You are on page 1of 11

Two Theories of Modernity

Author(s): Charles Taylor


Source: The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Mar. - Apr., 1995), pp. 24-33
Published by: The Hastings Center
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3562863 .
Accessed: 03/06/2014 02:00
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp
.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
.
The Hastings Center is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Hastings
Center Report.
http://www.jstor.org
This content downloaded from 103.21.125.76 on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 02:00:05 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Hastings
Center
Report, March-April
1995
T w o T heories of Modernity
by
Charles
T aylor
Modernity
is not that f orm of lif e
tow ardw hich all cultures
converge
as
they
discardbelief s that held
our f oref athers back.
Rather,
it is a
movement f rom one constellation
of
backgroundunderstandings
to
another,
w hich
repositions
the self
in relation to others andthe
good.
here seem to be at
large
in our
culture
tw o
w ays
of
under-
I
standing
the rise of
modernity. T hey
are
in
ef f ect
tw o dif f erent "takes" on w hat
makes our
contemporary
so-
ciety
dif f erent f rom its f ore-
bears. In one
take,
w e can look
on the dif f erence betw een
present-daysociety
and,
say,
that of medieval
Europe
as
analogous
to the dif f erence
betw een medieval
Europe
andChina or India. In other
w ords,
w e can think of the dif -
f erence as one betw een civili-
zations,
each w ith their ow n
culture.
Or
alternatively,
w e can see the
change
f rom
earlier centuries to
today
as
involving something
like
"development,"
as the demise of a "traditional"
society
andthe rise of the "modern." Andin this
perspective,
w hich seems to be the dominant
one,
things
look rather dif f erent.
I w ant to call the f irst kindof
understanding
a
"cultural" one,
andthe second"acultural." In
using
these
terms,
I'm
leaning
on a use of the w ordculture
w hich is
analogous
to the sense it of ten has in an-
thropology.
I am
evoking
the
picture
of a
plurality
of human
cultures,
each of w hich has a
language
anda set of
practices
that def ine
specif ic
under-
standings
of
personhood,
social
relations,
states of
mind/soul,
goods
and
bads,
virtues and
vices,
and
the like. T hese
languages
are of ten
mutually
un-
translatable.
With this model in mind,
a "cultural"
theory
of mo-
dernity
is one that charac-
terizes the transf ormations
that have issuedin the mod-
ern West
mainly
in terms of
the rise of a new culture.
T he
contemporary
Atlantic
w orldis seen as one culture
(or
group
of
closely
related
cultures)
among
others,
w ith its ow n
specif ic
under-
standings,
f or
example,
of
person,
nature,
the
good,
to
be contrastedto all
others,
including
its ow n
predeces-
sor civilization
(w ith
w hich it
obviously
also has a lot in
common).
By
contrast,
an "acultural"
theory
is one that
describes these transf ormations in terms of some
culture-neutral
operation. By
this I mean an
opera-
tion that is not def ined in terms of the
specif ic
cultures it carries us f rom and
to,
but is rather seen
as of a
type
that
any
traditional culture couldun-
dergo.
An
example
of an acultural
type
of
theory,
in-
deeda
paradigm
case,
w ouldbe one that conceives
of
modernity
as the
grow th
of
reason,
def ined in
various
w ays:
as the
grow th
of scientif ic conscious-
ness,
or the
development
of a secular
outlook,
or
the rise of instrumental
rationality,
or an ever-clearer
distinction betw een
f act-f inding
andevaluation. Or
else
modernitymight
be accountedf or in terms of
social,
as w ell as intellectual
changes:
the transf or-
mations,
including
the intellectual
ones,
are seen as
coming
about as a result of increased
mobility,
con-
centration of
populations,
industrialization,
or the
like. In all these
cases,
modernity
is conceivedas a
set of transf ormations that
any
and
every
culture can
go through-and
that all w ill
probably
be f orcedto
undergo.
T hese
changes
are not def ined
by
their end
point
in a
specif ic
constellation of
understandings
of ,
say,
Utarles
T aylor
zis
Prof essor of Political
Science and
Philosophy,
McGill
University,
Montreal,
Canada. T his is the
f irst
in a
series of HansJonas DistinguishedVisiting
Scholar Lectures.
Charles
T aylor,
"T w o T heories of
Modernity," Hastings Center
Report
25,
no. 2
(1995): 24-33.
24
This content downloaded from 103.21.125.76 on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 02:00:05 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Hastings
Center
Report, March-April 1995
person, society, good; they
are rather describedas a
type
of transf ormation to w hich
any
culture could
in
principle
serve as
"input."
For
instance,
any
cul-
ture could suf f er the
impact
of
grow ing
scientif ic
consciousness;
anyreligion
could
undergo
seculari-
zation;
any
set of ultimate ends couldbe
challenged
by
a
grow th
of instrumental
thinking; any
meta-
physic
couldbe dislocated
by
the
split
betw een f act
andvalue.
So
modernity
in this kindof
theory
is understood
as
issuing
f rom a rational or social
operation
that is
culture-neutral. T his is not to
say
that the
theory
cannot
acknow ledge good
historical reasons
w hy
this transf ormation f irst arose in one civilization
rather than
another,
or
w hy
some
mayundergo
it
more
easily
than others. T he
point
rather is that the
operation
is def inednot in terms of its
specif ic point
of
arrival,
but as a
general
f unction that can take
any
specif ic
culture as its
input.
T o
grasp
the dif f erence f rom another
angle,
the
operation
is not seen as
supposing
or
ref lecting
an
option
f or one
specif ic
set of human values or un-
derstandings among
others. In the case of "social"
explanations,
causal
w eight
is
given
to historical de-
velopments,
like
industrialization,
that have an im-
pact
on values but are of ten not seen as
ref lecting
specif ic options
in this domain. When it comes to
explanations
in terms of
"rationality,"
this is seen as
the exercise of a
general capacity
that w as
only
aw ait-
ing
its
proper
conditions to unf old. Under certain
conditions,
human
beings
w ill
just
come to see that
scientif ic
thinking
is
valid,
that instrumental ration-
alitypays
of f ,
that
religious
belief s involve unw ar-
ranted
leaps,
that f acts and values are
separate.
T hese transf ormations
may
be f acilitated
by
our hav-
ing
certain values and
understandings, just
as
they
are
hamperedby
the dominance of
others;
but
they
aren't
def ined
as the
espousal
of some such constel-
lation.
T hey
are def ined rather
bysomething
w e
come to see
concerning
the w hole context in w hich
values and
understandings
are
espoused.
It shouldbe evident that the dominant theories
of
modernity
over the last tw o centuries have been
of the acultural sort. Manyhave explainedits devel-
opment
at least
partlyby
our
"coming
to see" some-
thing
like the
range
of
supposed
truths mentioned
above. Or else the
changes
have been
explained
partlyby
culture-neutral social
developments,
such
as Durkheim's move f rom "mechanical" to dif f er-
entiated, "organic"
f orms of social
cohesion; or
T ocqueville's assumption
of
creeping "democracy"
(by
w hich he meant a
push
tow ard
equality).
