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DEFENDING ANTI-NATURALISM AFTER THE INTERPRETIVE TURN: CHARLES TAYLOR AND THE HUMAN SCIENCES

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Abstract:

This article argues that while Charles Taylor's commitment to anti-naturalism in the human sciences has been constant, the grounds for that commitment have changed significantly over time. What began as his critique of naturalism on empirical grounds was refashioned into a commitment on moral grounds, or more accurately, on the basis of there being no distinctly separable grounds between the scientific and the moral. Taylor shifted his descriptive phenomenological defence of anti-naturalism to cast a much broader critique against an empiricist epistemology he saw underpinning all naturalist approaches in the human sciences. He calls attention to the speciousness of the ontological commitments of an empiricist epistemological outlook that tries to separate human agency from moral ontology, which he argues is itself a moral position. Whether we want to go along with Taylor's specific moral outlook or not, what his arguments about the human sciences teach us is twofold: (1) Taylor's descriptive phenomenology shows how the scientific language of the natural sciences often cannot explain human phenomena without contradiction; (2) Taylor's hermeneutic realism teaches us the extent to which defending an anti-naturalist philosophy of human sciences today necessitates moral argument.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Political Science, 210 Barrows Hall, #1950, Berkeley, CA 94720-1950, USA., Email: nchoi@berkeley.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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