Thursday, 3 March 2011

The self and the good

In the opening chapter of Sources of the Self, Charles Taylor notes that it is not possible to get clear about the 'modern identity' - about the human agent, person, or self - "without some further understanding of how our pictures of the good have evolved. Selfhood and the good, or in another way selfhood and morality, turn out to be inextricably intertwined themes." (Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996] 3)

But there is another obstacle to this task:
Much contemporary moral philosophy, particularly but not only in the English-speaking world, has given such a narrow focus to morality that some of the crucial connections I want to draw here are incomprehensible in its terms. This moral philosophy has tended to focus on what it is right to do rather than on what it is good to be, on defining the content of obligation rather than the nature of the good life; and it has no conceptual place left for a notion of the good as the object of our love and allegiance.... (3)
As I begin to teach Moral Theology to the FMA novices here in Nashik, relying on notes that I had made 20 years ago, I realize how very true this is: the whole approach of my notes - derived from theology classes at Kristu Jyoti College? - is a focus on the moral act rather than on the nature of the good life.... And that was the focus also of Azzopardi's Ethics in JDV...

So is Taylor making common cause with MacIntyre, at least on this point?

And what might be the position of Giuseppe Abba, a much neglected figure in contemporary virtue ethics, not even finding mention in the current article on the topic in the Wikipedia?

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