Human Agency And Language, By Charles Taylor

5191 words - 21 pages

This essay is my attempt to lay down in plain terms the expressivist position advanced by Charles Taylor as an alternative to the dominant approach to the study of man, based upon an influential shift in philosophers’ understanding of language. Taylor adopts a view of man as the language animal, an animal whose very conscious experience is constituted by its capacity for speech and expression. This position reveals faults with the dominant approach, and leads to a holistic conception of language and meaning. Subsequent progression down this path leads to intriguing accounts of human nature and the source of our ancient notion of God.

The Failure of the Dominant Approach

In extracting Taylor’s argument for expressivism, it will serve us well to begin with a discussion of his critique of modernity. Taylor is critical of several mainstream disciplines, including the natural sciences, psychology, linguistics, and philosophy. He takes issue not with these disciplines themselves, but rather with a conceptual scheme which underlies the dominant approaches in these fields, and consequently their objectives.

Taylor’s discontent is directed toward one influential attempt to resolve the old problem of meaning in the philosophy of language, a problem which has fuelled debate for centuries. This is what Taylor calls the ‘designative’ theory of meaning, the view that meaning consists in the role of individual words and sentences as designators for objects, relations, ideas and so forth in the world. This position represents a shift in our world-view, a shift which Taylor feels has done wonders to advance science, but which ultimately has moved us away from any plausible account of human nature. I should first like to examine this shift and its effects before outlining Taylor’s critique of it and of its off-sprung explanations.

The nature of meaning in language has elusively defied every attempt to provide a fully accurate account of it. And while the problem stubbornly resists satisfactory resolution, various attempts to explain the meaning of our words and linguistic constructions have met with more or less limited success. During certain historical periods, certain theories of meaning have risen to prominence, and these have been thought in their own times to have, as accurately as possible, captured the function of meaning in language. Doubtless the most influential of such theories is what Taylor refers to as the designative theory of meaning.

The evolution of the designative theory has been more prolonged and thus more successful in delivering strictly material gains than any of its competitors. But its inability to explain the human experience in any satisfactory or even plausible way has cast doubt on its own plausibility, at least for thinkers such as Taylor. For Taylor, the designative theory and its web of explanations, which infest almost all sub-disciplines of...

Find Another Essay On Human Agency and Language, by Charles Taylor

Analyse the poem 'The Eolian Harp' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and comment on the poetic form and language used and the way they contribute to the meaning and effects of the poem.

1647 words - 7 pages ‘The Eolian Harp’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, can be described as the musings of a man thinking about his love for his wife Sara, the beauty of nature and about the wonder of God in providing him with both nature and Sara. The voice of the poem is Coleridge himself as it refers to Sara, his wife at the time of writing. It is a Romantic poem as it deals with a mixture of traditional Romantic themes: those of strong feelings, the

Discuss the presentation of the murder of Nancy in 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens, paying particular attention to his use of setting, character and language.

1512 words - 6 pages Discuss the presentation of the murder of Nancy in 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens, paying particular attention to his use of setting, character and language.Oliver Twist was written by Charles Dickens and set in Victorian London, and in the late 1830's the novel was published which was also at the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign, the novel was presented as a satirical social critique as Dickens is taking the Michael out of the way people

This is an essay on how Dickens portrays his view on human nature and society in chapter V, The Key Note: "Hard Times" by Charles Dickens

1877 words - 8 pages HARD TIMES ESSAYExplore how Dickens presents his view of human nature and society in this extract. You should investigate his:* Use of language and style to create character and setting* Involvement of wider themes from the novel as a wholeDickens portrays the human nature of Coketown in a lot of different ways; he uses imagery to emphasise the idea that the mood of Coketown is a solitary, repetitive and unnatural place and that all the people

Comparison of "Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" by William Wordsworth

525 words - 2 pages "Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" by William Wordsworth are poems from the romanticism period. Both poems share common characteristics and have some contrasting traits. The presence of romanticism, the fact that both are written after the incident or dream took place, and the difference in reality and imagination are very important in analyzing these poems.One characteristic that "Kubla

Study on the Falsities of Language and Human Interaction

3889 words - 16 pages communicative factor. So while defining oneself through language (or by other means) the subtext gives out a message that is closer to an image than it is to a word, and an image says more than a thousand words. Thus the falsities in human interaction are not to blame on the tool, but the one using the tool, which in this light seems to be an ingenious handmaiden. Bibliography: Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, (May 1982) Noonday Pr; ISBN: 0374521344 Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary - thesaurus,

