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“…I have become a question to myself.”

–St. Augustine, Confessions

“For a human being, the unexamined life is not worth living.”

–Plato, Apology of Socrates

In Plato’s Phaedo Socrates expresses frustration with a materialist philosophy that renders him incapable of making sense of his own life, a life dedicated to a personal and civic good that has condemned him to prison and death. Materialism threatened to make his life unintelligible to himself. Much has changed since Socrates expressed his frustration, but the contemporary philosopher, Charles Taylor, would concur with Socrates on the threat posed by reductively materialist conceptions of the person. Both Socrates and Taylor are cognizant that when the person is reduced to impersonal, mechanical or biological processes, any talk of agency, identity or intentional living for the good has been foreclosed.

For much of his long and productive career, the question of human person-hood has been a crucial part of the thought of the Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor. In his earlier essays Human Agency and Language: Philosophical Papers I 1 as well as in his magisterial Sources of the Self, 2 A Secular Age, 3 Philosophical Arguments, 4 and Dilemmas and Connections 5 he has tirelessly grappled with the task of articulating an adequate “philosophical anthropology.” 6 Taylor sees a fundamental threat to a proper understanding of human nature coming from scientism, a worldview that would declare bogus any form of reasoning about human beings other than the impersonal, object-oriented discourse of the natural sciences. Taylor is not railing against science per se, but in the spirit of Socrates, he opposes reductive frameworks in which the person all but disappears into psychobiological functions/drives or some aspect of the brain and its workings. 7 This sort of scientism deliberately excises personal experience from the field of legitimate inquiry and indeed views it as an obstruction to a valid grasp of human nature. The human perspective with its attendant interest in the question of the good is regarded as a merely subjective “appearance” and unworthy of objective status by the sciences. Taylor and Socrates oppose this stance because it is arbitrary and leaves us bereft of any language by which we may give an account of how we actually live our lives. 8

As already mentioned, the issues taken up by Taylor were adumbrated long ago in Plato’s dialogue, Phaedo. It could be said that Taylor is doing for our time what Socrates was doing in his time just before his execution. It will be instructive first to examine what was at stake for Socrates in his opposition to what he took to be the materialist philosophy of Anaxagoras and why he viewed it as a threat to his commitment to the good.


Having been condemned by the Athenians for his philosophic activities, Socrates is awaiting execution by the ancient equivalent of lethal injection. He will drink a cup of poisonous hemlock and die. Before doing so, he will spend the day in friendly conversation considering the relation of soul to body and life after death. He is attempting to articulate an adequate philosophic anthropology of his own. A disciple named Simmias poses a serious challenge to Socrates’ position on the independence of soul and body with depressing implications for the soul’s continuance after death (Phaedo 88c). He argues that the soul has the same relation to the body as an “attunement” (ἁρμονία) does to a lyre. As long as the lyre is in tune it produces “beautiful and divine” music, but if you break the lyre or cut the strings, the music must also be lost (86a8-b1). Using a different analogy, another disciple, Kebes, argues that the soul, like a weaver, may weave many cloaks (bodies) and inhabit them, but it is doubtful whether the soul (like the weaver) will outlive its last (re)incarnation. In raising doubts like these Socrates is driven to give an account of generation and destruction (95e9). He tells a personal story about himself, a tantalizing bit of autobiography about his youthful search for the material causes of things. Interestingly, one of the questions Socrates investigated was this: “Is it the blood by which we think, or air or fire, or none of these? Is it the brain that furnishes us our sense perceptions of hearing and seeing and smelling, and memory and opinion come from these things…?” (96b4-7, my translation.) We can see, here, that Socrates is not unpracticed in the sort of inquiry Simmias and Kebes are suggesting. According to Sharma, Socrates’ objections are not directed so much to earlier accounts of causality as their tendency toward a materialist reductionism:

…Socrates has another target altogether: he is attacking in broad fashion the materialist ideal of a reductive explanation. That is to say, he presumes that the materialist will claim to be able to explain all observed phenomenon in terms of certain basic elements and processes, as if all “ordinary” statements of fact could be translated into the vocabulary of the materialist theory. Socrates objects that for certain statements, such reductions are impossible. 9

Socrates is certain that reductive explanations must not touch the moral purpose of his life. By appealing to the story of his search for an adequate “cause” Socrates recalls the centrality of narrative in the constitution of his identity and the good which motivates him. He implies that he cannot arrive at an adequate sense of himself and what he lived for from a third-person (materialist) perspective, but must give personal experience and self-interpretation their moment.

Restless and bewildered in his researches into nature, one day Socrates hears someone reading from a book by the philosopher-cosmologist, Anaxagoras. According to Socrates, Anaxagoras argues that Mind orders and is the cause of all things (97c1-2). Socrates says that he was pleased with this type of cause (97c1) because it implied that there was conscious intention (Mind) behind the order of nature and that Mind not only ordered all things, but did so in whatever way was best (97c5-6). Socrates believes that whoever studied nature in this way would know, in an ultimate sense, why anything happened for better or worse (97d4). 10 It is crucial for Socrates that any explanation of the workings of the cosmos include its end or goal. In this way, the universe is not a random series of happenings but a meaningful process aiming at some ultimate good. Thus, for Socrates any non-teleological account is inadequate because it is alien to the inherently purposeful character of the cosmos. 11

Socrates tells us that his great hopes evaporated, however, when he read Anaxagoras and discovered that in furnishing his account of cosmic order he made no use of Mind (98b8-9), but seemed to depict it as arising from the same material, mechanical causes Socrates had found unsatisfactory in his earlier investigations (96c1-2). 12 Socrates sets out his fundamental complaint against the natural sciences in their account of the real: they make no provision for the human, especially how human beings interpret their lives in relation to some good. To say, like Anaxagoras, that Mind governs all things for the best and then to talk of nothing but material causes, Socrates says, is absurd (ἄτοπον, 99a5). 13 It is like someone claiming that Socrates does everything by means of mind (98c3-4) and then, when giving an account of the reasons why (98c5) he is sitting in jail, talks of nothing but relaxing and tightening his tendons to enable him to bend his limbs (98d3-5). These material, mechanical reasons may be necessary, but are insufficient to account for why Socrates is in jail (99b2-4). Socrates quips that if the only thing keeping him in jail were his bones and tendons, he would have been off to Megara or among the Boeotians long ago! 14 So, what is an adequate account for Socrates? It must enable him to include his own understanding of the meaning of his life, of what he lived for, and that is unthinkable without reference to the good. Thus, Socrates says that the true reason (98d8) he is sitting in jail is that the Athenians decided it was better to condemn him (98d9-10), and he, for his part, thought it more just to remain in prison and to undergo whatever penalty they ordered (98e3-4).

