Friday, October 16, 2009

Charles Taylor the Canadian Philosopher, not Charles Taylor the Liberian War Criminal

It's encouraging to me as I teach and think about writing to see someone reputable fishing around in similar waters. I have taught at El Centro, coming out of the reading Dawn and I did in the 90s on postmodernism, that modernism is characterized by a certain frame of mind, that has, more or less for any person, group, or time, a certain range of components. So you can construct a field guide to modernity: if it has X many of these Ys, in greater and lesser degrees, then to that degree, she or that idea or this institution is modern.

Anyway, some of those characteristics include 1. explaining things without reference to God or anything spiritual (secularization), 2. trusting procedures more than you do people (impersonal processes), thinking that what you know best and rely on the most is yourself, not your family or church or the priest or the group or whatever (priority on the self), and 4. the belief that newer is better (evolution, progress).

And this morning I pick up a book given me as a (generous!) Christmas present this past year, the Canadian, Charles Taylor's "A Secular Age." And I realized that his earlier book I read during doctoral student days was "Sources of the Self." So maybe Taylor would agree with at least #s 1 and 3 above. J. B. Bury already has "The Idea of Progress." So I don't think my analysis is totally off-base.

Which is reassuring. It is entirely compatible with having a problem with intellectual pride to also worry about your views and second-guess yourself. It's also the case that you can be absolutely right about something, and people may not listen to you at all unless you can enlist some heavyweight in your corner. Plus,I teach, and while it's not in the Church as such, right now, I think James still applies: those who teach are held to a stricter judgment, being responsible for those they influence.

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