On one
interpretation, "rationalization" w as f or Weber a
steadyprocess, occurring
w ithin all cultures over
time.
But above all,
explanations
of
modernity
in terms
of "reason" seem to be the most
popular.
Andeven
the "social"
explanations
tendto invoke reason as
w ell, since the social transf ormations, like
mobility
andindustrialization, are
thought
to
bring
about
intellectual and
spiritual changes
because
they
shake
people
loose f rom oldhabits and
belief s--in,
f or
example, religion
or traditional
morality--w hich
then become unsustainable because
they
have no
independent
rational
grounding
in the
w ay
the be-
lief s of
modernity-in,
f or
example,
individualism
or instrumental reason-are assumedto have.
But, one
might object,
how about the w ide-
spread
and
popular negative
theories of
modernity,
those that see it not as
gain
but as loss or decline?
Curiouslyenough, they
too have been acultural in
their ow n
w ay.
T o see
this,
w e have to
enlarge
some-
w hat the
description
above. Insteadof
seeing
the
transf ormations as the
unf olding
of
capacities, nega-
tive theories have of ten
interpreted
them as
f alling
prey
to
dangers.
But these have of ten been
just
as
aculturally
conceived.
Modernity
is characterized
by
the loss of the
horizon;
by
a loss of
roots;
by
the
hubris that denies human limits and denies our
dependence
on
history
or God, w hich
places
unlim-
itedconf idence in the
pow ers
of f rail human
reason;
by
a
trivializing self -indulgence
w hich has no stom-
ach f or the heroic dimension of
lif e,
andso on.
T he
overw helming w eight
of
interpretation
in
our
culture,
positive
and
negative,
tends to the acul-
tural. On the other
side,
the voices are f ew er if
pow erf ul.
Nietzsche,
f or
instance,
of f ers a
reading
of modern scientif ic culture that
paints
it as actu-
ated
by
a
specif ic
constellation of values. AndMax
Weber,
besides
of f ering
a
theory
of rationalization
w hich can at
any
rate be taken as a
steady,
culture-
independent
f orce,
also
gave
a
reading
of the Prot-
estant ethic as def ined
by
a
particular
set of
religio-
moral
concerns,
w hich in turn
helped
to
bring
about modern
capitalism.
T he Distortions of the Acultural
So acultural theories
predominate.
Is this bad? I
think it is. In order to see
w hy,
w e have to
bring
out
a bit more
clearly
w hat these theories
f oreground
andw hat
they
tendto screen out.
Acultural theories tendto describe the transition
in terms of a loss of traditional belief s and alle-
giances.
T his
may
be seen as
coming
about as a result
of institutional
changes:
f or
example, mobility
and
urbanization erode the belief s andref erence
points
of static rural
society.
Or the loss
may
be
supposed
to arise f rom the
increasing operation
of modern
scientif ic reason. T he
change may
be
positively
val-
ued--or
it
may
be
judged
a disaster
by
those f or
25
This content downloaded from 103.21.125.76 on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 02:00:05 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Hastings
Center
Report, March-April
1995
w hom the traditional ref erence
points
w ere valuable
andscientif ic reason too narrow . But all these theo-
ries concur in
describing
the
process:
oldview s and
loyalties
are eroded. Oldhorizons are w ashed
aw ay,
in Nietzsche's
image.
T he sea of f aith
recedes,
f ol-
low ing
Arnold. T his stanza f rom his "Dover Beach"
captures
this
perspective:
T he Sea of Faith
Was
once, too,
at the
f ull,
androundearth's
shore
Lay
like the f olds of a
bright girdle
f urled.
But now I
only
hear
Its
melancholy, long, w ithdraw ing
roar,
Retreating,
to the breath
Of the
night-w ind,
dow n the vast
edges
drear
Andnaked
shingles
of the w orld.
T he tone here is one of
regret
and
nostalgia.
But
the
underlying image
of erodedf aith couldserve
just
as w ell f or an
upbeat story
of the
progress
of
triumphant
scientif ic reason. From one
point
of
view ,
humanity
has sheda lot of f alse andharmf ul
myths.
From
another,
it has lost touch w ith crucial
spiritual
realities. But in either
case,
the
change
is
seen as a loss of belief .
What
emerges
comes about
through
this loss.
T he
upbeat story
cherishes the dominance of an
empirical-scientif ic approach
to
know ledge
claims,
of
individualism,
negative
f reedom,
instrumental ra-
tionality.
But these come to the f ore because
they
are w hat w e humans
"normally"
value,
once w e are
no
longer impeded
or blinded
by
f alse or
supersti-
tious belief s andthe
stultif ying
modes of lif e that
accompany
them. Once
myth
anderror are dissi-
pated,
these are the
onlygames
in tow n. T he em-
pirical approach
is the
only
valid
w ay
of
acquiring
know ledge,
andthis becomes evident as soon as w e
f ree ourselves f rom the thraldom of a f alse meta-
physics. Increasing
recourse to instrumental ration-
ality
allow s us to
get
more andmore of w hat w e
w ant,
andw e w ere
only
ever deterredf rom this
by
un-
f ounded
injunctions
to limit ourselves. Individual-
ism is the normal f ruit of human
self -regard
absent
the
illusory
claims of God, the Chain of
Being,
or
the sacred order of
society.
In other w ords, w e moderns behave as w e do
because w e have "come to see" that certain claims
w ere
f alse---or
on the
negative reading,
because w e
have lost f rom view certain
perennial
truths. What
this view reads out of the
picture
is the
possibility
that Western
modernity might
be
pow ered by
its
ow n
positive
visions of the
good,
that is, by
one
constellation of such visions
among
available others,
rather than
by
the
only
viable set lef t af ter the old
myths
and
legends
have been
exploded.
It screens
out w hatever there
might
be of a
specif ic
moral
direction to Western
modernity, beyond
w hat is dic-
tated
by
the
general
f orm of human lif e
itself ,
once
olderror is show n
up (or
oldtruth
f orgotten).
For
example, people
behave as
individuals,
because
that's w hat
they"naturally"
do w hen no
longer
held
in
by
the old
religions, metaphysics,
and
customs,
though
this
may
be seen as a
glorious
liberation,
or
a
purblindenmiring
in
egoism, depending
on our
perspective.
What it cannot be seen as is a novel
f orm of moral
self -understanding,
not def inable
simplyby
the
negation
of w hat
preceded
it.
Otherw ise
put,
w hat
gets
screened out is the
possibility
that Western
modernity might
be sus-
tained
by
its ow n
original spiritual
vision,
that
is,
not
one
generated simply
and
inescapably
out of the
transition.
