On Rousseau, Authenticity, Sincerity and Self-Deception: An Interview with John Warner (Audio)

As a sequel to my series on Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity, I asked John Warner in to discuss Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s thoughts on the development of the modern self. Warner is an expert on Rousseau’s political thought. He is the author of Rousseau and the Problem of Human Relations (2018) and many articles on Rousseau. His most recent article deals with Rousseau on sincerity and self-deception. Charles Taylor’s book attempts to discern the original meaning of the concept of authenticity and invokes Rousseau as a source, arguing that along the way the concept of authenticity was corrupted into mere shallow narcissism. Warner’s views help us to understand to what extent Rousseau should be seen as contributing to the contemporary rendition of authenticity and how Rousseau can help shed light on the modern unsettled sense of self. … More On Rousseau, Authenticity, Sincerity and Self-Deception: An Interview with John Warner (Audio)

On Rousseau, Authenticity, Sincerity and Self-Deception: An Interview with John Warner (Video)

As a sequel to my series on Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity, I asked John Warner in to discuss Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s thoughts on the development of the modern self. Warner is an expert on Rousseau’s political thought. He is the author of Rousseau and the Problem of Human Relations (2018) and many articles on Rousseau. His most recent article deals with Rousseau on sincerity and self-deception. Charles Taylor’s book attempts to discern the original meaning of the concept of authenticity and invokes Rousseau as a source, arguing that along the way the concept of authenticity was corrupted into mere shallow narcissism. Warner’s views help us to understand to what extent Rousseau should be seen as contributing to the contemporary rendition of authenticity and how Rousseau can help shed light on the modern unsettled sense of self. … More On Rousseau, Authenticity, Sincerity and Self-Deception: An Interview with John Warner (Video)

Getting Our * Back Under Control: Charles Taylor’s Cure for Fragmentation (Malaise 6-Audio)

In this concluding video on Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity I discuss Taylor’s critique of technical rationality (scientific, corporate, bureaucratic). Taylor does it in his characteristic style–technique/technology/technical rationality is not wholly good or bad. In order to get what we create back under control so that it serves us, we have to realize this and re-assert the primacy of politics (real politics) and political control. Taylor’s analysis speaks to our moment, in which we are too divided and our ideas too simplistic and negative, to engage in real political debate and discourse. How do we get back to a place of true democratic politics? Can we realize the moral impulse that Taylor argues initiated the Enlightenment promise in reason, science and technology (they long ago went off the rails), or are we doomed to be dominated by our own creations? … More Getting Our * Back Under Control: Charles Taylor’s Cure for Fragmentation (Malaise 6-Audio)

Getting Our * Back Under Control: Charles Taylor’s Cure for Fragmentation (Malaise 6-Video)

In this concluding video on Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity I discuss Taylor’s critique of technical rationality (scientific, corporate, bureaucratic). Taylor does it in his characteristic style–technique/technology/technical rationality is not wholly good or bad. In order to get what we create back under control so that it serves us, we have to realize this and re-assert the primacy of politics (real politics) and political control. Taylor’s analysis speaks to our moment, in which we are too divided and our ideas too simplistic and negative, to engage in real political debate and discourse. How do we get back to a place of true democratic politics? Can we realize the moral impulse that Taylor argues initiated the Enlightenment promise in reason, science and technology (they long ago went off the rails), or are we doomed to be dominated by our own creations? … More Getting Our * Back Under Control: Charles Taylor’s Cure for Fragmentation (Malaise 6-Video)

Originality is Not the Point: Charles Taylor’s Views on Environment/External Reality (Malaise 5-Audio)

Inspired by Charles Taylor’s Malaise of Modernity, Chapter 8, I discuss Taylor’s points about whether rejection of all authority and previous cultural accretions in the name of authenticity is necessary or whether it entirely misses the point. Is it even possible to be “original?” If we think that it is, are we not susceptible to the worst suggestions for how to achieve our “originality” or authenticity, whether those suggestions come from unscrupulous leaders or purveyors of commercial products?. Taylor’s analysis of how this problem plays out in our relationship to the environment is especially interesting. We treat it as though it is an extension of ourselves to be molded and shaped any way we want, and yet it won’t completely comply–because it is not an extension of ourselves but an actual external reality with (recalling Jakob Hanschu’s treatment of New Materialism and his development of Dark Materialism) its own uncontrollable ramifications? … More Originality is Not the Point: Charles Taylor’s Views on Environment/External Reality (Malaise 5-Audio)

