Originality is Not the Point: Charles Taylor’s Views on Environment/External Reality (Malaise 5-Audio)

Inspired by Charles Taylor’s Malaise of Modernity, Chapter 8, I discuss Taylor’s points about whether rejection of all authority and previous cultural accretions in the name of authenticity is necessary or whether it entirely misses the point. Is it even possible to be “original?” If we think that it is, are we not susceptible to the worst suggestions for how to achieve our “originality” or authenticity, whether those suggestions come from unscrupulous leaders or purveyors of commercial products?. Taylor’s analysis of how this problem plays out in our relationship to the environment is especially interesting. We treat it as though it is an extension of ourselves to be molded and shaped any way we want, and yet it won’t completely comply–because it is not an extension of ourselves but an actual external reality with (recalling Jakob Hanschu’s treatment of New Materialism and his development of Dark Materialism) its own uncontrollable ramifications? … More Originality is Not the Point: Charles Taylor’s Views on Environment/External Reality (Malaise 5-Audio)

What led to this? A Longer View (ft. Jacques Ellul, Sheldon Wolin, Wendy Brown) Audio

In the wake of the events of the past week, most notably Trump supporters storming the Capitol Building in Washington DC on January 6, 2021, I encourage viewers to take a bit of a step back and to consider the bigger picture. If we cannot attempt to see that bigger picture using a longer view we will be doomed to repeat our mistakes. Can we look past the outrage felt by so many to ask the question “What led us to this point?” If we can, we will take the first step towards fixing the problem, rather than either making it worse or simply putting a bandaid on it. In this reading of a section of Chapter 6 of my book Ideological Possession and the Rise of the New Right, I build on the thoughts of Jacques Ellul, Sheldon Wolin, and Wendy Brown. … More What led to this? A Longer View (ft. Jacques Ellul, Sheldon Wolin, Wendy Brown) Audio

Why do we swallow camels but choke on gnats? w/ Spencer Hess on Enchantments of Mammon (2-Audio)

In this second part of our conversation, Spencer and I discuss topics such as antinomianism in Christianity, the cooptation of the ideal of sacrifice by capitalism, why McCarraher’s solutions (though insightful) call for more work, whether re-enchantment (via Charles Taylor) is desirable or scary, or both, Wall Street as a demonic force, Adorno and Horkheimer’s ideas of Enlightenment and Nature, McCarraher’s differences with Marxism, and why we can swallow camels but choke on gnats. … More Why do we swallow camels but choke on gnats? w/ Spencer Hess on Enchantments of Mammon (2-Audio)

Where did Christians go wrong? A conversation w/ Spencer Hess on The Enchantments of Mammon (1-Audio)

In this first part of our recent conversation, Spencer and I discuss what we took away from Eugene McCarraher’s The Enchantments of Mammon. I did a series on this book not long ago, and I”ll put the playlist in a link below. We discuss the question of where Christianity started going wrong, McCarraher’s adoption of Romanticism, his preference for socialism and socialism’s compatibility with Christianity, and his even greater preference for some sort of Christian anarchism. What is the role of the church in creating community–and why doesn’t the church do it well? And we don’t mean getting together for a book club or coffee klatsch. … More Where did Christians go wrong? A conversation w/ Spencer Hess on The Enchantments of Mammon (1-Audio)

What Does the Incarnation Mean? Christmas 2020 (Audio)

This is a reading of my blog post “Christmas 2020: What Does the Incarnation Mean? Three Insights.” Instead of discussing whether the event happened or whether Jesus could really also be God, I ask “If we believe this, how does it change things?” The Incarnation puts us into an uncomfortable place, especially in this year when we can so clearly see how messed up the world has become, largely due to human actions. It puts us in an uncomfortable place because it asks way more of people than they have been willing to do so far. … More What Does the Incarnation Mean? Christmas 2020 (Audio)

Charles Taylor on Divorce and Breakup: Why Do We Do This? (Malaise 4-Audio)

Using an all-too-familiar modern story of social media seduction, consequent marital breakup, and the futile search for validation in new romantic relationships, I traverse chapters 6 and 7 in Charles Taylor’ Malaise of Modernity. The story is sadly commonplace, which is ironic because breakups are often done in the quest for authenticity. But for that reason, this story is an analog for what generally ails us. I cover some systemic reasons Taylor mentions which help explain why people often make relationship mistakes over and over again in the search for an authentic life, but I offer a critique as well. … More Charles Taylor on Divorce and Breakup: Why Do We Do This? (Malaise 4-Audio)

What’s Wrong With Relativism? Charles Taylor’s Authenticity (Malaise 3-Audio)

This video discusses content from Chapters 4 and 5 of Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity (1991). Taylor patiently eviscerates contemporary vapid relativism as logically incoherent and socially destructive and discusses the inherently social nature of human beings. The consequences of claiming complete autonomy of choice based on our feelings include an inability to defend our positions and an ignorance about our true nature. The “complete autonomy” approach deprives us of the dialogue we need in our personal and social relationships that would help us make better choices in the pursuit of authenticity. … More What’s Wrong With Relativism? Charles Taylor’s Authenticity (Malaise 3-Audio)

The Ethic of Authenticity: Good, Bad or Both? Charles Taylor (Malaise 2-Audio)

In this podcast I discuss the modern idea authenticity as developed in chapters 2 and 3 of Charles Taylor’s “The Malaise of Modernity” (CBC Massey Lecture Series, 1991). Taylor thinks that the ethic of authenticity is separable from the moral relativism, emotivism and narcissism with which it is associated by authors like Allan Bloom and Christopher Lasch, and that it holds promise as a modern moral ideal if we can do so. In these two chapters he begins to excavate why American (including Canadian, though probably less so) culture took a turn into flabby relativism and narcissism and how we might excavate the original meaning of authenticity to see if it holds true promise. To that end, he discusses its Romantic origins in the ideas of Rousseau and Herder. Along the way, I relate some of Taylor’s ideas the work of Isaiah Berlin and Leo Strauss. … More The Ethic of Authenticity: Good, Bad or Both? Charles Taylor (Malaise 2-Audio)

Introduction to Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity (Audio)

Charles Taylor’s brief book, The Malaise of Modernity, published in 1991, identifies three worries that lead to a general malaise–a feeling of being lost or being in decline, feelings that are pervasive today. These worries stem from the problems associated with individualism, instrumental rationality and a decay of politics. All three are tied together. Unlike some other authors who also deal with these problems, Taylor sets out to see if there is any way that the true benefits that have developed from these three phenomena can be separated from their evils, and whether and how we can get out from under the domination of a new kind of authority stemming from technical rationality itself–the tutelary power of “soft despotism.” The ideas of Tocqueville, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are briefly touched on because Taylor references them as indicative of elements of the malaise. … More Introduction to Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity (Audio)

The Francis Option, Not the Benedict Option (McCarraher 10-Audio)

In this final part of my series on Eugene McCarraher’s The Enchantments of Mammon, I discuss ideas from his excellent epilogue, including his endorsement of Romantic sacramental radicalism, and his reference to Pope Francis as well as scholars like Hardt and Negri to make his case that we are challenged to a new way of life reflected in the phrase (in contrast to Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option”) the (my words) “Francis Option.” … More The Francis Option, Not the Benedict Option (McCarraher 10-Audio)