T he Attraction of the Acultural
Bef ore
trying
to
say
how bador
good
this
is,
I
w ant to
speculate
about the motives f or this
pre-
dominance of the acultural. In one
w ay,
it is
quite
understandable w hen w e ref lect that w e Westerners
have been
living
the transition to
modernity
f or
some centuries out of the civilization w e usedto call
Christendom. It is hardto live
through
a
change
of
this moment w ithout
being partisan,
andin this
spirit
w e
quite naturally
reach f or
explanations
that
are
immediately
evaluative,
on one side or the other.
Now
nothing stamps
the
change
as more
unproble-
maticallyright
than the account that w e have "come
to see"
through
certain
f alsehoods,
just
as the
expla-
nation that w e have come to
f orget important
truths
brands it as
unquestionablyw rong.
T o make such
conf ident
judgments
on the basis of a cultural ac-
count w ould
presuppose
our
having
carried
through
a
complex comparative
assessment of
modernity's
original
vision,
over
against
that of the Christendom
that
preceded
it,
to a clear
unambiguous
conclu-
sion-hardly
an
easy
task,
if realizable at all.
Indeed,
since a cultural
theory supposes
the
point
of view in w hich w e see our ow n culture as one
among
others,
andthis at best is a recent
acquisition
in our
civilization,
it is not
surprising
that the f irst
accounts of
revolutionarychange
w ere acultural.
For the most
part
our ancestors looked on other
civilizations
as made
up
of
barbarians,
or
inf idels,
or
savages.
It w ouldhave been absurdto
expect
the
contemporaries
of the French
Revolution,
on either
side of the
political
divide,
to have seen the cultural
shif t w ithin this
political upheaval,
w hen the
very
idea of cultural
pluralism
w as
just daw ning
in the
w ritings
of ,
say,
Herder.
But even w hen this
standpoint
becomes more
easily
available,
w e are draw n
by
our
partisan
attach-
26
This content downloaded from 103.21.125.76 on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 02:00:05 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Hastings
Center
Report, March-April 1995
ments to
neglect
it. T his is
partly
because an imme-
diately
evaluative
explanation
(on
the
right side)
is
more
satisf ying-w e
tendto w ant to
glorif y
moder-
nity,
or
vilif y
it. Andit is
partly
because w e f ear that
a cultural
theorymight
make value
judgments
im-
possible.
T he latter notion
is,
I
believe,
a
mistake;
but mistake or
not,
it
plays
a role here.
But another
thing
acultural theories have
going
f or them has been the
vogue
f or "materialistic" ex-
planations
in social science and
history. By
this I
mean,
in this
context,
explanations
that
shyaw ay
f rom
invoking
moral or
spiritual
f actors in f avor of
(w hat
are
thought
to
be)
harder andmore dow n to
earth causes. Andso the
developments
I advertedto
above,
the
grow th
of
science, individualism,
negative
f reedom,
instrumental
reason,
andthe other strik-
ing
f eatures of the culture of
modernity,
have of ten
been accountedf or as
byproducts
of social
change:
f or
instance,
as
spinof f s
f rom
industrialization,
or
greater mobility,
or urbanization. T here are cer-
tainlyimportant
causal relations to be traced
here,
but the accounts that invoke them
f requently
skirt
altogether
the issue w hether these
changes
in cul-
ture andoutlook ow e
anything
to their ow n inher-
ent
pow er
as moral ideals. T he
implicit
answ er is
of ten in the
negative.'
Of
course,
the social
changes
that are
supposed
to
spaw n
the new outlook must themselves be ex-
plained,
andthis w ill involve some recourse to hu-
man
motivations,
unless w e
suppose
that industriali-
zation or the
grow th
of cities occurred
entirely
in a
f it of absence of mind. We needsome notion of w hat
moved
people
to
push steadily
in one direction-f or
example,
tow ardthe
greater application
of technol-
ogy
to
production,
or tow ard
greater
concentrations
of
population.
But w hat is invokedhere are of ten
motivations that are nonmoral.
By
that I mean mo-
tivations that can actuate
people quite
w ithout
connection to
any
moral
ideal,
as I def ined this
earlier. So w e
very
of ten f indthese social
changes
explained
in terms of the desire f or
greater
w ealth,
or
pow er,
or the means of survival or control over
others. Of
course,
all these
things
can be w oven into
moral ideals, but theyneednot be. Andso explana-
tion in terms of them is considered
suf f iciently
"hard" and"scientif ic."
Andeven w here individual f reedom andthe en-
largement
of instrumental reason are seen as ideas
w hose intrinsic attractions can
help explain
their
rise, this attraction is
f requently
understoodin non-
moral terms. T hat is, the
pow er
of these ideas is
of ten understoodnot in terms of their moral f orce,
but
just
because of the
advantages they
seem to
bestow on
people regardless
of their moral outlook,
or even w hether
they
have a moral outlook. Free-
dom allow s
you
to do w hat
you
w ant; andthe
greater
application
of instrumental reason
gets you
more of
w hat
you
w ant, w hatever that
is.2
It is obvious that w herever this kindof
explana-
tion becomes
culturally
dominant, the motivation
to
explore
the
original spiritual
vision of
modernity
is
very
w eak; indeed, the
capacity
even to
recognize
some such
thing
nears zero. And this
ef f ectively
takes cultural theories of f the
agenda.
Unif orm andInevitable Modernities
So w hat, if
anything,
is bad about this? T w o
things.
First, I think Western
modernity
is in
part
basedon an
original
moral outlook. T his is not to
say
that our account of it in terms of our
"coming
to see" certain
things
is
w hollyw rong.
On the con-
trary: post-seventeenth-century
natural science has
a
validity,
andthe
accompanying technology
an ef -
f icacy,
that w e have established. Andall societies are
sooner or later f orcedto
acquire
this
ef f icacy,
or be
dominated
by
others
(and
hence have it
imposed
on them
anyw ay).
But it w ouldbe
quite w rong
to think that w e can
make do w ith an acultural
theory
alone. It is not
just
that other f acets of w hat w e
identif y
as
modern,
such as the
tendency
to
try
to
split
f act f rom
value,
or the decline of
religious practice,
are f ar f rom
reposing
on incontestable truths that have
f inally
been discovered-as one can claim f or modern
physics,
f or
example.
It is also that science itself has
grow n
in the West in close
symbiosis
w ith a certain
culture in the sense I'm
using
that term
here,
namely,
a constellation of
understandings
of
person,
nature,
society,
andthe
good.
T o
rely
on an acultural
theory
is to miss all this.
One
gets
a distorted
understanding
of Western mo-
dernity
in one of tw o
w ays:
on one
side,
w e misclas-
sif y
certain
changes,
w hich
ultimately
ref lect the cul-
ture
peculiar
to the modern
West,
as the
product
of
unproblematic discovery
or the ineluctable conse-
quence
of some social
change,
like the introduction
of
technology.
T he decline in
religious practice
has
f requently
been seen in this
light.