Originality is Not the Point: Charles Taylor’s Views on Environment/External Reality (Malaise 5-Video)

Inspired by Charles Taylor’s Malaise of Modernity, Chapter 8, I discuss Taylor’s points about whether rejection of all authority and previous cultural accretions in the name of authenticity is necessary or whether it entirely misses the point. Is it even possible to be “original?” If we think that it is, are we not susceptible to the worst suggestions for how to achieve our “originality” or authenticity, whether those suggestions come from unscrupulous leaders or purveyors of commercial products?. Taylor’s analysis of how this problem plays out in our relationship to the environment is especially interesting. We treat it as though it is an extension of ourselves to be molded and shaped any way we want, and yet it won’t completely comply–because it is not an extension of ourselves but an actual external reality with (recalling Jakob Hanschu’s treatment of New Materialism and his development of Dark Materialism) its own uncontrollable ramifications? … More Originality is Not the Point: Charles Taylor’s Views on Environment/External Reality (Malaise 5-Video)

Charles Taylor on Divorce & Breakup: Why Do We Do This? (Malaise 4-Video)

Using an all-too-familiar modern story of social media seduction, consequent marital breakup, and the futile search for validation in new romantic relationships, I traverse chapters 6 and 7 in Charles Taylor’ Malaise of Modernity. The story is sadly commonplace, which is ironic because breakups are often done in the quest for authenticity. But for that reason, this story is an analog for what generally ails us. I cover some systemic reasons Taylor mentions which help explain why people often make relationship mistakes over and over again in the search for an authentic life, but I offer a critique as well. … More Charles Taylor on Divorce & Breakup: Why Do We Do This? (Malaise 4-Video)

What’s Wrong With Relativism? Charles Taylor’s Authenticity (Malaise 3-Audio)

This video discusses content from Chapters 4 and 5 of Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity (1991). Taylor patiently eviscerates contemporary vapid relativism as logically incoherent and socially destructive and discusses the inherently social nature of human beings. The consequences of claiming complete autonomy of choice based on our feelings include an inability to defend our positions and an ignorance about our true nature. The “complete autonomy” approach deprives us of the dialogue we need in our personal and social relationships that would help us make better choices in the pursuit of authenticity. … More What’s Wrong With Relativism? Charles Taylor’s Authenticity (Malaise 3-Audio)

The Ethic of Authenticity: Good, Bad or Both? Charles Taylor (Malaise 2-Audio)

In this podcast I discuss the modern idea authenticity as developed in chapters 2 and 3 of Charles Taylor’s “The Malaise of Modernity” (CBC Massey Lecture Series, 1991). Taylor thinks that the ethic of authenticity is separable from the moral relativism, emotivism and narcissism with which it is associated by authors like Allan Bloom and Christopher Lasch, and that it holds promise as a modern moral ideal if we can do so. In these two chapters he begins to excavate why American (including Canadian, though probably less so) culture took a turn into flabby relativism and narcissism and how we might excavate the original meaning of authenticity to see if it holds true promise. To that end, he discusses its Romantic origins in the ideas of Rousseau and Herder. Along the way, I relate some of Taylor’s ideas the work of Isaiah Berlin and Leo Strauss. … More The Ethic of Authenticity: Good, Bad or Both? Charles Taylor (Malaise 2-Audio)

The Ethic of Authenticity: Good, Bad or Both? Charles Taylor (Malaise 2-Video)

In this video I discuss the modern idea authenticity as developed in chapters 2 and 3 of Charles Taylor’s “The Malaise of Modernity” (CBC Massey Lecture Series, 1991). Taylor thinks that the ethic of authenticity is separable from the moral relativism, emotivism and narcissism with which it is associated by authors like Allan Bloom and Christopher Lasch, and that it holds promise as a modern moral ideal if we can do so. In these two chapters he begins to excavate why American (including Canadian, though probably less so) culture took a turn into flabby relativism and narcissism and how we might excavate the original meaning of authenticity to see if it holds true promise. To that end, he discusses its Romantic origins in the ideas of Rousseau and Herder. Along the way, I relate some of Taylor’s ideas the work of Isaiah Berlin and Leo Strauss. … More The Ethic of Authenticity: Good, Bad or Both? Charles Taylor (Malaise 2-Video)