Socrates views his life as a quest to know himself and to live in accord with the good, no matter what the cost. His study of nature in the Ionian materialist mode bewildered him because it evacuated the world of the good he sought by reducing everything to the mechanical interaction of bodies. Amidst this welter of materials, he could find no place to locate the motivations for which he lived and was about to be executed. Tendons and limbs cannot get you to the good! This sort of materialism left him no language by which he could understand himself and make his life intelligible. Socrates’ insistence on the reality of personal experience and commitment to the good leads him to abandon the one-dimensional study of the natural world, declaring that he was, by nature, unsuited to study nature. Our understanding of nature and science has changed since the time of Socrates. We no longer expect scientific explanations to be teleological. 15 Still, we can heed Socrates’ demand that any causal account of human agency be a layered one and not reductively absorb moral and intentional agency into impersonal processes.

Due to the cultural dominance of the sciences and the distortions of scientism, finding a place for meaningful human agency in our quest for the good has only deepened in our own day. Enter Charles Taylor.


One of the fundamental disputes in philosophy today is whether scientific naturalism is so complete an explanatory framework that such notions as consciousness, intentionality and value have become redundant. 16 This view is exactly what Socrates is concerned to deny in the passages considered above. Unlike Socrates in the Phaedo, Taylor is not a soul/body dualist, but like Socrates he is deeply concerned with affirming the rightful place of the human perspective within the scientific framework. His approach is phenomenological; that is, he begins with how things appear (φαινόμενα) to us, namely human experience. 17 Hence, everyday language about human identity, feelings, intentions and moral judgments are not belittled as “folk psychology,” but regarded as serious starting points for reflection and action. 18

Taylor traces the beginnings of the judgment that the human perspective is a mere appearance and unworthy of objective status to the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. Here, the well-known distinction of classical modern philosophy between primary and secondary qualities was central to the methodology of the natural sciences. David Hume writes,

The fundamental principle of that [modern] philosophy is the opinion concerning colours, sounds, tastes, smells, heat and cold; which it asserts to be nothing but impressions in the mind derived from the operation of external objects, and without any resemblance to the qualities of the objects … For upon removal of sounds, colours, heat, cold and other sensible qualities, from the rank of continued independent existences, we are reduced merely to what are called primary qualities, as the only real ones, of which we have any adequate notion. These primary qualities are extension and solidity, with their different mixtures and modifications; figure, motion, gravity, and cohesion. 19

The basic idea is that so-called secondary qualities exist only as a function of the world’s interaction with the human sensory apparatus. Things like color, sound, heat, and so on are regarded as a human projection onto an otherwise alien, neutral world. Transposed to the moral sphere, this becomes Hume’s famous is/ought distinction. Hume highlights the divide between the realm of sheer fact bereft of any value, existing in tandem with the realm of human meaning and value. For Hume, no matter of fact can ever imply a judgment of value since the two spheres are radically discontinuous. 20

This is an important moment in the history of thought not only for its consequences for the rise of science but also for human self-understanding. What it implies is that taking up a truly “objective” stance toward the world requires ridding oneself of the anthropocentric bias. According to many seventeenth and eighteenth-century thinkers, this bias was rooted in Aristotle’s phenomenological conception of science. Of course, for scientific purposes, such a move was necessary and correct. It was not possible to consider nature in the manner of the burgeoning sciences; that is, quantitatively, mechanistically, mathematically, until one first banished the implicit human perspective embedded in Aristotelian science. 21 The trouble, as Taylor sees it, is the unthinking transposition of an impersonal, scientific stance toward objects into the personal realm of human subjects. 22

In a dispute with Ronald de Sousa, 23 Taylor makes clear his basic contention about the inadequacy of mechanical models for giving an account of human agency and personhood. Here he is addressing himself to the difference between humans and machines:

What’s the difference? Well, one way of putting it is to say that things matter to living beings. Things can go well or ill for them; they have purposes, ends they strive for, which are being fulfilled or frustrated. They also, above some phylogenetic level, feel. None of this is true of my desk calculator. 24

According to Taylor, only living beings can genuinely act since only for them do things matter. Things do not matter to machines. They have no other purpose than what humans give to them. In that sense, a machine’s purpose is “derivative.” 25 Derivative thinking and acting has no agent for whom things matter. The lights may be on but there is no one at home, and that, for Taylor, makes all the difference.

Just as Socrates resisted the notion that a mechanical cause could adequately account for his identity and what he lived for, so also Taylor resists de Sousa’s assimilation of human agency to the mechanical “thinking” of cognitive science. For Socrates, physical causes are inadequate to explain his quest to live authentically in relation to the good. For Taylor, too, the human quest to live in relation to the good is an “inescapable framework” which eludes any final capture by the language of the sciences.26

Taylor pursues these issues of things mattering for human beings and frameworks of value in his earlier essay, “Self-Interpreting Animals.”27 Here he argues that human beings cannot be understood sufficiently without taking into account how they understand themselves. The language of self-interpretation is the only one that respects the human need to understand ourselves in relation to our identity and the question of the good. Central in this regard is the role of the emotions. Taylor’s understanding of the emotions is similar to Aristotle’s in that emotions are not irrational, biological events but have a cognitive dimension.28 Emotions pick out the meanings, values, desires or purposes at stake for a subject in a given situation. The things discerned by our feelings are what Taylor calls “imports:” “…experiencing a given emotion involves experiencing our situation as bearing a certain import, where for the ascription of the import it is not sufficient just that I feel this way, but rather the import gives the grounds or basis for the feeling.”29

Feelings are modes of perception and evaluation, evoked as a consequence of registering certain imports. For Taylor, imports come from a world that is subject-centered. They have no place in the world of objects, because things do not matter to objects, whereas they do to subjects. If our world is partly mediated by the meaning coming to us from the imports our feelings register, then human behavior cannot be explained solely through an external point of view (for example, the data from an fMRI employed by neuroscience).