T his is the error
of
seeing everything
modern as
belonging
to one
Enlightenment package.
On the other
side,
w e f ail
altogether
to examine
certain f acets of the modern
constellation,
closely
interw oven w ith our
understandings
of science and
religion,
that don't strike us as
being part
of the
transf ormation to
modernity.
We don't
identif y
them as
among
the
spectacular changes
that have
producedcontemporarycivilization,
andw e of ten
f ail to see even that there have been
changes,
read-
ing
these f acets
f alsely
as
perennial.
Such is the usual
f ate of those
(largelyimplicit) understandings
of
27
This content downloaded from 103.21.125.76 on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 02:00:05 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Hastings
Center
Report, March-April
1995
Exclusive reliance on an acultural
theory
locks us into an ethnocentric
prison,
condemnedto
project
our
ow n f orms onto
everyone
else and
blissf ully
unaw are of w hat w e are
doing.
human
agency
that I have
grouped
under the
port-
manteau term "the modern
identity"3--such
as the
various f orms of modern
inw ardness,
or the af f irma-
tion
of
ordinary
lif e. We all too
easilyimagine
that
people
have
alw ays
seen themselves as w e
do,
in
respect,
f or
example,
of dichotomies like
inw ard/out-
w ard. Andw e thus
utterly
miss the role these new
understandings
have
played
in the rise of Western
modernity.
I w ant to make a claim of this kindbelow
in relation to the rise of the
modern
public sphere.
Andso a
purely
acultural
theory
distorts and
impover-
ishes our
understanding
of
ourselves,
both
through
mis-
classif ication
(the Enlighten-
ment
package
error),
and
through
too narrow a f ocus.
But its ef f ects on our under-
standing
of other cultures is
even more
devastating.
T he
belief that
modernity
comes
f rom one
single universally
applicable operation
im-
poses
a
f alsely
unif orm
pattern
on the
multiple
en-
counters of non-Western cultures w ith the
exigen-
cies of
science,
technology,
andindustrialization. As
long
as w e are bemused
by
the
Enlightenment pack-
age,
w e w ill believe that
they
all have to
undergo
a
range
of cultural
changes
draw n f rom our
experi-
ence-such as "secularization" or the
grow th
of
atomistic f orms of self -identif ication. As
long
as w e
leave our ow n notions of
identity
unexamined,
so
long
w ill w e f ail to see how theirs
dif f er,
andhow
this dif f erence
crucially
conditions the
w ay
in w hich
theyintegrate
the
truly
universal f eatures of "mo-
dernity."
Moreover,
the view that
modernity
arises
through
the
dissipation
of certain
unsupportedreligious
and
metaphysical
belief s seems to
imply
that the
paths
of dif f erent civilizations are boundto
converge.
As
they
lose their traditional
illusions,
they
w ill come
together
on the
"rationallygrounded"
outlook that
has resistedthe
challenge.
T he march of
modernity
w ill end
up making
all cultures look the same. T his
means,
of
course,
that w e
expect they
w ill end
up
looking
like us.
In
short,
exclusive reliance on an acultural the-
ory
unf its us f or w hat is
perhaps
the most
important
task of social sciences in our
day: understanding
the
f ull
gamut
of alternative modernities in the
making
in dif f erent
parts
of the w orld. It locks us into an
ethnocentric
prison,
condemnedto
project
our ow n
f orms onto
everyone
else and
blissf ully
unaw are of
w hat w e are
doing.
Background
andHabitus
So the view f rom Dover Beach f oreshortens our
understanding
of Western
modernity.
But it also
gives
us a f alse and distorted
perspective
on the
transition. It makes us readthe rise of
modernity
in
terms of the
dissipation
of certain
belief s,
either as
its
major
cause
("rational"
explanations),
or as in-
evitable concomitant
("social" explanations).
What
is
beyond
the horizon on
Dover Beach is the
possibil-
ity
that w hat
mainly
dif f eren-
tiates us f rom our f orebears
is not so much our
explicit
belief s as w hat I w ant to call
the
background
under-
standing against
w hich our
belief s are f ormulated.
Here I am
picking up
on
an idea that has been
treated in the w ork of
Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty,
Wittgenstein,
and Michael
Polanyi,
and been f urther
elaborated
recentlybyJohn
Searle andHubert
Drey-
f us.4
T he notion is that our
explicit
belief s about our
w orldandourselves are held
against
a
background
of unf ormulated
(and
perhaps
in
part
unf ormu-
lable) understandings,
in relation to w hich these
belief s make the sense
they
do. T hese understand-
ings
take a
variety
of
f orms,
and
range
over a num-
ber of matters. In one
dimension,
the
background
incorporates
matters that couldbe f ormulatedas
belief s,
but aren't
f unctioning
as such in our w orld
(and
couldn't all f unction as such because of their
unlimited
extent).
T o take
Wittgenstein's example
f rom On
Certainty,
I don't
normally
have a
belief
that
the w orlddidn't start
only
f ive minutes
ago,
but the
w hole
w ay
I
inquire
into
things
treats the w orldas
being
there since time out of
mind.5
Similarly,
I
don't
usually
have the belief that a
huge pit
hasn't
been
dug
in f ront of
my
door,
but I treat the w orld
that
w ay
as I
emerge
in the
morning
to
go
to w ork.
In
myw ays
of
dealing
w ith
things
is
incorporated
the
backgroundunderstanding
that the w orldis
stable andhas been there a
long
time.
In other
dimensions,
I have this kindof under-
standing
of
myself
as an
agent
w ith certain
pow ers,
of
myself
as an
agent among
other
agents,
on cer-
tain,
onlypartlyexplicit f ootings
w ith them. And
I w ant to add: an
agent moving
in certain kinds of
social
spaces,
w ith a sense of how both I andthese
spaces
inhabit
time,
a sense of how both I and
they
relate to the cosmos andto Godor w hatever I rec-
ognize
as the
source(s)
of
good.
28
This content downloaded from 103.21.125.76 on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 02:00:05 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Hastings
Center
Report, March-April
1995
Godin the
Background
In
my
addition
here,
I have enteredcontroversial
territory.
While
perhaps everyone
can be
got easily
to
agree
on the kinds of
backgroundunderstandings
I citedf rom
Wittgenstein,
andit is
arguably
obvious
that I have some sense of
myself
as
agent,
the notion
that dif f erent modes of social
belonging,
dif f erent
understandings
of
time,
andeven
more,
of
God,
the
Good,
or the
Cosmos,
shouldbe
part
of the back-
groundmay
arouse resistance. T hat is because w e
easily
can believe that w e have
background
under-
standing
in the
inescapable
dimensions of our lives
as
agents, f unctioning
in a
physical
andsocial w orld.
But w hen w e come to our
supposed
relations to
God,
the
Good,
or the
Cosmos,
surely
these
things only
enter our w orld
through
our
being
inductedinto
our
society's
culture,
and
they
must enter in the
f orm of belief s that have been handeddow n to us.
