Ethics & International Affairs Volume 5 (1991): Special Section on Ethical Traditions and World Change: "The Vision Thing": Charles Taylor Against Inarticulacy [Abstract]

Dec 1, 1991

In response to Charles Taylor's book Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, Becker defends the Western view of ethical conceptions based on our unique identity, reasoning, and historical heritage. Taylor presents a vision of transcultural universal ethical principles that cannot be grounded on cultural idiosyncrasies, and he criticizes Western cultural convictions of beliefs and values leading to unequivocally individualistic and personalized perceptions of ethics. Becker notes the uniqueness of the person and the "awesomeness of human life," which are directly linked with our respect for rational evaluation of ethics and the crucial importance of the ability of the individual to search for his/her human identity. Our "moral vision" is precisely based on "the good life in terms of respect for humanity and all its diversity," therefore establishing ethics on personal selfhood and individuality. The author concedes that Taylor's motivations for the belief in creating a vision of the common good are plausible, but criticizes him for failing to account for the historical context of our values.

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