Comparing Saint Augustine and Charles Taylor's Ideas of Authenticity

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Comparing Saint Augustine and Charles Taylor's Ideas of Authenticity 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 usef... ... middle of paper ... ...y for us humans. I think it is, but only to the extent that we open ourselves to God, which means in fact, overstepping the limits set in theory by exclusive humanisms. Taylor’s idea of authenticity does give way to many warnings. It is analogous to walking a tight rope. If one leans too much to one side (which in all reality may not be much at all) it can lead to disaster. He adopts a lot from the Romantics and the focus is too much on the individual. Although he does try to get away from too much emphasis on the individual by mentioning the “horizons of significance” he still does not give us an idea of what this hierarchy consists. People may look inside themselves to formulate this hierarchy but this again can lead to subjectivism. It seems to suggest that there could be a variety of heirachies and who is to say that one is better than the other. Also the ambiguity of his idea of freedom only leads to more ambiguity on his idea of authenticity. These are all problems that Taylor must address if one is to get a clearer concept of his project. If Saint Augustine were to read Taylor I think he would find these worries and suggest that Taylor’s central focus should be on God.

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