A couple of days ago I got a notice that I can expect Taylor's book in from 8 to 10 days. I have been reading the comments however and on Omar's question about the self there is something from my own reading that seems to bear - or perhaps I should say that I have an interest in when the idea of our individuality originated (which Morris addresses) and the relationship of the modern self to that origination: Colin Morris wrote The Discovery of the Individual, 1050-1200, 1972. In it he argues that our sense of individuality has not been the norm throughout our history as a species. He argues that it originated in the 1050-1200 period. Morris introduces the contrast the modern sense of self with the premodern sense by providing a couple of quotations. He represents the modern sense by a quotation from Auden: Some thirty inches from my nose The frontier of my Person goes; And all the untilled air between Is private pagus or demesne. Stranger, unless with bedroom eyes I beckon you to fraternize, Beware of rudely crossing it; I have no gun, but I can spit. He quotes the advice given a son by a West African father as representing the premodern sense: "There is a certain form of behaviour to observe, and certain ways of acting in order that the guiding spirit of our race may approach you also. . . . If you desire the guiding spirit of our race to visit you one day, if you desire to inherit it in your turn, you will have to conduct yourself in the selfsame manner; from now on, it will be necessary for you to be more and more in my company." Morris follows the last quote with, "This relative weakness of the sense of individuality is not confined to those societies which we normally call primitive. The student of the Greek Fathers or of Hellenistic philosophy is likely to be made painfully aware of the difference between their starting-point and ours. Our difficulty in understanding them is largely due to the fact that they had no equivalent to our concept 'person,' while their vocabulary was rich in words which express community of being, such as ousia, which in our usage can be translated only by the almost meaningless word 'substance.' The Asiatic and Eastern tradition of thought has set much less store by the individual than the West has done. Belief in reincarnation virtually excludes individuality in the Western sense, for each person is but a manifestation of the life within him, which will be reborn, after his apparent death, in another form. Western individualism is therefore far from expressing the common experience of humanity. Taking a world view, one might almost regard it as an eccentricity among cultures." But this isn't the main the argument of Morris' book. He is arguing that the idea of the modern individual didn't begin as had hitherto been argued with the Italian Renaissance but began much earlier, in the 1050-1200 period. I'm sure everyone has read about the modern idea of individuality growing out of the Renaissance. One can see the premodern idea of the individual in Islamic Fundamentalism. Individualism and even individual states ought not to be important. What ought to be important is the ummah. Of course the Islamists are in the modern world like it or not and so could never again perfect a premodern condition equivalent to the premodern ummah, but that is their ideal. We have other modern examples of people voluntarily giving up their individuality, or at least striving to do so, when they join religious cults. In the 30s that sort of ideal was held up for Communists. They should sacrifice their individuality for the good of the proletariat. If Morris is right and our "modern" idea of the individual can be regarded as an eccentricity among cultures, is our idea of the individual an unadulterated improvement over the premodern idea or are their pathological penalties to be paid? I read Phil Enns earlier comment from his May 18, 4:21 note in which he wrote "If Taylor is right, then the claim that frameworks could be dispensed with is nonsensical." I can't read the context and so can't respond to Taylor, but it occurred to me that modern Americans (and I doubt this is restricted to Americans) seem to love to claim to be uninfluenced by religion, philosophy, other people's orders, and restrictions of various kinds. They love to claim that they are utterly original and that all their ideas are self-conceived. Beyond that, it isn't uncommon for individuals or groups to seek to "drop out" of society. Of course what they are actually achieving doesn't live up to their desire, that is, in rejecting one set of standards they accept another, but psychologically they believe they are dropping out and becoming nihilists. So what is more important here, that we can show that there is still structure to their existence, or that these nihilists believe that there is not? Feel free to ignore the above if it has nothing to do with Taylor. But it is something that occurred to me while reading the notes, primarily Omar's comment (and I guess Omar doesn't have the book either) and one comment made by Phil Enns. Lawrence -----Original Message----- From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Omar Kusturica Sent: Thursday, May 18, 2006 7:51 AM To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: SOS or Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self --- John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx> wrote: > But when Paul writes, "this guy is going to give us > the > necessary and sufficient conditions of the 'modern > identity" I think > that he's flat wrong. I take Taylor to be a careful > writer who chooses > particular terms deliberately and see Taylor > sketching a prototype > that illustrates "various facets" of selves that > exemplify the modern > condition but does not amount to a classical > definition in terms of > necessary and sufficient conditions. > -- *Let me ask an ignorant question. Why is Taylor talking about "modern self" ? I can think of two possible implications, although there are probably more: 1) The "self" is a uniquely modern idea or product. 2) There is something about "modern self" that is unique and distinct from pre-modern (or un-modern ?) selves. I don't see how either implication would be sustainable without some fairly precise definition. O.K.