The Ethics of Authenticity

The Ethics of Authenticity

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Description

Everywhere we hear talk of decline, of a world that was better once, maybe fifty years ago, maybe centuries ago, but certainly before modernity drew us along its dubious path. While some lament the slide of Western culture into relativism and nihilism and others celebrate the trend as a liberating sort of progress, Charles Taylor calls on us to face the moral and political crises of our time, and to make the most of modernity's challenges.

At the heart of the modern malaise, according to most accounts, is the notion of authenticity, of self-fulfillment, which seems to render ineffective the whole tradition of common values and social commitment. Though Taylor recognizes the dangers associated with modernity's drive toward self realization, he is not as quick as others to dismiss it. He calls for a freeze on cultural pessimism.

In a discussion of ideas and ideologies from Friedrich Nietzsche to Gail Sheehy, from Allan Bloom to Michel Foucault, Taylor sorts out the good from the harmful in the modern cultivation of an authentic self. He sets forth the entire network of thought and morals that link our quest for self-creation with our impulse toward self-fashioning, and shows how such efforts must be conducted against an existing set of rules, or a gridwork of moral measurement. Seen against this network, our modern preoccupations with expression, rights, and the subjectivity of human thought reveal themselves as assets, not liabilities.

By looking past simplistic, one-sided judgments of modern culture, by distinguishing the good and valuable from the socially and politically perilous, Taylor articulates the promise of our age. His bracing and provocative book gives voice to the challenge of modernity, and calls on all of us to answer it.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 160 pages
  • 140 x 210 x 18.29mm | 308g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • None
  • 0674268636
  • 9780674268630
  • 130,261

Back cover copy

At the heart of the modern malaise, according to most accounts, is the notion of authenticity, to selffulfillment, which seems to render ineffective the whole tradition of common values and social commitment. Though Taylor recognizes the dangers associated with modernity's drive toward self realization, he is not as quick as others to dismiss it. He calls for a freeze on cultural pessimism.
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Table of contents

Acknowledgments I. Three Malaises II. The Inarticulate Debate III. The Sources of Authenticity IV. Inescapable Horizons V. The Need for Recognition VI. The Slide to Subjectivism VII. La Lotta Continua VIII. Subtler Languages IX. An Iron Cage? X. Against Fragmentation Notes Index
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Review quote

The great merit of Taylor's brief, non-technical, powerful book...is the vigour with which he restates the point which Hegel (and later Dewey) urged against Rousseau and Kant: that we are only individuals in so far as we are social...Being authentic, being faithful to ourselves, is being faithful to something which was produced in collaboration with a lot of other people...The core of Taylor's argument is a vigorous and entirely successful criticism of two intertwined bad ideas: that you are wonderful just because you are you, and that 'respect for difference' requires you to respect every human being, and every human culture--no matter how vicious or stupid. -- Richard Rorty London Review of Books Charles Taylor is a philosopher of broad reach and many talents, but his most striking talent is a gift for interpreting different traditions, cultures and philosophies to one another...[This book is] full of good things. -- Alan Ryan New York Times Book Review Taylor's crystalline insights rescue us from the plague on both houses in the debate over modernity and its discontents. -- Joseph Coates Chicago Tribune Reading Taylor's unexpected but always perceptive judgments on modernity, one becomes forcefully aware of the critical potential of that old philosophical injunction "know thyself". This little book points to the importance of public reflection and debate about who we are. It also forcefully draws attention to their absence from our public culture. -- Ben Rogers Manchester Guardian These lectures provide not only an inviting summary of [Taylor's] recent thought but also, in many ways, a more revealing statement of his underlying convictions. Taylor's own voice comes through clearly in this book--the voice of a philosophically reflective and hermeneutically rooted cultural critic. -- Joel Anderson Philosophy and Social Criticism Charles Taylor's Ethics of Authenticity is a concise, clear discussion reexamining these and closely related "malaises" of modernity while focusing on meaning, its importance in our lives, and why our attempts to find our identities matter--whether these identities be personal, social, political, aesthetic, or scientific. He affirms the moral ground underlying modern individualism, but challenges us to go beyond relativism to pluralism. -- Paul Roebuck Ethics, Place and Environment
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About Charles Taylor

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.
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Rating details

862 ratings
3.93 out of 5 stars
5 29% (247)
4 44% (375)
3 21% (184)
2 5% (44)
1 1% (12)
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