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

1059 words - 4 pages looking for adventure and fortune. The motivations for their actions were simple; Marlow was “lost in all the glories of exploration” (pg. 13), and the Mariner was only seeking to avoid a storm. But each would be changed in profound ways by their journeys, in great part due to their ambiguous morality. The gray nature of Marlow’s psyche is evidenced primarily through his opinions and judgments- for example, his patronizing attitude towards women

Compare and contrast the work done by one agency/ organisation or worker with that done by another

555 words - 2 pages referring them to a independent advocacy agency. A social worker will attend meetings held by decision-making forums and present his or her finding when working with service users in order to advocate for them. Issues that may need advocating on could be housing, benefits, pension, childcare etc.A social worker will assess risks and try to minimize it, in terms of health and safety, economic and other forms of risk to the individual, community or to

Modernity and Enlightenment in The Persian Letters by Charles Montesquieu

1347 words - 5 pages Modernity and Enlightenment in The Persian Letters by Charles Montesquieu The Persian Letters (1721), a fictional piece by Charles Montesquieu, is representative of ‘the Enlightenment,’ both supporting and showing conflict with its ideas. The initial perception of European people, in particular the French, is of a busy people with goals and ambition whose focus is progress; in this way they are able to gain knowledge

Female Roles Challenged by Charles dickens and Wilkie Collins

1399 words - 6 pages Collins is denying Marian of something, Lennox is assuming Marian (and other women of the time) need those things to be happy, which in itself is a stereotype. Rather than asserting a strong woman into his novel, Dickens challenges the Victorian Era’s stereotypical female role by showing the positive moral value of a type of female that is normally shamed in public. In his novel Oliver Twist Charles Dickens portrays Nancy, who is a prostitute

Charles Darwin and The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection

530 words - 2 pages The Story of Charles DarwinCharles Darwin was born in February 1809. From an early age, his main interests were plants and animals. When he was just 22 he was given the opportunity to sail around the world on HMS Beagle.HMS Beagle stopped at many different places on its 5 year journey, at every different stop, Darwin looked at different species of plants and animals. He collected many specimens and made lots of observations between them. As HMS

Charles Dickens' The Signalman and A Birthday by Karen Mansfield

3910 words - 16 pages Charles Dickens' The Signalman and A Birthday by Karen Mansfield A signalman is a short story written by Charles Dickens. This is a story about a signalman who is driven “mad” by the environment of his work, away from sunlight and people. But he was not alone; a supernatural ghost decides to accompany him too. He has a lot of responsibilities to shoulder. There are only two characters that really are prominent in the short story

Similar Essays

The Self: As Defined By Charles Taylor

1794 words - 8 pages thrive, for being human means that we are blessed with the infinite capacity for creativity. We can mold ourselves into anyone we want. So now the question becomes: “Who am I now? And what kind of person do I want to be?” In the book, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, Charles Taylor would argue that we are not left to make this choice by ourselves, but are instead governed by a number of external factors such as society

Poetic Form And Language In 'the Pains Of Sleep' By Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

1335 words - 5 pages is possible he feels complicit by reason of his own social status and previous political leanings.The alliterative (sibilant) line 'Life -stifling fear, soul-stifling shame' (line 32) draws attention to the collective burden of 'guilt, remorse or woe' he has chosen, rightly or wrongly, to take upon himself and marks a downward shift in the pace of the narrative.'The Pains of Sleep' uses binary oppositions (heaven/hell, weak/strong) to persuade

The Language In The Red Room By H G Wells And The Signalman By Charles Dickens

911 words - 4 pages The Language in The Red Room by H G Wells and The Signalman by Charles Dickens Throughout, The Signalman has suspense and the tension is gripping, as the author, Dickens, has used exceedingly good description in the language and the setting is just perfect. Dickens had an advantage when writing this story as there were similarities between himself and some of the characters; since he had been involved in a train

Characteristics And Environment Of A Human Service Agency

602 words - 2 pages University of Phoenix College of Health and Human Services BSHS/462 - Building Community in Organizations Week One Week One - Individual AssignmentCharacteristics and Environments of a Human Service Organization PaperWrite a 1,050- to 1,500-word APA formatted paper about a human service organization that you have selected, in which you are interested, or of which you are aware. The organization must be a national, state, or local program. You