Given imports as perceived by the emotions and the role they play in human life, “…the ideal of an objective account will have been breached.” 30 Taylor concedes that there are some emotions, like fear, whose import may be explained more successfully from a third-person perspective. But very many human emotions cannot be understood independently of the subject’s point of view. Taylor considers the nature of the emotion of shame in this regard:

Shame is an emotion that a subject experiences in relation to a dimension of his existence as a subject. What we can be ashamed of are properties which are essentially properties of a subject. … These properties are thus only demeaning for a subject for whom things can have this kind of meaning. But things can have this kind of meaning only for a subject in whose form of life there figures an aspiration to dignity, to be a presence among men which commands respect. … Thus the import shameful can be explicated only by reference to a subject who experiences his world in a certain way. And in this the shameful is quite unlike the physically menacing which we discussed earlier. 31

A person’s feeling of shame may signify imports meriting the description “disgraceful” or “dishonorable” and hence terms like “hypocrite,” “liar,” or “coward” may apply to one’s character.”32 Of course, shame can be felt for all kinds of reasons, justifiable or not, and Taylor is aware of this. The important point is that it is not possible to understand the import of an emotion like shame from an external, impersonal point of view.

Taylor argues that understanding the meaning of our feelings is an ongoing project. As we articulate our feelings we are, as it were, knitting ourselves together, trying to make sense of what our feelings tell us about our character and the moral arc of our lives. Such articulations may be taken to be “readings” of ourselves, readings which must be re-visited and re-articulated. There is no point at which we shall finally “arrive” at a definitive interpretation of what our feelings reveal regarding the imports they signify, no place where we can achieve such a godlike interpretive standpoint:

…we must speak of man as a self-interpreting being, because this kind of interpretation is not an optional extra, but is an essential part of our existence. For our feelings always incorporate certain articulations; while just because they do so they open us on to a domain of imports which call for further articulation. The attempt to articulate further is potentially a life-time process. At each state, what we feel is a function of what we have already articulated and evokes the puzzlement and perplexities which further understanding may unravel. But whether we want to take the challenge or not, whether we seek the truth or take refuge in illusion, our self-(mis)understandings shape what we feel. This is the sense in which man is a self-interpreting animal. 33

The methods of empirical science are incapable of capturing what it is like to be a center of moral agency. While uncovering the causal mechanisms and intelligibilities of the physical world is the great strength of science, it is also its built-in limitation. The scientific dream of achieving a final take on the human person by way of sheer mechanism is illusory. The task of interpreting the meaning of the imports furnished by our feelings is ongoing and inescapable. Hence, no attempt by the sciences to perform an “end run” around the first-person perspective will enable us to skirt the hard work of personal, self-examination. 34

Taylor connects feelings to what he calls “strong evaluation.” 35 Strong evaluation is a judgment rooted in feelings because they signify various ways of living, ways of responding, traits of character that are admirable or reprehensible. Such feelings/judgments act as “second-order evaluations” 36 of our motivations and actions; that is, they assess what we do or have done in relation to the kind of person we wish to be or wish to avoid being. Taylor insists that the choices issuing from our strong evaluations do not constitute the good we choose but acknowledge a good that lays a claim upon us. Taylor’s example of spite is interesting and illuminating here:

When I hold back a certain reaction, because it springs from spite, and I see this as base, petty, or bad; or when I feel remorse for not having held it back, or perhaps contempt or disapproval for you when you have acted spitefully; what is involved is a strong evaluation. And the tenor of this evaluation is perhaps something like this: that spite, revenge, returning evil for evil, is something we are prone to, but that there is a higher way of seeing our relations with others; which is higher not just in producing happier consequences—less strife, pain, bad blood—but also in that it enables us to see ourselves and others more broadly, more objectively, more truly. One is a bigger person, with a broader, more serene vision, when one can act out of this higher standpoint. 37

We can see from the above that Taylor connects insight and advancement in the moral life with an increase in self-understanding and understanding of others. I have not covered all the nuances of Taylor’s paper here, but I think we can see broadly how he views the role of the emotions in relation to what he calls “strong evaluation.” Strong evaluation is rooted in our feelings and, as we shall see, is connected to what Taylor calls the “best account” (BA) principle.

According to Taylor’s best account, the language we use to make sense of our lives “trumps” any other discourse presumed (by the naturalist position) to be superior in rendering our lives more transparent to us. He writes,

What we need to explain is people living their lives; the terms in which they cannot avoid living them cannot be removed from the explanandum, unless we can propose other terms in which they could live them more clairvoyantly. We cannot just leap outside of these terms altogether, on the grounds that their logic doesn’t fit some model of “science” and that we know a priori that human beings must be explicable in this “science.” This begs the question. How can we ever know that humans can be explained by any scientific theory until we actually explain how they live their lives in its terms? 38

Thus, Taylor consciously flips the legacy of the seventeenth century on its head. The impersonal account may be appropriate to the study of objects, but when it comes to human beings, it is unrevealing. Socrates knew all about this in his prescient perception of the threat of Ionian materialism. Since recourse to the language of moral evaluation is inescapable we must stop assuming that translating the language of human experience into the impersonal language of the sciences is, somehow, an epistemic gain. Taylor writes,

Of course the terms of our best account will never figure in a physical theory of the universe. But that just means that our human reality cannot be understood in the terms appropriate for this physics. This is the complement to the anti-Aristotelian purge of natural science in the seventeenth century. Just as physical science is no longer anthropocentric, so human science can no longer be couched in the terms of physics. Our value terms purport to give us insight into what it is to live in the universe as a human being, and this is a quite different matter from that which physical science claims to reveal and explain. This reality is, of course, dependent on us, in the sense that a condition for its existence is our existence. But once granted that we exist, it is no more a subjective projection than what physics deals with. 39

Taylor is not claiming that the sciences have nothing to teach us about our nature as biological beings. But he does insist that the first-person perspective is just as revealing for human life as the third-person perspective with regard to the objects of science. For the task of self-understanding evaluative language is not optional, but inescapable. He argues,

