Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Charles Taylor and Christian Realism

Charles Taylor, not unlike Benedict XVI, understands human reason to have been broadened by Christian faith, not in the sense of ever greater abstractions, but in the sense of entering into the experience and consciousness of another level of being. In the sense of reason broadening to ever greater and more universal moral rules, he writes, “in Illich’s view, in this we are missing what is essential here. What the story (Christ and the Samaritan woman) is opening for us is not a set of universal rules, applying anywhere and everywhere, but another way of being.”[1] And the reason for this broadening is the reality of God Himself becoming flesh. Because Christ, the Word, became flesh, we form “a network, not a categorical grouping; that is, it is a skein of relations which link particular, unique, enfleshed people to each other, rather than a grouping of people together on the grounds of their sharing some important property (as in modern nations, we are all Canadians, Americans, French people; or universally, we are all rights-bearers, etc.). It resembles earlier kin networks in this regard. (In a tribe, the important thing is not the category we share in, but that I related to this person as my father, that as my uncle, that other as my cousin, etc. Which is why anthropologists discover to their surprise that in ‘primitive’ societies in the Amazon, say, people had words for the different roles, moieties, clans, etc., but no name for the whole group.) But it is unlike tribal kinship groups in that it is not confined to the established ‘we,’ that it creates links across boundaries, on the basis of a mutual fittingness which is not based on kinship but on the kind of love which God has for us, which we call agape.”[2]

                The corruption of this broadened sense of “unum” in the flesh into a sociological positivism or reductionist epistemology is what he understands by "modernity," and it makes me think of John Paul II’s “Radiation of Fatherhood” as the grounding of realism (to be reclaimed) - as the only thing that really is:  

And in the end You could put aside our world. You may let it crumble around us and, above all else, in us. And then it will transpire that YOU remain whole only in the SON, and He in You – whole with Him in YOUR LOVE, Father and Bridegroom. And everything else will then turn out to be unimportant and inessential, except for this: father, child, and Love (May 1964). [3]

[1] Charles Taylor, “A Secular Age,” Belknap Harvard (2007) 738.
[2] Ibid. 739.
[3] The Collected Plays and Writings on Theater of Karol Wojtyla, University of California Press (1987) 368.

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