Omar, Heather-Noel Schwartz describes Sources of the Self as "an examination of the ethical basis behind a Communitarian society." Schwartz implies that Taylor values autonomy in that it enables the individual to choose what matters. I could ask whether he chooses what matters to him or what matters to the community in which he resides. If there is no difference, if what matters to the individual is identical to what matters to the community, then I wonder whether much value can be placed on autonomy. If we remember that pre-modern man did not want to be autonomous from his community, it is probably safe to say that a longing to be one with one's community is something many if not most people feel. Sinclair Lewis with Babbitt, made conformity a dirty word, and yet people still desire to be accepted members in good standing of their communities. Organizations of all sorts want their members to conform to a greater or lesser extent. So how valuable is autonomy? Or perhaps a better question would be "what sort of person most values autonomy?" A member-in-good-standing at a local church is going to be one who conforms to the beliefs and practices of that church. To call a church member "autonomous" is almost a contradiction in terms. If someone disagrees with the doctrine and practices of his church, he will almost certainly not remain a member. He cannot be utterly autonomous and be a conscientious member at the same time. On the other hand a historian writing an original work of history will strive to be autonomous in the sense that he will seek to avoid being influenced by previous historians' opinions; otherwise he will be called a disciple. The same thing would be true in other fields. Russell wanted Wittgenstein to be a disciple but the latter was autonomous and could not subordinate his thinking to Russell's. Can we say that we are happier if we are living in a structure we respect, one in which we readily choose not to exercise our potential autonomy? Perhaps we have a family, are a member in good standing of a few organizations including our job, subscribe to popular opinions, accept what is accepted and are, therefore, happy. But some of us were confronted by the question in Philosophy 101, "is it better to be a happy fool or an unhappy Socrates?" We decided, of course, that it was better to be an unhappy Socrates, and Socrates was about as autonomous as it is possible to get. Even when he drank the hemlock he was choosing a course of action almost no one else would have chosen, or perhaps it is better to say "been able to choose." Though we answered the question a certain way in Philosophy 101, have we carried that answer consistently throughout our lives? Or have we opted in most situations for the soothing happiness of the joiner, the Babbitt, the conformist, the fool? Then too there is almost by definition a pathological risk to being autonomous. It has been implied to us that Socrates was unhappy. Surely it is pathological to choose to be unhappy. I've read many of the Plato's Dialogues and don't recall that Socrates was presented as being unhappy, but insofar as we reject our community in the exercise of our autonomy, we are inviting unhappiness. Perhaps the historian or the philosopher can be autonomous without being unhappy, but can a truck driver, a policeman or an engineer? In speaking for the latter category, I recall that I didn't seek autonomy in all things but when a managerial decision came athwart my conception of what was right, I became unhappy, especially when I decided to do what I believed to be right rather than obey an order. Schwartz portrays Taylor as addressing this issue. She says Taylor wouldn't have couched the matter as I have but would ask "what does it mean to be good" when confronted with my engineering dilemma"? And yet I must slip back into the matter of right and argue that it would have been more difficult for me to live with having done something wrong than having disobeyed a manager. I don't recall thinking in terms of choosing the good. Lawrence -----Original Message----- From: Omar Kusturica --- Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote: > I'm not sure whether Charles Taylor cares about the > "autonomy" of the modern > self, *Apparently he is quite concerned with that. See: http://members.aol.com/ThryWoman/CTCE.html The general thrust of Turner's ideas are set against the narrative of Western intellectual thought, particularly concerning the ideas of Autonomy and Morality. Modernist philosophers have placed Reason, Autonomy and rule-governed/rights-based morality at the center of what is considered to be a "good life." What has been taken to issue by many theorists in the 19th and 20th Centuries is the harmful aspects of these grand ideas. Reason was chipped away at by the increasing bureaucratization and military technologies/methods of killing, Autonomy considered to be not only a bourgeois luxury but a naive understanding of what the individual is in society, and moralities based on rights and fundamentally, rules, had been criticized for being anything but moral by doing away with morality founded from (and maintained) within individuals. It is at this dissolution/disillusion that Taylor enters the scene. Charles Taylor continues the effort to question the authority of Reason and Autonomy. By this, I mean to state that Reason and Autonomy have been given the the authority to be the only goods in life and thus ignoring the other facets of what Turner and contemporaries would consider "the good life." Fundamental to modernist thinking is the use of dichotomies that arbitrarily polarizes fragments of human existence and ways of knowing. Typical examples can be thrown out easily (for we all know the game) such as Reason/Intuition, Light/Dark, Male /Female, Individual/Community, etc,. In the West, the dichotomy was used as a way to regulate and steer society into a "morality" and fetishization of laws based on Reason and Autonomy. As many theorists have pointed out, the belief in an existent/coherent notion of Reason and Autonomy (that is privileged in the West) can exist only against the categories of the Irrational and Community (society). The standards (Reason, Autonomy, and rights based on the two) are given the authority to decide what does and does not matter. "Mattering", especially for Taylor, is an important aspect of ethics when considering what is "the good life."1 It is in this consideration that Taylor begins to re-evaluate the values that the have been the foundation of Western thought and society.