Religious Studies Faculty Publications

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Journal of Moral Theology


This article seeks to discern what moral theologians can learn from Charles Taylor, particularly his work on the modern self and the conditions surrounding belief in the modern, secular age. In recent work, Taylor has gone further than before in bringing into play his own Christian faith, making an intra-Christian dialogue with him possible. There is an opening here for drawing out some of the implications of his arguments for moral theology. Taylor would seem to offer rich ground to the work of the Catholic moral theologian, insofar as he resists naturalist accounts of human action and explores the role theism might play in negotiating the conflicts of the western identity. Taylor’s work may also be taken as resembling what moral theologians do, insofar as he often describes it as “practical reasoning.” Running through his descriptive analyses of periods of Western history, his engagement with social science, and his criticism of contemporary moral theory, one finds the basic questions, “What is the good human beings seek?” “Where does human flourishing lie?” and “How is this good embodied in societies?” We might refer to this as the basic anthropological center of Taylor’s work, as it has developed over the years. Further, though it is in large part about a historical and descriptive study of the conditions of religious belief, together with the emergence of secularism, across the last 500 years, the argument of Taylor’s A Secular Age (2007) leads toward the problem of what it means to be a Christian in our day. Here Taylor comes quite close to the preoccupation of moral theologians, insofar as we aspire to help Christians to go on, practically, in the concrete circumstances of life. Yet there are also indications that what Taylor offers here will be inadequate for our task, or at least leave us with many important questions yet to be answered.

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Mount St. Mary's University





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