But this is in f act not how it w orks. Of
course,
in
any
theistic culture there w ill be some belief s about
God,
but our sense of him andour relation to him
w ill also be f ormed
by
modes of
ritual,
by
the kinds
of
prayer
w e have been
taught, by
w hat w e
pick up
f rom the attitudes of
pious
and
impious people,
and
the like. A similar
point
can be made about the
dif f erent kinds of social
space.
T here
may
be some
doctrines f ormulated about the nature of
society
and the hierarchical
rankings
that constitute it
w hich are
explicitlyprof f ered
f or our
adherence,
but w e also come to understandw hole volumes in
the
w ays
w e are
taught,
f or
example,
to show def er-
ence to certain
people
or at certain times and
places.
A social
understanding
is built in to w hat Pierre
Bourdieu calls our
"habitus,"
the
w ays
w e are
taught
to
behave,
w hich become
unref lecting,
secondna-
ture to us.6
We know our
w ay
around
society
somew hat the
w ay
w e know our
w ay
aroundour
physical
environ-
ment,
not
primarily
and
principally
because w e have
some
map
of either in our
heads,
but because w e
know how to treat dif f erent
people
andsituations
appropriately.
In this know -how there
is,
f or exam-
ple,
a stance tow ardthe elders that treats them as
having
a certain
dignity.
What it is about them that
is f elt to command this stance
may
not
yet
be
spelled
out: there
may
be no w ordf or
dignity
in the vocabu-
lary
of the tribe. But w hatever it is that w e w ill later
w ant to articulate w ith this w ord is
already
in the
w orld of the
youngsters
w ho bow in that
particular
w ay,
address their elders in low tones andw ith the
proper language,
and so on.
"Dignity"
is in their
w orld in the sense that
they
deal w ith it, respond
to
it, perhaps
revere it or resent it. It is
just
not f ormu-
lated in a
description,
andhence does not
f igure
in
an
explicit
belief .
Its
being
in their w orldis
part
of
their
backgroundunderstanding.
It is in similar
w ays
that Godor the Goodcan
f igure
in our w orld.
Surrounding express
doctrines
w ill be a richer
penumbra
of embodiedunderstand-
ing.
We can
imaginatively
extendthe
example
of the
previous paragraph. Suppose
that one of the
things
that makes the elders
w orthy
of
respect
is
just
that
they
are closer to the
gods.
T hen the divine
too,
w hich w e revere
through
these old
people,
w ill be
in our w orldin
part through
our
know ing
how to
treat them. It w ill be in our w orld
through
the
ap-
propriate
habitus.
We
might
in f act
distinguish
three levels of un-
derstanding
that have been invokedin the above
discussion. T here is the level of
explicit
doctrine,
about
society,
the
divine,
the
cosmos;
andthere is
the level of w hat I
called,
f ollow ing
Bourdieu,
the
habitus,
or embodied
understanding.
Somew hat be-
tw een the tw o is a level w e
might
call
(w ith
some
trepidation,
because this is a
semantically
over-
loaded
term)
the
symbolic.
I mean
by
this w hatever
understanding
is
expressed
in
ritual,
in
symbols (in
the
everydaysense),
in w orks of art. What exists on
this level is more
explicit
than mere
gesture
or
ap-
propriate
action,
because ritual or w ork can have a
mimetic or an evocative
dimension,
andhence
point
to
something
that it imitates or calls f orth. But it is
not
explicit
in the self -conscious
w ay
doctrinal f or-
mulations,
w hich can be submittedto the demands
of
logic, permit
of a metadiscourse in w hich
they
are
examinedin
turn,
andthe like.
We can see
w hy
it
might
be a
big
mistake to think
that w hat
distinguishes
us f rom our
premodern
f ore-
bears is
mainly
a lot of belief s of theirs that w e have
shed. Even if w e
w ant,
f ollow ing
"Dover
Beach,"
to
see their
age
as one of a Faith w hich w e have
lost,
it
might
be
verymisleading
to think of this dif f erence
in terms
simply
of
doctrines
to w hich
they
subscribe
andw e do not. Because below the doctrinal level are
at least tw o others: that of embodied
background
understanding,
andthat w hich w hile nourishedin
embodied habitus is
given expression
on the
sym-
bolic level. As w ell as the doctrinal
understanding
of
society,
there is the one
incorporated
in habitus, and
a level of
images
as
yet
unf ormulated in doctrine,
f or w hich w e
might
borrow a term
f requently
used
bycontemporary
French w riters:
l'imaginaire
social-
let's call it the "social
imaginary."
Why
does it matter to see the
changeover
as more
than doctrinal? Because otherw ise w e
may
have a
very
distorted
picture
of it. When
people undergo
a
change
in belief , they
shif t their view s betw een
already
f ormulated
possibilities. Formerly, they
thought
that God exists. But in
f ormulating
this
29
This content downloaded from 103.21.125.76 on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 02:00:05 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Hastings
Center
Report, March-April
1995
belief
they
w ere
quite
aw are that there w as another
option;
indeed,
usuallythey
are aw are that others
have
already
taken the atheist
option,
that there are
arguments
f or and
against
it,
etc. Now w hen
they
sw itch to
atheism,
they
move w ithin
positions
al-
ready
in their
repertory,
betw een
points already
w ithin their horizons.
But some of the
major changes
in embodied
understanding
andsocial
imaginary
alter the
very
repertory,
and introduce
new
possibilities
that w ere
not bef ore on the horizon. I
w ill sketch in a minute w hat
this
might
involve in con-
nection w ith the rise of the
public sphere. Modernity
in-
volves the
coming
to be of
new kinds of
public space,
w hich cannot be accounted
f or in terms of
changes
in
explicit
view s,
either of f ac-
tual belief or normative
principle.
Rather the transi-
tion involves to some extent
the def inition of new
possi-
ble
spaces
hitherto outside the
repertory
of our
f orebears,
and
beyond
the limits of their social
imaginary.
T he
consequence
of
seeing
these
changes
as al-
terations of
(f actual
or
normative)
belief is that w e
unw ittingly
make our ancestors too much like us. T o
the extent that w e see ourselves
asjust dif f ering
f rom
them in
belief
w e see them as
having
the same doc-
trinal
repertory
as
ours,
but
just opting dif f erently
w ithin it. But in order to
give
them the same
reper-
tory
w e have to
align
their embodied
understanding
and social
imaginary
w ith ours. We
f alsely
make
them in this sense our
contemporaries,
and
griev-
ously
underestimate the nature and
scope
of the
change
that
brought
our w orldabout.
So an acultural
theory
tends to make us both
miss the
original
vision of the
goodimplicit
in West-
ern
modernity,
andto underestimate the nature of
the transf ormation that
brought
this
modernity
about. T hese tw o draw backs
appear
to be linked.
