[lit-ideas] Re: Honor? Charles Taylor anyone?

  • From: "John McCreery" <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 16 May 2006 17:07:09 +0900

On 5/16/06, Teemu Pyyluoma <teme17@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

I'm not surprised that Phil Enns read this book, but why are you interested in it?

For several reasons. First, I'm an anthropologist, and how to describe the selves of people whose assumptions may be radically different from the person doing the describing is a classic anthropological problem. Second, what it means to be modern (as opposed to pre- or post- modern) is an issue in which I have long taken an interest. Thus the title caught my attention.

At the moment what interests me most is how the philosopher develops
an argument after giving up the classic ambition to provide a
definitive statement, ideally about everything. That problem has, of
course, been around for a long time. Some years back Robert Paul
pointed us to that wonderful passage in the _Nichomachean Ethics_
where Aristotle remarks that a properly educated person seeks
explanations no more precise than their subject matter allows and
asserts that it makes no more sense to demand absolute precision in
discussions of politics than to accept lack of precision in the
arguments of mathematicians. How, then, do you speak with sufficient
precision when speaking of areas of life in which ambiguity abounds?
How do you develop an argument that is reasonably compelling while
openly acknowledging that a sketch of the topic in question is
necessarily partial? Taylor seems to me to be an example of
argumentation under these conditions that's about as good as it gets—a
conclusion that seems more compelling to me the more I read and reread

There is also the possibility I mentioned in my original message, that
Taylor's framework might help us to understand where some of the
arguments offered here fit into a larger space of possibilities and
thus to understand them more clearly, even if, at the end of the day,
the positions taken remain irreconcilable.


John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN

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