In this extensive inquiry into the sources of modern selfhood, Charles Taylor demonstrates just how rich and precious those resources are. The modern turn to subjectivity, with its attendant rejection of an objective order of reason, has led--it seems to many--to "mere" subjectivism at the mildest and to sheer nihilism at the worst. Many critics believe that the modern order has no moral backbone and has proved corrosive to all that might foster human good. Taylor rejects this view. He argues that, properly understood, our modern notion of the self provides a framework that more than compensates for the abandonment of substantive notions of rationality.
The major insight of "Sources of the Self" is that modern subjectivity, in all its epistemological, aesthetic, and political ramifications, has its roots in ideas of human good. After first arguing that contemporary philosophers have ignored how self and good connect, the author defines the modern identity by describing its genesis. His effort to uncover and map our moral sources leads to novel interpretations of most of the figures and movements in the modern tradition. Taylor shows that the modern turn inward is not disastrous but is in fact the result of our long efforts to define and reach the good. At the heart of this definition he finds what he calls the affirmation of ordinary life, a value which has decisively if not completely replaced an older conception of reason as connected to a hierarchy based on birth and wealth. In telling the story of a revolution whose proponents have been Augustine, Montaigne, Luther, and a host of others, Taylor's goal is in part to make sure we do not lose sight of their goal and endanger all that has been achieved. "Sources of the Self" provides a decisive defense of the modern order and a sharp rebuff to its critics.
Preface PART I Identity and the Good 1. Inescapable Frameworks 2. The Self in Moral Space 3. Ethics of Inarticulacy 4. Moral Sources PART II Inwardness 5. Moral Topography 6. Plato's Self-Mastery 7. "In Interiore Homine" 8. Descartes's Disengaged Reason 9. Locke's Punctual Self 10. Exploring "l'Humaine Condition" 11. Inner Nature 12. A Digression on Historical Explanation PART III The Affirmation of Ordinary Life 13. "God Loveth Adverbs" 14. Rationalized Christianity 15. Moral Sentiments 16. The Providential Order 17. The Culture of Modernity PART IV The Voice of Nature 18. Fractured Horizons 19. Radical Enlightenment 20. Nature as Source 21. The Expressivist Turn PART V Subtler Languages 22. Our Victorian Contemporaries 23. Visions of the Post-Romantic Age 24. Epiphanies of Modernism 25. Conclusion: The Conflicts of Modernity Notes Index