative language is always potentially to alter their
character. Dimensional commensurability, therefore,
requires something like a fusion of horizons in the sense
of Gadamer. 43 A comparative judgement made on such a
ground would not have to claim to be contexttranscending, rather it could claim to be made from a
new, comparative context, but it could not avoid
including arbitrary elements in what concerns the
ranking of the established dimensions.

All these ideas, I think, are in one way or other already
present in Taylor’s writings, but they are not explicitly
developed and they get blurred and even blundered by
his desperate attempts to avoid the air of relativism. If
Taylor finally accepted the full implications of his own
theory he would, I think, find that he is much more
Nietzschean than he ever feared in his nightmares. But



he would also find that this is not the end of our attempts
to make sense of our lives and to struggle for the good.

the good I~le, and more fundamental or higher goods
(hypergoods), which as constitutive goods provide the
standards and measure to judge or evaluate my life-goods.

18. E.g. ‘Die Motive einer Verfahrensethik’ in Moralitat und
Sittlichkeit, ed. by Wolfgang Kuhlmann, Suhrkamp,
Frankfurt, 1986, pp. 101-34.


‘Relativism. The Return of the Repressed’, Political
Theory 21, 1993, pp. 563-84.

19. See e.g. ‘The Diversity of Goods’, in:Philosophical
Papers, Vol. 11, pp. 230-47.


lames Bohman, New Philosoph.v ol Social Science:

Prohlems olIndeterminac:v, Oxford, 1991, pp. 132ff.

21. Cf. Philosophical Papers, Vol. I, pp. 4f.


The Tanner Lectures on Human Values 14, 1993, pp. 20360; cf. ‘Inwardness and the Culture of Modernity’ ,in Axel
Honneth et aI., Zwischenhetrachtungen im Pro::.ess der
Al(/kliirung, Frankfurt, 1989, pp. 601-23.


A similar point has been made by Richard Bernstein, who
stressed the pernicious ideological consequences of such
an approach; cf. his The Restructuring ol Social and
Political Theor.v, New York and London, 1976, p. 106.


This line of thought is retlected in modern philosophies
that lead from Nietzsche’s genealogy of morals and
Weber’s disenchanted universe to Foucault’s relativist
analysis of power regimes.


‘Modernity’ ,The Tanner Lectures, p. 257.


Charles Taylor, Sources ql the Se(j: The Making
Modern Identity, Cambridge, Mass, 1989.


‘Modernity’ ,The Tanner Lectures, p. 257.


See e.g. ‘Interpretation and the Sciences of Man’ (1971)
and ‘Self-Interpreting Animals’ (1977) in Charles Taylor,
Philosophical Papers, Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge 1985, Vol. IL pp. 15-57, and Vol. I, pp. 45-76;



10. See ‘Interpretation and the Sciences of Man’, pp. 33f.,
where he writes: ‘The situation we have here is one in
which the vocabulary of a given social dimension is
grounded in the shape of social practice in the dimension;
that is, the vocabulary would not make sense, could not be
applied sensibly, where this range of practices did not
prevail. And yet this range of practices could not exist
without the prevalence of this or some related vocabulary.

There is no simple one-way dependence here. We can
speak of mutual dependence if we like, but really what
this points up is the artificiality of the distinction between
social reality and the language of description of that social
reality. The language is constitutive of the reality, is
essential to its being the kind of reality it is. To separate
the two and distinguish them as we quite rightly
distinguish the heavens from our theories about them is
forever to miss the point.’

20. Cf. ‘Atomism’, in ibid., pp. 187-210.

22. This concept, which at first was the title of his 1991 book
(Ethics (~l Authenticity), provides a kind of red thread
through Taylor’s writings.

23. See e.g. Sources qlthe Se(f, p.517.

24. Cf. ibid., p. 503.

25. See ibid., pp. 368ff. and 495ff., as well as Hegel and
Modern Society, Cambridge, 1979, and ‘Legitimation
Crisis’?’ in Philosophical Papers, Vol. 11, pp. 248-88.

26. The divergence between private and public ideals and
goods naturally entails great dangers of deep alienation
and crises of identity as well as loss of social cohesion,
asHegel already saw.

27. See Hegel and Modern Society, and ‘Legitimation

28. Quentin Skinner, ‘Who Are “We”,? Ambiguities of the
Modern Self ,Inquiry 34, 1990, Symposium on Sources
(~l the SeU: pp. 133-53.

29. In The Foucault Reader, ed. by Paul Rabinow, Pantheon
Books, New York, 1984, p. 81 (emphasis added).

30. Cf. for example his ‘Foucault on Freedom and Truth’, in:

Philosophical Papers, Vol. 11, pp. 152-84, pp. 180ff.

31. In The Quality ql L~le, ed. by M. Nussbaum and A. Sen,
Oxford, pp. 208-31.

32. ‘Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative, and the
Philosophy of Science’, in Gary Gutting ed., Paradigms·
and Rel’olutions. Appraisals and Applications (dThomas
Kuhn’s Philosophy ql Science, Notre Dame and London,
1980, pp. 54-74.

33. Cf. Paul Horwich ed., World Changes. Thomas Kuhn and
the Nature (~l Science, Cambridge Mass. and London,

34. ‘Identity and Difference in Taylor’s Hermeneutics’, paper
given at the Prague Conference on Philosophy and Social
Science in April 1994.

35. Review of Sources (~l the SeU: in Review
44, 1990, pp. 111-30.

(~l Metaphysics

11. Ibid., p. 3.

36. Ambiguities of the Modern Se(f, p. 143.

12. Harry Frankfurt, ‘Freedom of the Will and the Concept of
a Person’, lournal of Philosophy 67 1971, pp. 5-20.

37. Explanation and Practical Reason, pp. 214ff.

13. This point was stressed at this conference by Maeve Cooke
in her paper on ‘Selthood and Solidarity’ when she argued
that authenticity requires the acceptance of normative
claims that emanate from beyond the self. This is one of
Taylor’s central insights in Ethics of Authenticity.

14. Cf. Sources of the Self, pp. 14ff.

15. See Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity,
Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1991, particularly pp.


16. In Sources of the Self, Taylor originally described his
position as being one of moral realism, but somewhat
modified his view subsequent to Michael Rosen’ s critique
in ‘Must We Return to Moral Realism?’, Inquiry 34, 1990,
pp. 183-94; cf. Taylor’s reply, ibid., pp. 245f.

17. Taylor distinguishes between life-goods, which are the
goals I seek to achieve in my life according to my idea of


38. Charles Taylor, ‘What is Human Agency’?’,
Philosophical Papers, IVol. I, pp. 15-44, p. 27.


39. Explanation and Practical Reason, p. 229.

40. Contrary to Nick Smith (see footnote 34), I interpret
Taylor’s position here as being one of weak hermeneutics.

41. With this term I want to delineate my own suggestion as to
how Taylor could overcome his difficulties.

42. For this idea, cf. Taylor’s ‘Understanding and
Ethnocentricity’, in Philosophical Papers, Vol. 11, pp.


43. See the closing pages of Part 11 of Gadamer’s monumental
Truth and Method (1960). Taylor himself suggests
something closely analogous to this in ‘Theories of
Meaning’, in Philosophical Papers, Vo!. I, pp. 248-92; cf.

also pp. 180ff.

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