Charles Taylor’s Modern Identity and the “Atonement Muddle”

James Gerrie


In Charles Taylor’s exhaustive study of the historical currents that have helped
constitute the modern identity he proposes the notion of “the affirmation of
ordinary life” as a way of encapsulating the core of that identity. As he states in
Sources of the Self, “ordinary life is a term of art I introduce to designate those
aspects of human life concerned with production, that is, labour, the making of
things needed for life, and our life as sexual beings, including marriage and the
family.”1 According to Taylor, this aspect of the modern identity gives rise to a
new sense of the almost inestimable value of individuals and their quotidian
existence. This modern sense of identity is informed by a combination of a
theistic vision of a created natural order and an ideal of disengaged scientific
reasoning as a way of exploring that order, and also a sense of the ultimate value
of people and their dignity as moral agents.

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