Some of the
important
shif ts in
culture,
in our un-
derstandings
of
personhood,
the
good
andthe
like,
w hich have
brought
about the
original
vision of
Western
modernity,
can
only
be seen if w e
bring
into
f ocus the
major changes
in embodiedunderstand-
ing
andsocial
imaginary
that the last centuries have
brought
about.
T hey
tendto
disappear
if w e f latten
these
changes
out,
readour ow n
background
and
imaginary
into our
f orebears,
and
just
concentrate
on their
belief s,
w hich w e no
longer
share.
Modernity
involves the
coming
to
be of new kinds of
public space,
w hich cannot be accountedf or in
terms of
changes
in
explicit
view s,
either of f actual belief or normative
principle.
Cultural
Convergence
T hese connections
w ill,
of
course,
have to be
made in
detail,
andI haven't
got space
to do that
here.
Just
to
give
a taste of w hat is
involved,
I could
invoke the modern
understanding
and
reality(the
tw o are
linked)
of a
"public sphere"
of
open
debate
and
exchange through
media. T his is
thought
to be
an essential f eature of
any
mature and
legitimate
society-so
much so that dic-
tatorial andtotalitarian re-
gimes
tendto
try
to f ake
it,
of f ering supposedly objec-
tive new s
broadcasts,
editori-
als in
partynew spapers
that
purport
to be the communi-
cation of someone's
opin-
ion,
"spontaneous"
demon-
strations,
andthe like.
Now the modern
public
sphere
is a
strange
kindof
reality
in an
important
re-
spect.
It is
supposed
to be a
space
of discussion
linking
everyone
in
principle
or
po-
tentially,
even
though
its
manyparticipants
never
meet all
together
in one
place.
T his
space
has to be
sustained
by
a
particular
kindof social
imaginary,
one that is in
manyrespects
rather dif f erent f rom
premodern
modes of
imaginary,
andthat has a lot
to do w ith
specif ically
modern
understandings
of
secular time and
simultaneity.7'
Or
so,
anyw ay,
I w ant
to claim that closer
study
w oulddemonstrate. Such
a
study
w ould
reveal,
I
believe,
just
how our under-
standing
of our relations to
society,
time,
the
cosmos,
the
good,
andGodhave been transf ormedw ith the
coming
of our era.
Now if this is
true,
then w e can see how inade-
quate
and
misleading
acultural accounts can be. In
my
sense of this
term,
these are
explanations
of
Western
modernity
that see it not as one culture
among
others,
but rather as w hat
emerges
w hen
any
"traditional" culture is
put through
certain
(rational
or
social) changes.
On this
view ,
modernity
is not
specif ically
Western,
even
though
it
may
have started
in the West. It is rather that f orm of lif e tow ardw hich
all cultures
converge,
as
theygo through,
one af ter
another,
substantially
the same
changes.
T hese
may
be seen
primarily
in "intellectual"
terms,
as the
grow th
of
rationality
and
science;
or
primarily
in
"social" terms,
as the
development
of certain insti-
tutions and
practices:
a market
economy,
or ration-
alizedf orms of administration. But in either
case,
the
changes
are
partly
understoodin terms of the
loss of traditional
belief s,
either because
they
are
30
This content downloaded from 103.21.125.76 on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 02:00:05 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Hastings
Center
Report, March-April
1995
undermined
by
the
grow th
of
reason,
or because
they
are
marginalizedby
institutional
change.
Even the social
explanations
assume that these
belief s suf f er f rom a lack of rational
justif ication,
since the solvent ef f ect of social
change
is heldto lie
in the f act that it disturbs old
patterns
that made it
possible
to holdon to these earlier belief s in
spite
of their lack of rational
grounding.
For
instance,
the
continuance of a
static,
agricultural w ay
of
lif e,
largely
at the
mercy
of the
vagaries
of
climate,
sup-
posedly
makes certain
religious
belief s look
plausi-
ble,
w hich lose their holdonce humans see w hat it
is to take their f ate in their ow n hands
through
industrial
development.
Or a
largely
immobile soci-
ety
leads individuals to see their f ate as bound
up
closely
w ith that of their
neighbors,
andinhibits the
grow th
of an individualism that
naturally
f lourishes
once these
constricting
limits are lif ted.
T he acultural
theory
tends to see the
process
of
modernity
as
involving among
other
things
the
shucking
of f of belief s and
w ays
that don't have
much rational
justif ication, leaving
us w ith an out-
look
many
of w hose elements can be seen more as
hard,
residual f acts: that w e are individuals
(that is,
beings
w hose behavior is
ultimately
to be
explained
as
individuals),
living
in
prof ane
time,
w ho have to
extract w hat w e needto live f rom
nature,
andw hom
it behooves theref ore to be
maximally
instrumen-
tally
rational,
w ithout
allow ing
ourselves to be di-
vertedf rom this
goal by
the
metaphysical
andreli-
gious
belief s that heldour f oref athers
back.8 Instru-
mental
rationality
commands a scientif ic attitude to
nature andhuman lif e.
T he
Homogeneity
of Kernel T ruths
At the heart of the acultural
approach
is the view
that
modernity
involves our
"coming
to see" certain
kernel truths about the human
condition,
those I
have
just
advertedto. T here is some
justif ication
f or
talking
of our
"coming
to see" the truth w hen w e
consider the revolution of natural science that be-
gins
in the seventeenth
century.
But the mistake of
the acultural
approach
is
to
lump
all the
supposed
kernel truths about human lif e into the same
pack-
age,
as
though they
w ere all endorsed
equallyby
"science," on a
par, say,
w ith
particle physics?.
I have been
arguing
that this is a crucial mistake.
It
misrepresents
our f orebears, andit distorts the
process
of transition f rom them to us. In
particular,
seeing
the
change
as the decline of certain
belief s
covers
up
the
great
dif f erences in
background
un-
derstanding
andin the social
imaginary
of dif f erent
ages. More, it involves a sort of ethnocentrism of the
present.
Since human
beings alw ays
do holdtheir
explicit
belief s
against
a
background
andin the con-
text of an
imaginary,
f ailure to notice the dif f erence
amounts to the
unw itting
attribution to them of our
ow n. T his is the classic ethnocentric
projection.
T his
projection gives support
to the
implicit
Whiggism
of the acultural
theory, w hereby
moderns
have "come to see" the kernel truths. If
you
think
of
premoderns
as
operating
w ith the same back-
ground understanding
of human
beings
as mod-
erns,
namely,
as instrumental
individuals,
and
you
code their
understandings
of
God, cosmos,
andmul-
tidimensional time as "belief s" held
against
this
background,
then these belief s do indeed
appear
as
arbitrary
and
lacking
in
justif ication,
andit is not
surprising
that the social
changes dislodged
them.
But
an
examination of the rise of the
public
sphere
w ould
show ,
I
believe,
that this is not w hat
happened.
