Re-Enchanting The World: An Examination Of Ethics, Religion, And Their Relationship In The Work Of Charles Taylor
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
In this dissertation I examine the topics of ethics, religion, and their relationship in the work of Charles Taylor. I take Taylor's attempt to confront modern disenchantment by seeking a kind of re-enchantment as my guiding thread. Seeking re-enchantment means, first of all, defending an `engaged realist' account of strong evaluation, i.e., qualitative distinctions of value that are seen as normative for our desires. Secondly, it means overcoming self-enclosure and achieving self-transcendence, which I argue should be understood in terms of transcending a `lower' mode of selfhood for a `higher' one in concern for `strong goods'.
One of the main issues that Taylor raises is whether re-enchantment requires theism for its full adequacy. He advances - often as `hunches' - controversial claims regarding the significance of theism (1) for defending strong evaluative realism and (2) for motivating an ethic of universal human concern. I seek to fill out his hunches in terms of a theistic teleological perspective that is centered on the `telos of communion'. I argue that such a view is important for overcoming the problem of what Bernard Williams calls the `radical contingency' of ethical beliefs, which seems to undermine their normative authority. However, I argue that if a non-theistic view of cosmic purpose (e.g., Thomas Nagel's view) can be regarded as a viable option, then it could also help to address this problem and support a kind of re-enchantment. Taylor also advances the controversial view that (3) there is an ineradicable draw to `transcendence' in human life in connection to the quest for the meaning of life. Here he opposes certain mainstream theories of secularization that see it as a process involving the ineluctable fading away of the relevance of religion. I seek to fill out and defend Taylor's view in this matter.
Besides providing a reading of Taylor's work as a whole and advancing further some of the issues he raises, I also examine his general evaluative framework based on his account of strong evaluation. In doing so I show how he provides a distinct and important perspective among contemporary moral philosophers.