What better measure of reality do we have in human affairs than those terms which on critical reflection and after correction of the errors we can detect make the best sense of our lives? … What are the requirements of “making sense” of our lives? These requirements are not yet met if we have some theoretical language which purports to explain behavior from the observer’s standpoint but is of no use to the agent in making sense of his own thinking, feeling, and acting … But what does it mean “not to be able” to do without a term in, say, my deliberations about what to do? I mean that this term is indispensable to (what now appears to me to be) the clearest, most insightful statement of the issues before me. 40

When Taylor claims that we cannot help but advert to “strongly valued goods” he is adamant that this is not due to some irrational biological quirk, but rooted in the necessarily moral character of how we understand the task of living. He writes,

The “cannot help” here is not like the inability to stop blinking when someone waves a fist in your face, or your incapacity to contain your irritation at Uncle George sucking his dentures, even though you know it’s irrational. It means rather that you need these terms to make the best sense of what you’re doing. 41

In addition, he argues that our inevitable appeal to such goods signals their ontological status. That is, their indispensability in making sense of our lives is an implicit claim about their reality. He continues,

What is real is what you have to deal with, what won’t go away just because it doesn’t fit with your prejudices. By this token, what you can’t help having recourse to in life is real, or as near to reality as you can get a grasp of at present. Your general metaphysical picture of ‘values’ and their place in ‘reality’ ought to be based on what you find real in this way. It couldn’t conceivably be the basis of an objection to its reality. 42

In connection to the best account, Ruth Abbey claims that Taylor is a moral realist and calls his position “falsifiable realism.” 43 She distinguishes between weak and strong interpretations of Taylor’s realism. In the weak version, the person feels or experiences that they are responding to values that exist independently of their valuing them. This position is not committed to any claim about the independent status of such valuations. It is possible that such values could simply be human projections. 44 Abbey argues, however, that Taylor favors the strong interpretation and that when we respond to various goods we are perceiving actual features of the moral world:

He proceeds with an argument about necessity. He contends that in trying to explain moral life, we need to take seriously the fact that humans experience their moral world as he says they do. The best account of morality must be one that incorporates the fact that individuals experience goods as being worthy of their admiration and respect for reasons that do not depend on their choice of them. From the necessity of explaining morality in these realist terms, Taylor believes we can infer the reality of these goods. 45

Christian Smith develops Abbey’s argument from necessity and discusses the phenomenological character of Taylor’s position at greater length:

Of course, best accounts rely on human perceptions and judgments, but that is all anyone ever has to go on anyway. There is no way or reason to back away from our larger trust in our phenomenological experience and the best accounts to which they give rise as we sort through our unique experiences as persons and together as communities. There exists no autonomous, experience-independent standpoint or foundation of evaluation by which to more objectively judge our own experiences and the best sense we can make of them. Attempts to do so have led to irresolvable forms of skepticism. True, we recurrently learn that some of our prior beliefs and accounts were wrong, that alternative accounts are better, and so we change our perceptions, thinking, and interpretations about important matters. But we always do that by struggling through experience and hitting upon better accounts of them, not by asking some allegedly neutral scientific principle that is alien to our phenomenological experience to tell us true things that overrule our best accounts. 46

As we saw above, this approach eschews the fact/value dichotomy. If moral goods were like objects of the natural world, we must first disengage ourselves from our responses to them, achieve the neutral perspective, check the facts, and then make our assessment.47 But Taylor’s best account invites us to regard our moral perceptions as “imports” with ontological weight. He claims,

No argument can take someone from a neutral stance towards the world, either adopted from the demands of ‘science’ or fallen into as a consequence of pathology, to insight into moral ontology. But it doesn’t follow from this that moral ontology is a pure fiction, as naturalists often assume. Rather, we should treat our deepest moral instincts, our ineradicable sense that human life is to be respected, as our mode of access to the world in which ontological claims are discernible and can be rationally argued about and sifted. 48

We have seen that a hallmark of Taylor’s position is his contention that the neutral, disengaged perspective of naturalism is misleading when applied to the moral life. Taylor extends this insight to practical reason when he argues that the moral deliberations of practical reason are contextual and tied to human experience. In his article “Explanation and Practical Reason,” Taylor closely follows the argument of Alasdair MacIntyre on epistemological crises in the history of science.49 Taylor contends that this false model of the sciences has led to skepticism and relativism in the history of science. He does this by discussing the case of pre-Galilean and post-Galilean paradigms of science. Each model has virtues that are internal to that conception of science. Thus, pre-Galilean science emphasized a meaningful metaphysical and cosmological order into which persons and communities were embedded. It had little use for technological prowess or know-how and, in fact, saw such pursuits as utterly secondary to finding one’s place and attuning oneself to the larger order of things. Post-Galilean science, on the other hand, emphasizes technological prowess and is prized precisely for its ability to manipulate and control the powers of nature. It has little use for the metaphysics and cosmology of human attunement.50 The question Taylor is pondering, then, is how we are to decide which worldview/paradigm is better. Of course, since we live in a modern, technologically savvy age, we will regard it as obvious that the transition from the pre-to the post-Galilean conception of science is preferable and best. But Taylor thinks this position is premature:

If understanding is knowing your way about, then modern technological success is a sure sign of progress in knowledge. But how is this meant to convince a pre-Galilean? For in fact he is operating with a different paradigm of understanding, to which manipulative capacity is irrelevant, which instead proves itself through a different ability, that of discovering our proper place in the cosmos and finding attunement with it. And, it could be argued, modern technological civilization is a spectacular failure at this, as ecological critics and green parties never tire of reminding us. 51

According to the virtues internal to each model of science pre- and post- Galilean paradigms are successful, and in the absence of “external” criteria by which one view can declare itself the clear winner, “it can appear that no rational justification of the transitions is possible.” Is it just that we happen to prefer technological payoff to cosmic attunement? If so, then deciding which paradigm is better seems arbitrary. Taylor believes that the “stalemate” with regard to the two paradigms has fostered skepticism and relativism in the philosophy of science. However, he invites us to abandon regarding the transition in absolute terms, where external criteria are demanded demonstrating the superiority of one paradigm over the other. Following MacIntyre’s account, Taylor suggests that we need not be so skeptical of reason’s powers. We can rationally justify the transition to post-Galilean science if we look not to external criteria, but to the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each paradigm in relation to the other:

If we imagine the debate between the two theories being carried on timelessly on Olympus, before any actual results are obtained by one or the other, then it is indeed a standoff. But what the earlier science can’t explain is the very success of the later on the later’s own terms. Beyond a certain point, you just can’t pretend any longer that manipulation and control are not relevant criteria of scientific success. Pre-Galilean science died of its inability to explain/ assimilate the actual success of post-Galilean science, where there was no corresponding symmetrical problem. And this death was rationally motivated. 52

Failure to access external, foundational criteria to resolve this dispute should not make us despair of reason, says Taylor. Instead, we need a new conception of what reason is doing in arbitrating disputes between rival paradigms of science. Taylor now transposes the discussion of reason in relation to scientific paradigms to practical reason in relation to ethical discourse. He sees the same distortive process going on in the realm of ethics as was operative in the history of science: despair in the search for “Olympic” criteria leading to skepticism and relativism. Instead, Taylor invites us to regard practical reasoning not as the search for absolute criteria but as a “reasoning in transitions” 53 wherein comparative judgments are made about rival positions with more modest expectations. This fits nicely with Aristotle’s conception of practical wisdom (φρόνησις) and ethics where ethical truth can only be indicated “roughly and in outline” (Nicomachean Ethics 1094b20) and we must be content to arrive at what is so only “for the most part” (Nicomachean Ethics 1094b21).54 Such practical reasoning, Taylor suggests, can be employed not only in comparing two rival paradigms in science or moral judgment, but also within a single individual who undergoes a moral transition in which s(he) immediately perceives the new stance as an advance on the old, an epistemic gain.55 Braman nicely calls this kind of practical reasoning, “a hermeneutics of engagement”56 and develops Taylor’s notion of epistemic gain in this context:

To gain epistemically means that a transition argument is an error-reducing argument. I come to realize that my earlier account of, say, justice was excessively narrow. The shift from position A to position B posits the claim that position B is the superior and more valid account, because I have gained greater purchase on the meaning of this term both culturally and individually. This claim is not the result of following rules or some other external criteria. 57

In some respects, what Taylor is talking about here is a kind of moral conversion, a crucial “crossing over” into another horizon of meaning with fresh openings and new possibilities. This model of practical reason, Taylor claims, is most at home in “biographical transitions.”58 Below, I offer two examples of practical reasoning by way of illustrating Taylor’s position, one from the author and one from my own life:

Pete was behaving impossibly at home, screaming at his parents, acting arrogantly with his younger siblings, and he felt resentment all the time and was very unhappy. He felt a constant sense of being cheated of his rights, or at least that’s how it was formulated by his parents to the social worker. Now things are much better. Pete applies this description to himself to his former feelings. In a confused way, he felt that something more was owed to him as the eldest, and he resented not getting it. But he never would have subscribed to any such principle, and he clearly wants to repudiate it now. He thinks his previous behavior was unjustified, and that one shouldn’t behave that way toward people. In other words, he’s gone through a moral change; his views of what people owe each other in the family have altered. He’s confident that this change represents moral growth, because it came about through dissipating a confused, largely unconsciously held belief, one that couldn’t survive his recognizing its real nature. 59

An error-reducing transition from my life:

J. and Virginia had been seeing each other for several years, but whenever Virginia brought up the subject of marriage J. was very uncomfortable. He found the thought of marriage overwhelming and responsibility for children unthinkable. A skillful and wise therapist suggested to J. that he was thinking of marriage in abstract and institutional terms, as MARRIAGE. It was this, he argued, that was making J. panic. He kindly asked J. whether he could imagine marrying Virginia, the woman sitting right next to him. J. turned, looked at Virginia and said that he could imagine marrying her. This was the breakthrough insight that enabled J. to get out from under the MARRIAGE that was crushing him and to marry his beloved, Virginia.60

This model of practical reasoning is not neutral or disengaged, but decidedly interested and embedded in a particular context. The sort of intrapsychic argument we may have with ourselves (as above) can be applied interpersonally, Taylor suggests, when we strive to effect a fundamental change in how a friend or loved one (mis)understands a situation they are struggling with:

This is, I believe, the commonest form of practical reasoning in our lives, where we propose to our interlocutors transitions mediated by such error-reducing moves, by the identification of contradiction, the dissipation of confusion, or by rescuing from (usually motivated) neglect a consideration whose significance they cannot contest.

By appealing to and offering examples of this ancient, contextual “reasoning in transitions,” Taylor recalls us to a humbler but, in the end, more plausible conception of practical reasoning. Humbler since there is no expectation of access to criteria definitively to settle rival moral positions, more plausible since the gain is directly experienced as a breakthrough into a new truth. Such a truth has its own cogency and ontological weight.

We have seen that Socrates and Taylor are in accord in holding that the naturalist framework for understanding human beings is woefully inadequate. The third-person, impersonal perspective of the sciences, whatever their pretensions for completeness and sufficiency, fail to capture the full reality of the first-person perspective of human personhood. That personhood is characterized by language that ineluctably refers to questions of meaning, identity and the good that the naturalist stance is incapable of addressing. Taylor, following Socrates, insists that the first-person point of view has its rightful place alongside the third-person perspective. While excising anthropocentrism may have been necessary and valid for the birth of science, the naturalist point of view invalidly claims to be the only objective and legitimate viewpoint. This is not the way of science, but scientism. Socrates responded to the threat of Ionian materialism by furnishing a story of himself and his search for the good; Taylor, for his part, argues for self-interpretation as an essential element in understanding the human person. Echoing Socrates, too, Taylor’s best account principle insists that talk of the good in making sense of our lives is not optional, but essential and will not tolerate any point of view that would threaten to silence that need. Once again, eschewing the standards of science as inappropriate to the needs of human beings in talking about the good, Taylor seeks to revive the ancient conception of practical reason as a reasoning in transitions. This model of reason helps us see that reason is not powerless to settle rival moral claims in the absence of absolute criteria, but that reason can be exercised to judge one way of life as better by comparison with a previous, less authentic way of living. Of course, Taylor goes far beyond Socrates, but I have been arguing that he continues and extends the concerns implicit in Socrates’ discussion with his friends on that last day of his life.