It is not that w e
sloughed
of f a w hole lot
of
unjustif ied
belief s,
leaving
an
implicit
self -under-
standing
that had
alw ays
been
there,
to
operate
at
last untrammelled. Rather one constellation of im-
plicit understandings
of our relation to
God,
the
cosmos,
other
humans,
and
time,
w as
replacedby
another in a multif acetedmutation.
Seeing things
this
w ay
not
onlygives
us a better handle on w hat
happened.
It also allow s us to understandourselves
better. As
long
as w e think that our
implicit
self -
understanding
is the universal human
one,
as
long
as w e f ail to note its contrast w ith
others,
so
long
w e
w ill have an
incomplete
anddistortedunderstand-
ing
of it. T his is
alw ays
a
price
of ethnocentrism.
From a
standpoint
immuredw ithin
any
culture,
other cultures look w eird. No doubt w e w ouldlook
strange-as
w ell as
blasphemous
andlicentious-to
our medieval ancestors. But there is a
particularly
high
cost in
self -misunderstanding
that attaches to
the ethnocentrism of the modern. T he kernel truths
of the acultural
theoryincorporate
an of ten unre-
f lective
methodological
individualism,
anda belief
in the
omnicompetence
of natural science. Im-
pelledby
the
latter,
its
protagonists
are
f requently
tempted
to cast our
"coming
to see" the kernel
truths as a sort of
"discovery"
in science. But the
discoveries of natural science are of "neutral"
f acts,
that is, truths that are "value-f ree," on w hich value
may
be
subsequentlyplacedby
human
beings,
but
w hich themselves are devoidof moral
signif icance.
Belonging
to the
range
of such "natural" f acts is that
w e are individuals, impelled
to
operate by
instru-
mental reason, maximizing
our
advantage
w hen w e
are not deterredf rom
doing
so
by
unf oundedbe-
lief .'0
Selves, Society,
andthe Good
Now this hides f rom view tw o
important
connec-
tions. First, the
w ay
in w hich our
implicit
under-
31
This content downloaded from 103.21.125.76 on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 02:00:05 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Hastings
Center
Report, March-April
1995
standing
of ourselves as
agents alw ays places
us in
certain relations to others. Because of the
very
na-
ture of the human condition-that w e can
only
de-
f ine ourselves in
exchange
w ith
others,
those w ho
bring
us
up,
andthose w hose
society
w e come to see
as constitutive of our
identity-our
self -under-
standing alw ays places
us
among
others. T he
place-
ments dif f er
greatly,
and
understanding
these dif f er-
ences andtheir
change
is the stuf f of
history.
We can see a
goodexample
of w hat this involves
in the
speculative
sketch I of f ereda f ew
pages
back
of the rise of the
public sphere.
T his andother
similar modes of social
imag-
ining
are
closely
tied
up
w ith
the rise of modern "indi-
vidualism." T he account I
w ould like to of f er w ould
have us see the rise of this
new individual
identity
as in-
extricably
linkedto the new
understandings
of time and
society.
Individualism is one
side of a
coin,
of w hich the
f lip
side is new modes of so-
cial
imaginary.
By
contrast,
a w ide-
spread
alternative view sees
individualism as
involving
a
completely
self -ref erential
identity;
one in w hich
agents
are f irst of all aw are of andf ocusedon
themselves,
and
onlysubsequently
discover a need
f or,
andde-
termine their relations
to,
others. T he human of the
"state
of nature"
w as, indeed,
an
important
constitu-
ent of the
early
modern
imaginary,
but w e mustn't
make the mistake of
understanding
the
people
w ho
imagined
it in its
light.
Modern "individualism" is
coterminous
w ith, indeed,
is def ined
by
a new un-
derstanding
of our
placement among
others,
one
that
gives
an
important place
to common action in
prof ane
time,
andhence to the idea of
consensually
f ounded
unions,
w hich receives inf luential f ormula-
tion in the
myth
of an
original
state of nature and
a social contract. Individualism is not
just
a w ith-
draw al f rom
society,
but a
reconception
of w hat hu-
man
society
can be. T o think of it as
pure
w ithdraw al
is to conf use
individualism,
w hich is
alw ays
a moral
ideal,
w ith the anomie of breakdow n.
Similarly,
our
understanding
of ourselves
alw ays
incorporates
some
understanding
of the
good
and
our relation to it. Here
too,
there are radical dif f er-
ences. T he
goodmay
be conceived
theistically
or as
in the cosmos
(as
w ith Plato's Idea of the
Good).
But it
may
also be understoodas
residing
in
us,
in
the inherent
dignity
of the human
person
as a rea-
T he
very
idea of an individual w ho
might
become aw are. of
himself ,
and
then
onlysubsequently,
or at least
independently,
determine w hat im-
portance
others have f or him and
w hat he w ill
accept
as
good, belongs
to
post-Cartesian,
f oundationalist
f antasy.
soning being,
f or
instance,
as w e f indw ith Immanuel
Kant. How ever
understood,
the notion of a human
identity
w ithout such a sense
brings
us close to the
unimaginable
limit of total breakdow n."
All this is
occluded,
indeed
doubly. Seeing
the
evolution of instrumental individualism as the dis-
covery
of a "natural" f act not
only
involves
project-
ing
our
background
onto our ancestors. In
addition,
the
naturalist,
scientistic outlook that
generates
this
error has been
heavily
intricatedw ith the
repre-
sentational,
f oundationalist
epistemology
that de-
scends f rom Descartes andLocke. T his
epistemol-
ogy
has
suppressed
all
recog-
nition of the
background.
It
conceives our
know ledge
of
the w orld as
consisting
of
particulate, explicit repre-
sentations. T his means that
w e not
onlyproject
our ow n
background
backw ard,
but
also render this error invis-
ible
byrepressing
all aw are-
ness of
backgrounds
as
such.'2 T he ethnocentric col-
onization of the
past
cannot
be
brought
to
light,
because
the
very
terms in w hich it
might appear
have been
abolished.
T he
very
idea of an indi-
vidual w ho
might
become aw are of
himself ,
and
then
onlysubsequently,
or at least
independently,
determine w hat
importance
others have f or him
andw hat he w ill
accept
as
good, belongs
to
post-
Cartesian,
f oundationalist
f antasy.
Once w e
recog-
nize that our
explicit thoughts only
can be enter-
tained
against
a
background
sense of w ho andw here
w e are in the w orldand
among
others andin moral
space,
w e can see that w e can never be w ithout some
relation to the crucial ref erence
points
I enumer-
atedabove:
w orld, others, time,
the
good.
T his rela-
tion
can, indeed,
be transf ormedas w e move f rom
one culture or
age
to
another,
but it cannot
just
f all
aw ay.
We cannot be w ithout some sense of our moral
situation,
some sense of our connectedness to others.
