In A Secular Age Taylor makes reference to the parable of the Good Samaritan,[i] following Ivan Illich, to illustrate how his understanding of the human agent not only differs in practice from more common conceptions of the same but, as a more faithful account of how live is lived in the light of the past, is a more truthful account.[ii]
My argument will attempt to demonstrate the intelligibility of Taylor’s analysis within a twenty-first century Western European/North American context and as such I will be drawing on my own experiences working in the United Kingdom as a social care professional. In the first instance I will argue for the intelligibility of Taylor’s analysis, as posited in his understanding of human beings as self-interpreting animals,[iii]that those actions unique to and constitutive of human agency, are irreducible to either sensibility or reason but wrought by their synergetic action. I will then argue that common therapeutic practices, central within a Western understanding of life in late-modernity, demonstrate the incongruity between current social perceptions of human agency and those values it purports to embody. In conclusion, I will argue that rather then cutting across the central ideas of human emancipation consciously drawn upon within late modernity to effect a more considerate, benevolent, understanding and just age,[iv]Taylor’s analysis of the human agent calls for a fundamental re-orientation that embodies these ‘goods’ in a more consistent and fulsome manner: positing the construction of a more truthful world.
[i] Luke 10:25-37
[ii] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (London: Harvard university Press, 2007), pp 737-744.
[iii] Charles Taylor, Human Agency and Language: Philosophical Papers 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp 45-76.
[iv] Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (London: Polity Press, 1991), p 210.