According to the theological tradition of Christians, Jews and Muslims, God is the supreme example of personhood, a center of self who completely knows, loves and wills the good. This tradition, perhaps, carries special weight for Christians who hold that God’s innermost life in the Trinity is a communion of persons and that “in the fullness of time” God became human in the person of Jesus Christ. Conceptually, personhood must include some notion of a center of self who is capable of free, intentional agency. Genesis tells us that human beings are made “in the image and likeness of God” (imago Dei). A reasonable interpretation of scripture, here, is that human beings reflect God’s nature in that we, too, are centers of free, intentional agency who, though sinful, nevertheless seek to enact the good in our lives. As the image of God we possess dignity, embodying in a finite way something of God’s character in the world. Talk of human beings as biological or mechanical machines denies, implicitly, that we have the freedom and real agency characteristic of our dignity as imago Dei. Indeed, a dwarfed self-understanding invariably leads to a diminished understanding of God. In a culture increasingly dominated by STEM, educators must be wary of the ways in which human beings are belittled by reductive frameworks. Such frameworks have served as prologue to forms of manipulation and desecration. It is certainly not my purpose, nor Taylor’s, to disparage the very real achievements of science. The issue is not what the sciences have achieved, but human self-understanding in relation to the sciences.

Taylor, with Socrates, views his project as one of retrieval, one in which we may reclaim the place of the human point of view not as mere appearance, but as real as the scientific one. The legitimacy of the human perspective accords well with Taylor’s commitment to the dignity of the person stemming from his Christian faith. In this way, both Socrates and Taylor affirm a philosophical anthropology that eschews the reductive stance of scientism, and for Taylor at least, enables us to understand ourselves in a way that is worthy of one made imago Dei.


Socrates and Charles Taylor reject reductionist frameworks for understanding the human person. When explanations of human motivation are rendered into terms of mechanical causality, questions of the good life for a human being are effectively banished. For Socrates and especially Taylor, self-interpretation is an essential element of what it is to be human. Self-interpretation accents the first-person perspective unique to human persons. The third-person perspective of the physical sciences purports to furnish a superior vantage point on human self-understanding for the social sciences, rendering experience a less informative, even unnecessary, resource. Taylor’s “best account” counters 1) that discourse about meaning and the good is an ineradicable part of human life, and 2) that no impersonal, neutral standpoint could improve upon human experience as a resource for self-understanding. Taylor extends his critique of the purported superiority of the impersonal standpoint for the social sciences to the nature of practical reasoning. It is not the nature of practical reason, he argues, to arbitrate between rival conceptions of the good life from some neutral perspective but only from within the engaged stance of existential choice. Practical reasoning is, for Taylor, a reasoning in transitions through incremental gains, not a judgment made from an absolute vantage point. We reason that the transition from one way of thinking, feeling, and living is an improvement upon an earlier, less adequate way of life. For Christians, God is the supreme example of personhood and human beings, according to Genesis, are created imago Dei. Taylor (following Socrates) invites us to be wary of reductive views of the human person since they rob us of a language by which we could adequately understand ourselves and diminish our dignity as persons made imago Dei.

Cite this article
J. Aultman-Moore, “Self-Understanding and Self-Interpretation: Socrates and Charles Taylor on Situating the Human”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 48:2 , 111-129


