Volume 34, Issue 1, January 2018
Andrew D. Rose
Kierkegaard, Charles Taylor, and Narrative Sources of Identity
This essay is an attempt to demonstrate that Charles Taylor’s “social imaginaries” should not be viewed as sources of identity. For Taylor, making sense of society’s practices allows an individual to develop a conception of the self – an idea Taylor borrows from Hegel. I therefore suggest that Kierkegaard’s critiques against Hegel may similarly be used against Taylor’s conception of identity.
Kierkegaard’s critiques of Hegel are applicable to Taylor’s social imaginaries for two reasons. First, Hegel’s system only provides approximations—mediation in the ethical nullifies the individual’s subjective relation to Kierkegaard’s “Absolute” by objectivizing the relation. Thus, despair ensues. Second, if knowledge of the Absolute is mediated through social imaginaries, the individual’s responsibility to perpetually renew faith in her constituting power is diminished. Taylor’s “system” is therefore insufficient for achieving a positive view of existence (actuality) because selfhood is properly understood through the inward subjectivity of one’s relation to her constituting power (God).