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starcloud.gif (2431 bytes)    Charles Taylor


     Philosophy & the Human Sciences: Philosophical Papers, vol. 2
     Philosophical Arguments

Who is Charles Taylor?

Charles Taylor is a professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University.  For many years he was a professor of social & political theory at Oxford University.  He is the author of many books, including a standard technical work on Hegel.  Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity is a famous book appealing to a general academic readership. 

Three features make Taylor an attractive choice for us.

 First, Taylor writes much of his work for a general academic audience, instead of for a highly specialized audience of philosophy professors or graduate students. Academic philosophic writing is highly allusive. Although Taylor does allude to both primary & secondary works, his allusions are illustrative. He does not allude to works merely to show his erudition. His work is highly readable and non-technical.
 The second attraction of Taylor's work has to do with his choice of popular & non-technical topics. In the works we will read, Taylor examines questions about language & social philosophy.
 Taylor is an important contemporary philosopher.

This class focuses on language and how language works from the view of philosophical pragmatism.  We will analyze 13 essays by Charles Taylor collected in Philosophy and the Human Sciences.  Half of the essays treat language as such, the other half examines language as a social medium. 


  1. Write answers to the questions asked in each of the analytic Webpages below.  These papers will be 2-3 pages (500-750 words) submitted as email or email attachments. 
    Use the Web or use other sources to track down names and terms.
  2. We will discuss each essay via email exchanges.
  3. We will spend a week on each essay.
  4. You will also write an analytic research paper of 12-16 pages on an approved topic arising from our reading. 

Here is a series of questions & answers to aid you in critically reading the essays collected in Philosophical Arguments.

  #1: "Overcoming Epistemology"
  #2: "The Validity of Transcendental Arguments"
  #3: "Explanation & Practical Reason" (T. Kuhn)
  #4: "Heidegger & Wittgenstein"
  #5: "The Importance of Herder" (the linguistic turn; origins of language)
  #6: "Heidegger, Language, & Ecology" (perhaps the best essay
            in this collection)

  #7: "Irreducibly Social Goods" (liberal social theory)
      #8: skip this one

  #9: "To Follow a Rule" (Wittgenstein & pragmatic epistemology)
  #10: "Cross-Purposes: The Liberal--Communitarian Debate"
              (Bentham vs. Ed. Burke)

  #11: "Invoking Civil Society"
(11, 13 & 12 are related; I prefer
             this order)

  #12: "The Politics of Recognition" (perhaps the 2nd best essay

  #13: "Liberal Politics & the Public Sphere

More from Philosophy & the Human Sciences: Philosophical Papers 2 (1985):

  #1: "Interpretation & the Sciences of Man"
  #3: "Social Theory as Practice"
  #4: "Understanding & Ethnocentricity"
  #6: "Foucault on Freedom & Truth"
  #10: "Legitimation Crisis?"


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