Moral Articulacy: An Essay on Charles Taylor's Critique of Modern Moral Philosophy Open Access

Scripter, Lucas Allen (2013)

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Among the critics of modern moral philosophy, Charles Taylor stands out for couching his critique in terms of the "inarticulacy" of contemporary theory. Despite its pervasive role in his writing, Taylor's leaves the notion of 'inarticulacy' and its root concept 'articulation' woefully under-articulated. In this thesis I explore these notions and argue that his characterization of contemporary theory in terms of "inarticulacy" is hardly incidental to his critique. Rather the concept of moral 'inarticulacy' provides a clue to reading the whole of his moral philosophy. Thus, I offer a critical interpretation of Taylor's moral philosophy centered on his notion of moral articulacy. This thesis explores the meaning of moral 'inarticulacy,' the conditions for moral articulacy, and whether or not contemporary moral theory is actually as inarticulate as Taylor assumes. Articulating the concept of 'articulation' reveals how his critiques of naturalism and epistemology, his "expressivist" view of language, his "engaged" conception of human agency, and his dialogical conception of practical reason come to bear on his moral philosophy. It thus gives us a way of weaving together broader themes in his work and seeing how his widespread philosophical pursuits come to bear on his critique of contemporary theory. Moreover, the notion of moral articulacy illuminates how Taylor's critique of modern moral philosophy fits into in the context of his moral philosophy as a whole. It points toward a two stage reading of his moral philosophy that synthesizes his advocacy of ethical pluralism with his own defense of an agape-centered ethic by showing the former moment as clearing a space for substantive moral dialogue by eliminating overly restrictive meta-ethical assumptions and the later moment as itself the articulation of a particular ethical vision within that freshly achieved space of moral articulacy.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: Diagnosing Moral Inarticulacy 17

Chapter 2: Articulating Articulation I: Naturalism, Meaning, and Moral Theory 42

Chapter 3: Articulating Articulation II: Moral Philosophy After the Epistemological Picture 89

Chapter 4: Taylor's Critique of Procedural Moral Theory I: Substantive Ethical Dialogue and the Holism of Significance 123

Chapter 5: Taylor's Critique of Procedural Moral Theory II: Morality, Meaning, and the Holism of Deliberation 184

Chapter 6: The Shape(s) of Modern Moral Theory 221

Conclusion 272

Works Cited 281

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