A Fruitful Exploration of the Core

by Marie Snyder

Maybe there are seeds of potential deep within ourselves, but maybe there’s nothing there but a collection of signals. Regardless the outcome, we need to dig in to see what we can find.

In several classes I took last term, the idea of a core self that’s fluid came through discussions of the postmodernist view of the self. But I’m not convinced we’re still living the pomo life, and I’m not sure we want to be.

Taking liberally from Charles Taylor, and others, it appears that we once had some communal ideals, then flipped from seeking answers from God to proving them with science, then realized some pretty major problems with glorifying any kind of authority and renounced all of them, but now, drawing on the types of films being made and the stories told, it feels like we’re readjusting back to a place with more solid values and truths. I hope so, anyway.

In the pre-modern time, when God was truth and miracles could happen, there was no need for individual identities. We were all divine through our very creation. Modernism reacted against random beliefs with a scientific method that began to be embraced to find the real truths out there. Suddenly individual identity became interesting. What even are we? In 1641 Descartes deduced we have proof that we exist whenever we consider our own existence because something must be there to be thinking about what we are, and we call that something “I”. That was a big deal. Read more »

Escaping The Prison Of (Philosophical) Modernity, Part 2: Meaning as Truth-Conditions in Taylor and Davidson

by Dave Maier

Last time, in part 1, I distinguished two strategies for combating philosophical modernism of a certain dated kind: a pluralistic post-empiricism (the exact nature of which I left open for now), and a more narrowly focused post-phenomenological approach which regards the former (and/or its main components) as merely another form of the supposedly mutually rejected picture. In sections I and II, I discussed Charles Taylor’s and Hubert Dreyfus’s phenomenological criticisms of Richard Rorty and John McDowell; today I continue with a look at Taylor’s analogous criticism of Donald Davidson. As before, the point is not to reject phenomenological approaches, but instead merely to understand why Davidson looks to Taylor even less like an anti-Cartesian ally than do Rorty and McDowell, and thus why Taylor will not be impressed by a pragmatist strategy of multiple philosophical tools in which Davidsonian semantics plays a major role. Let me also say that in reading a lot of Taylor’s work recently, I was quite impressed with the scope and rigor of his overall project, and I think that what I present as his drastic misreading of Davidson’s philosophy may most likely be detached and discarded without threatening that project. Or so it seems to me at present. Read more »