  1. Charles Taylor, Human Agency and Language: Philosophical Papers I (Cambridge: Cambridge
    University, 1985).
  2. Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1989).
  3. Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2007).
  4. Charles Taylor, Philosophical Arguments (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1995).
  5. Charles Taylor, Dilemmas and Connections (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2011).
  6. Taylor, Philosophical Papers I, 1. In the Introduction Taylor states, “Despite the appearance of variety in the papers published in this collection, they are the work of a monomaniac; or perhaps better, what Isaiah Berlin has called a hedgehog. If not a single idea, then at least a single rather tightly related agenda underlines all of them. If one had to find a name for where this agenda falls in the geography of philosophical domains, the term ‘philosophical anthropology’ would perhaps be best.”
  7. A well-known example of this is Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (London: Simon and Schuster, 1994). On page three, Crick defines his book’s title: “The Astonishing Hypothesis is that ‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: ‘You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.’ This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.”
  8. Taylor, Sources, 58.
  9. Ravi Sharma, “Socrates’ New Aitia: Causal and Metaphysical Explanations in Plato’s Phaedo,” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 36 (2009): 161-162.
  10. Of course, this is just the sort of teleological, anthropocentric thinking about nature that was banished at the dawn of the Scientific Revolution. Taylor’s project is to retrieve the moral dimension of human experience as a valid resource for living our lives even as he grants the necessity of excising the human perspective for doing science.
  11. David Sedley,“Teleology and Myth in the Phaedo,” in Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy Vol. 5, eds. John J. Cleary and Daniel C. Shartin (1990), 373: “Plato really does want to emphasize that the power of the good is a compelling force in the cosmos, somehow comparable to the power of matter but greatly superior in strength and reliability. This should put us on our guard against any temptation to relegate Platonic causes entirely to the epistemological realm, thinking of them as explanatory devices purely within the confines of human discourse. They are forces out there actually doing something.”
  12. The nature of Anaxagoras’ Mind and how it functions is contentious. The central issue seems to be whether Mind is a quasi-personal agent purposefully directing the cosmos for some good or whether blind, purposeless natural processes run the show and Anaxagoras’ Mind is a redundant, pseudo-cause. Aristotle’s testimony agrees with Socrates’ take above, “Anaxagoras … uses Mind as an artificial contrivance (μηχάνηin the making of the cosmos, and whenever he’s at a loss in giving his account of what happens from necessity, he drags in [Mind], but in other cases, he accounts for what comes into being in terms of anything except Mind” (Metaphysics, 985a18-22, my translation). In the popular mind, it seems that Anaxagoras is regarded as an atheist, one of those “free thinking” cosmologists who substitute newfangled natural causes for old-fashioned divine ones. Ironically, this is exactly how Aristophanes depicts Socrates in the Clouds! There, Socrates proclaims to his prospective “student” Strepsiades that as far as accounting for rain and thunder is concerned Zeus is out, Clouds and the Aetherial Vortex are in (Clouds, 367-379). Today, those in the “Intelligent Design” movement have the same anxieties about the theory of evolution as Strepsiades did to Socrates’ “scientific” explanations. While cross-examining Meletus at his own trial, Meletus claims that Socrates is an atheist. Flabbergasted, Socrates asks, “Don’t I recognize that the sun and moon are gods, just like other people?” “No, by Zeus, gentlemen of the jury, since he says that the sun is a stone and the moon is earth.” Socrates is incensed and asks, “Do you think you’re accusing Anaxagoras, my dear Meletus? And do you have such contempt for these men, here, that you think they’re inexperienced with his writings, that they don’t know that the books of Anaxagoras of Klazomenae are full of these arguments?” (Apology of Socrates, 26d1-9, my translati n). Whitmarsh says that it is “highly likely” that Anaxagoras was prosecuted for ἀσέβεια, “impiety” but it isn’t clear when or by whom, and whether he lingered to stand trial. Anaxagoras, he claims, may have been the first person in the West prosecuted for heretical religious beliefs. See Tim Whitmarsh, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World(New York: Vintage Books, 2015), chapters 4 and 8. Andre Laks, in “Mind’s Crisis. On Anaxagoras’ Nous,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy 31 (1993): 19-38, and J. H. Lesher, in “Mind’s Knowledge and Powers of Control in Anaxagoras DK B12” Phronesis 40.2 (1995): 125-142, take opposing sides on the nature of Mind’s role. Laks argues for a non-teleological reading of Mind’s relation to the cosmos. Mind acts “indirectly” through the process ofperichoresis (rotation) that it initiates in the cosmic mix wherein “all other things have a share in everything.” For Laks, Mind’s role is to begin a process of separating things out from each other in order that they can have their own identity, just like Mind, which alone is separate and distinct (μόνος αὐτὸς ἐπ’ ἑωυτοῦ) from the cosmic jumble. Order and beauty are a side-consequence of the process of separation (31). Mind is ultimately frustrated in its goal of producing things with a definite identity and Laks ends by claiming, “complete separation is mind’s wishful thinking” (33). Laks tends to talk about Mind’s role in terms of material process, which is just what Socrates and Aristotle found frustrating. Lesher, on the other hand, is more at pains to show Mind’s conscious overseeing of cosmic process. Lesher focuses on what he views to be a key passage in Fragment 12, καὶ γνώμην γε περὶ παντὸς πᾶσαν ἴσχει, which he translates as, “[Mind] holds every decision concerning everything.” The unusual word, says Lesher, is γνώμην. Having furnished an historical overview of the uses of both this term and Nous, Lesher claims that Mind is “… intimately involved in the details of fashioning the cosmos, and hence must have enjoyed some degree of awareness of individual entities as it went about its work…” (141-142). In this way, Lesher argues for a more conscious and teleological approach to Mind’s relation to the cosmos than Laks.
  13. Literally, “placeless.” It is interesting to think of the resonances of Plato’s choice of words here. In some sense, it is “absurd” because it provides, in its scheme of things, no place for the human.
  14. Ebrey argues that Socrates’ rejection of “bones and sinews” as an adequate causal account of why he remains in prison is not because they cannot operate as a teleological cause, but because material causes, “can be involved in quite different changes, depending on what opinion is guiding them. Throughout the autobiographical section Socrates is committed, quite generally, to the causal requirement that the same thing cannot cause opposites.” See David Ebrey, “Making Room for Matter: Material Causes in the Phaedo and the Physics,” Apeiron47.2 (2014): 251. While in basic agreement with Ebrey on the ambiguity of construing intention from the motion of bodily parts, Osorio emphasizes the teleological and moral motives of Socrates’ position “…in order to explain from a teleological and rational point of view why Socrates has not escaped, one must take recourse to Socrates’s intellect and its knowledge of the good. In that regard, Socrates has drawn the distinction between that because of which someone does what he does and those things in the absence of which the cause could never be a cause.The problem of Anaxagoras (and of the rest of the Presocratics) is that he was not capable of distinguishing between the ‘real cause’ and that without which the ‘real cause’ could not exercise its power (dunamis).” See Jose Manuel Osorio, “Teleology in the Phaedo’s Biographical Account,” Gnosis 15.1, (2016): 9. See also Sharma, “Socrates’ New Aitia,” 170: “Socrates is able to offer a diagnosis of the confusion into which his materialist predecessors fell. Because they neglected the good when giving their causal explanations, they proved unable to appreciate what it would be to discover that which is truly responsible (aition) for a given phenomenon … Socrates cannot garner any satisfying teleological theories from Anaxagoras, and so he is forced to embark on his ‘second voyage,’ [Eide as causes] which involves leaving behind such [materialist] theories altogether.”
  15. Notoriously, the Intelligent Design movement still does! Perhaps the same thing could be said of the Anthropic principle, though it seems to me that the latter is backed by much more substantive, empirical evidence. Of course, both of these are metaphysical interpretations of the data.
