Jack of All Parades wrote:Taylor seems to be a 'sweet' human being and I am so in love with his take on the 'self'- the notion that we are most authenticated when we participate with the world and its components- both historically and currently. I respond to his call to participate in the 'polis' to be most alive and authentically myself. I think I would love to have him populate my desert island for company. I would probably be lost in his conversation but it would not be for lack of trying to follow- his breadth of knowledge in history, arts, literature, science, religion,etc is breathtaking. I just purchased a used copy of his Philosophical Arguments. It will be slow going as many of the essays are on detailed Philosophical subjects like the thought of Hegel and Hiedagger or Merilou-Ponty. I struggle with that stuff.
Oh, so do I. My command of 'continental' philosophy is weak, and this is not a weakness I am likely to address because I find so much of it so intensely frustrating in its violation of the norms in which I was trained. For instance: write with clarity and precision. State your assumptions. Don't just mention a complex author without paying your reader the courtesy of explaining how you're reading that author, the use to which you're putting him. Avoid jargon as much as possible. And so on. (Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" isn't a perfect prescription - his injunction against using 'foreign' words always struck me as Puritanical - but it'll do in a pinch). Of course, this sort of thing can itself be carried to the caricatural point arguably attained by what is stylistically the polar opposite of continental philosophy, logical positivism and analytic philosophy, where one is often left being silent about 'that whereof one cannot speak.' As if we are a race of Mr. Spocks.
An interesting thing about Taylor is that he is schooled in both traditions. Indeed, if you follow his career, you realize that his most fundamental self-presentation is as a sort of mediator
: between analytic and continental philosophies, between French and English Canada, between secularists and believers, between 'expressivists' and 'rationalists,' etc. And his overriding message is usually that we don't have to forego one for the other - living in authenticity demands not that we cleave to one 'pure' position but rather concede that we feel the pull of most, or all, of them, and avoid as much as possible excising one for the benefit of the other. Yet he manages to mediate while remaining partisan on key questions, which seems to be no mean feat.
Chris, I hardly think you'd be "lost" in conversation with the man they call Chuck. First of all, your deeply humanist preoccupations make you a better foil than I, with my callow suburban interests, would be, for instance. But secondly, this is a guy who has run for office and been politically engaged, along with teaching undergraduates and doing the media circuit. He is well-versed in engaging, if not exactly 'regular folks,' then non-specialists.
In any case, those looking for a gentle intro to Taylor should read Ethics of Authenticity
; those wanting his most comprehensive statement, Sources of the Self
. His essay collections, etc., are probably for the more committed.