A Political Introduction to Günter Grass

**Disclaimer: this post also appears on Discourses on Liberty**

-Alex Donovan Cole

The problems of modernity are indeed disconcerting, but they have always been with us.   Chiefly, modernity’s major problem is its lack of a readily apparent vital center for politics, whether in the form of a common identity or a common moral outlook.  This most often appears in the conflict between what Taylor calls “moral sources.”  According to Charles Taylor, “the drive to original vision will be hampered, will ultimately be lost in inner confusion, unless it can be placed in some way in relation to the language and vision of others.”[1]  The primary actor modernity concerns itself with, however, is the individual subject, making the possibility of this relation to “the vision of others” more difficult.

 

Taylor writes, “selfhood and the good” to the moderns “turn out to be inextricably intertwined themes.”[2]  Indeed, subjectivity allows an individual human being to evaluate claims regarding politics and personal ethics and pursue a lifestyle based upon their subjective understanding insofar as this lifestyle does not present a danger to others.  Despite the differences in moral outlooks, Taylor argues that the common claim of modernism is: “We…feel particularly strongly the demand for universal justice and beneficence, are peculiarly sensitive to claims of equality, feel the demands to freedom and self-rule as axiomatically justified, and put a very high priority on the avoidance of death and suffering.”[3] 

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