T he naturalistic account of the
discovery
of the
kernel
truths,
implicit
in the acultural
theory,
misses
all these connections. When the old
metaphysical
and
religious
belief s
crumble,
w e f indas a matter of
neutral f act that w e are instrumental
individuals,
andw e needto draw f rom elsew here our values and
acceptable grounds
f or association w ith others. In
contrast,
I w ant to describe the
change
as
moving
us f rom one dense constellation of
background
un-
derstanding
and
imaginary
to
another,
both of
32
This content downloaded from 103.21.125.76 on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 02:00:05 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Hastings
Center
Report, March-April
1995
w hich
place
us in relation to others andthe
good.
T here is never atomistic andneutral self -understand-
ing;
there is
only
a constellation
(ours)
w hich tends
to throw
up
the
myth
of this
self -understanding
as
part
of its
imaginary.
T his is of the essence of a
cultural
theory
of
modernity.
Notes
1. Of
course,
f or a certain
vulgar
Marxism,
the
negative
an-
sw er is
quite explicit.
Ideas are the
product
of economic
changes.
But much non-Marxist social science
operates implicitly
on
similar
premises.
Andthis in
spite
of the orientation of some of
the
great
f ounders of social
science,
like
Weber,
w ho
recognized
the crucial role of moral and
religious
ideas in
history.
2. Individualism has in f act been usedin tw o
quite
dif f erent
senses. In one it is a moral ideal,
one f acet of w hich I have been
discussing.
In
another,
it is an amoral
phenomenon, something
like w hat w e mean
byegoism.
T he rise of individualism in this
sense is
usually
a
phenomenon
of
breakdow n,
w here the loss of
a traditional horizon leaves mere anomie in its
w ake,
and
every-
body
f ends f or himself -as in some
demoralized,
crime-ridden
slums f ormed
bynew ly
urbanized
peasants
in the T hirdWorld
(or
in
nineteenth-century Manchester).
It
is,
of
course, cata-
strophic
to conf use these tw o kinds of
individualism,
w hich have
utterly
dif f erent causes and
consequences.
Which is
w hyT ocque-
ville
caref ullydistinguishes
individualism f rom
egoism.
3. See Charles
T aylor,
Sources
of
the
Self
T he
Making of
the
Modern
Identity(Cambridge:
Harvard
University
Press, 1989).
4. Martin
Heidegger,
Sein undZeit
(T iibingen: Niemeyer,
1927);
Maurice
Merleau-Ponty, Phenominologie
de la
perception
(Paris: Gallimard, 1945); Ludw ig Wittgenstein, Philosophical
In-
vestigations (Oxf ord: Blackw ell, 1953);
Michael
Polanyi,
Personal
Know ledge (New
York:
Harper, 1958); John
Searle,
Intentionality
(Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1983);
Hubert
Drey-
f us,
What Computers
Can't Do
(New
York:
Harper, 1979).
5.
Ludw ig Wittgenstein,
On
Certainty(Oxf ord: Blackw ell,
1977), paragraphs
260 f f .
6. See Pierre
Bourdieu,
Outline
of
a
T heoryof
Practice
(Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1977);
andhis Le Sens
pra-
tique,
(Paris: Minuit, 1980).
"On
pourrait,
def ormant le mot de
Proust,
dire
que
les
jambes,
les bras sont
pleins d'imperatif s
engourdis.
Et l'on n'en f inirait
pas
d'6numerer
les valeurs f aites
corps, par
la transsubstantiation
qu'opere
la
persuasion
clandes-
tine d'une
pedagogie implicite, capable d'inculquer
toute une
cosmologie,
une
ethique,
une
metaphysique,
une
politique,
'a
travers des
injonctions
aussi
insignif iantes que
'tiens-toi droit'
ou 'ne tiens
pas
ton couteau de la main
gauche'
et d'inscire
dans les details en
apparence
les
plus insignif iants
de la
tenue,
du
maintien ou des manieres
corporelles
et verbales les
principes
f ondamentaux de
l'arbitraire culturel,
ainsi
places
hors des
prises
de la conscience et de
l'explicitation" (Le
Sens
pratique,
p. 117).
7. T here is an
interesting
discussion of this in Benedict An-
derson's
Imagined
Communities, 2ded.
(London: Verso, 1991), pp.
28-31.
8. T his
development
of instrumental
rationality
is w hat is
f requently
described as "secularization."
See,
f or
instance,
Gabriel AlmondandG.
Bingham
Pow ell,
Comparative
Politics: A
Developmental Approach (Boston:
Little
Brow n, 1966), pp.
24-25:
"A
village
chief in a tribal
societyoperates largely
w ith a
given
set
of
goals
anda
given
set of means of
attaining
these
goals
w hich
have
grow n up
andbeen hallow ed
by
custom. T he secularization
of culture is the
process w hereby
traditional orientations and
attitudes
give w ay
to more
dynamic decision-making processes
involving
the
gathering
of
inf ormation,
the evaluation of inf or-
mation,
the
laying
out of alternative courses of
action,
the
selection of a
given
action f rom
among
those
possible
courses,
andthe means
w hereby
one tests w hether or not a
given
course
of action is
producing
the
consequences
w hich w ere intended."
Andlater: "T he
emergence
of a
pragmatic, empirical
orien-
tation is one
component
of the secularization
process" (p. 58).
9. Even Ernest
Gellner,
w ho is
light years
of
sophistication
aw ay
f rom the crudities of Almondand
Pow ell,
puts
himself in
the acultural
camp,
f or all his
interesting insights
into
modernity
as a new constellation. He does this
bylinking
w hat I am
calling
the
supposed
"kernel truths" w ith w hat he calls
"cognitive
ad-
vance,"
in a
single package.
T he modern constellation un-
chained
science,
andthat in his view seems to conf er the same
epistemic
status on the w hole
package. "Specialization,
atomiza-
tion,
instrumental
rationality, independence
of f act and
value,
grow th
and
provisionality
of
know ledge
are all linkedw ith each
other." See
Plough,
Sw ordandBook
(Chicago: University
of Chi-
cago
Press, 1988), p.
122.
10. T hus Gellner includes
"independence
of f act andvalue"
in his
package, along
w ith
"grow th
and
provisionality
of know l-
edge."
11.
I
have triedto
argue
this
point
at
greater length
in Sources
of
the
Self , chaps.
1-4.
12. I
have discussedthe nature of this modern
epistemology
andits
suppression
of the
background
at
greater length
in
"Overcoming Epistemology,"
in
Af ter Philosophy:
Endor
T ransf or-
mation? ed. Kenneth
Baynes, James Bohman,
and T homas
McCarthy(Cambridge:
MIT
Press, 1987);
andin
"Lichtung
oder
Lebensf orm,"
in "Der Ldw e
spricht
... undw ir
k6nnen
ihn nicht
verstehen" (Frankf urt: Suhrkamp, 1991).
33
This content downloaded from 103.21.125.76 on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 02:00:05 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions