Charles Taylor, Augustine and the Ethics of Authenticity

Topics: Augustine of Hippo, God, Truth Pages: 14 (5653 words) Published: March 30, 2005
The notion of authenticity is one of self-fulfillment and Charles Taylor recognizes that there are dangers in accepting modernity's drive toward self-realization. However, he is not willing to give up on this idea of "authenticity." In The Ethics of Authenticity, Taylor lays out a system of thought and morals that connect our search for self-realization with our desire towards self-creation. He is attempting to keep a form of individualism while still operating under objectivism. He will point out the good and damaging aspects of the modern development of an authentic self and mention the importance of some moral measurement system.

Taylor claims that St. Augustine initiated a concept of inwardness, a turning towards the inner self to find truth and the idea of authenticity is simply a further development of Augustine's inwardness. In this paper I will discuss in detail Taylor's idea of authenticity: the pros and cons. I will lay out some of his arguments as to why he thinks this idea originated with Augustine. I will talk about Augustine's view on the inner man and how this is connected with knowledge and memory. I will then talk about some of Augustine's views. Freedom is also an important aspect to moral conduct so I will explore both Taylor's and Augustine's view of freedom. Finally, I will argue that the ideal of authenticity (although it contains some truth) is not an ideal that Augustine would promote. Three Modern Worries

Taylor begins the book by discussing three worries of modern society. The first is individualism which is selfish and self-centered. The modern concept is bothersome because people see freedom as loosening the chains of traditional notions of hierarchy. We have become a society where we are breaking away from "older moral horizons." Everything in creation is connected in some way and when there is a loose hierarchy there follows a loose meaning of life. The "dark side of individualism" the focuses on the self in such a way that it flattens and narrows the framework which give significance and meaning to human life. The second trouble is the dominant attention given to instrumental reason. Instrumental reason values efficiency above all other goods. Nothing else is considered sacred or has intrinsic value, only extrinsic value. The question is how useful a thing is. "Maximum efficiency is the measure of success." Once the hierarchical order of creation has lost its meaning, creatures loose their significance and are vulnerable to solely instrumental use. The fear here is that everything will be decided on a cost-benefit mentality. This leads to absurd practices of "putting dollar assessments on human lives." The last worry is a lack of participation in the political realm. Individuals are enclosed in their own comfort zones and have little motivation to leave their homes and the satisfactions of their private lives to get involved. Once participation declines the more the bureaucratic state takes control and leaves the citizens powerless. This can lead to soft-despotism which Alexis de Tocqueville describes as a society where most of its members have given up being actively involved in the ordering of that society only to find out that it is run by a vast guardian-like power that discourages participation and jeopardizes political liberty. Taylor does not want to slip into the acceptance of these three malaises. He claims that all of these issues are controversial. He seems to claim neutrality between modernity knockers and modernity boosters. The knockers are those who believe that instrumental reason and modern individualism inevitably lead to a culture that is preoccupied with the self and self-indulgence and puts moral horizons and political liberty at risk. The boosters are those who accept the consequences of modernity and believe that a rejection of these will result in a culture that hinders the spread of new ideas and new social or...
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