  16. See Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, (Oxford: Oxford University, 2012).
  17. Christian Smith describes Taylor’s position as “antiscientistic phenomenology.” Smith holds that Taylor’s phenomenological account of the person and the good “gives priority to certain features of experience that it claims are indispensable for making sense of our lives. … The starting point of this phenomenological approach that opposes naturalistic scientism is that terms of our experience that we cannot live without to best ‘make sense’ of our lives provide legitimate and important clues about what is real. To be clear, the ‘terms’ that Taylor is specifically defending in his argument are morality and value, though his argument can easily be extended to make sense of other aspects of human experience, such as personhood, to which naturalistic scientism is often blind. So, when it comes to explaining human life … the unavoidably personal experience of living life cannot be radically separated off as providing untrustworthy knowledge.” See Smith, What is a Person? Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2010), 104-106.
  18. An analogy from “folk physics” may help to understand what is being claimed by the disparagers of “folk psychology.” In everyday language we refer to the “rising and setting of the sun.” From a scientific perspective, this is an illusory appearance foisted upon us earth-dwellers by our parochial perspective. Similarly, some neuroscientists, behaviorists and evolutionary psychologists claim that our language of personal agency (implying purpose, intention, desire, value) is illusory (equivalent to the “rising and setting sun”) and should be abandoned once it is realized that such human experience comes down to nothing but neuro-chemical impulses or evolutionary strategies for reproductive success.
  19. David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature Vol. 1, 4, 4 “Of the Modern Philosophy,” (London: J.M. Dent and Sons, LTD, 1911) 216-217. In The Assayer, Galileo had made this same distinction in his famous thought experiments of moving one’s hand over a statue versus over a living person, and drawing a piece of paper or a feather over various parts of the body. Galileo’s position is dependent upon a still earlier philosopher, the founder of Greek Atomism, Democritus. It was he who first introduced the ancestral notion behind the distinction between primary and secondary qualities: “By convention sweet and by convention bitter, by convention hot, by convention cold, by convention colored, but in reality atoms and void” (νόμῳ γλυκὺ καὶ νόμῳ πικρὸν νόμῳ θερμὸν, νόμῳ ψυχρὸν νόμῳ χροίη, έτεῇ δὲ ἄτομα καὶ κενόν, Against the Professors, 7.135=68B9). The idea seems to be here that the real world, consisting of atoms and void, is radically other than our perceptual apparatus would lead us to believe. Our senses, conventionally taken to be our primary access to the real, becomes, with Democritus, an impenetrable veil interposing itself between us and the world as it is in itself.
  20. See David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Bk. 3, Pt. 1, Sec. 2, in Moral Philosophy, ed. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006), 77. In this passage Hume explicitly identifies virtue and vice with secondary qualities: “Vice and virtue, therefore, may be compare’d to sounds, colours, heat and cold, which, according to modern philosophy, are not qualities in objects, but perceptions in the mind. And this discovery in morals, like that other in physics, is to be regarded as a considerable advancement of the speculative sciences.” Later in this same passage, Hume notes the error of those who, unaccountably, use the terms, ought or ought not, having unempirically and hence illegitimately derived them from “the usual copulations of propositions, is and is not…”
  21. For a fascinating take on the nature of Aristotelian science and what its loss meant for our worldview with the rise of Enlightenment science, see David Roochnik, Retrieving Aristotle in an Age of Crisis (New York, NY: SUNY Press, 2013).
  22. See Fergus Kerr on the “deeply misguided” model of practical reasoning implicit in Hume’s fact/value distinction in Kerr, “The Self and the Good: Taylor’s Moral Ontology,” in Charles Taylor, ed. Ruth Abbey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 84-104. As we shall see Taylor’s “best account” principle implicitly rejects Hume’s dichotomy.
  23. Ronald de Sousa, “Seizing the Hedgehog by the Tail: Taylor on the Self and Agency,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 18.3 (September 1988): 421.
  24. Charles Taylor, “Reply to de Sousa and Davis,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 18.3 (September 1988): 450.
  25. Ibid., 451.
  26. Nicholas H. Smith makes a similar connection between mechanical causality and loss of meaning: “But what really falls under the category of things that contain or express a meaning? Modern science challenges the idea that physical systems or entities do. It makes the existence of some physical object, or the happening of some physical event, intelligible as the outcome of a causal, mechanical process rather than as a signifier of anything. Perhaps, then, it is mental objects or events—that is, thoughts—that are the true bearers of meaning. But to the extent that mental phenomena are also ultimately answerable to the mechanistic laws discovered by science, the mind seems to fare no better. And if the meaning belongs to neither mind nor matter, the suspicion can easily arise that there is something ontologically or metaphysically ‘queer’ about it, that there is no room for meaning in our best accounts of existence and reality. Modern naturalism embraces this thought and seeks to explain all phenomena, irrespective of the meaning they appear to contain, as if they fell under the kinds of categories employed in the modern sciences of nature.” See Smith, “Taylor and the Hermeneutic Tradition,” in Charles Taylor, ed. Ruth Abbey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 30.
  27. Taylor, Philosophical Papers I, 45-76.
  28. See Aristotle, On RhetoricA Theory of Civic Discourse, trans. George A. Kennedy (New York: Oxford, 1991), Bk. 2, Chapter 2, 124-125. Aristotle defines anger (ὀργή) as arising on account of a perceived slight: “Let anger be [defined as] desire, accompanied by [mental and physical] distress, for conspicuous retaliation because of a conspicuous slight that was directed, without justification, against oneself or those near to one.”
  29. Taylor, Philosophical Papers 1, 49.
  30. Ibid., 51.
  31. Ibid., 53.
  32. Ibid., 55.
  33. Ibid., 65.
  34. Ibid., 63-64. As we shall see, this is related to what he will call the “best account” (BA) principle.
  35. Ibid., 65-68.
  36. Ibid., 66-67.
  37. Ibid., 67.
  38. Ibid., 58.
  39. Ibid., 59.
  40. Ibid., 57.
  41. Ibid., 59.
  42. Ibid., 59.
  43. Ruth Abbey, Philosophy Now: Charles Taylor (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000), 26-31.
  44. Ibid., 29.
  45. Ibid., 28.
  46. Smith, What is a Person? 107-108.
  47. Ruth Abbey talks about how this approach to objects in the natural world is perfectly appropriate: “In the natural sciences, realists typically contend that even without a population of human beings to know it, the natural world would continue to possess the forces it does in the presence of humans. Gravity, for example, is not something that derives its properties from the fact that humans know about it or understand it in a certain way. Conversely, for humans to properly understand gravity requires that they minimize the intrusion of their subjectivity into their attempts to understand it.” See Abbey, Philosophy Now, 28. See also Fergus Kerr, “The Self and the Good: Taylor’s Moral Ontology,” in Contemporary Philosophy in Focus: Charles Taylor, ed. Ruth Abbey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 84-104.
  48. Taylor, Sources of the Self, 8.
  49. Alasdair MacIntyre, “Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative, and the Philosophy of Science,” in The Tasks of Philosophy, Selected Essays, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 3-23.
  50. Charles Taylor, “Explanation and Practical Reason,” in Philosophical Arguments (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 45-46. Henceforth, “EPR.”
  51. Ibid., 46.
  52. Ibid., 47.
  53. Ibid., 49-53.
  54. See the excellent discussion of Brian J. Braman in Meaning and Authenticity: Bernard Lonergan and Charles Taylor on the Drama of Authentic Human Existence (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 34-39.
  55. Taylor, “EPR,” 51.
  56. Braman, 35.
  57. Ibid., 36.
  58. Taylor, “EPR,” 52.
  59. Ibid., 52.
  60. After more than 30 years of marriage, I still think fondly of this therapist.

J. Aultman-Moore

Waynesburg University
J. Aultman-Moore is a professor of Philosophy at Waynesburg University.