In Sources of the Self, the philosopher Charles Taylor argues that what is distinctive about the modern world is that many of us have come to regard the claims of ordinary life as being ultimately fulfilling. Someone’s falling in love, raising a family, maintaing a close-knit group of friends, and doing meaningful work would, on this modern view, be sufficient for him or her to flourish.
While it is true that many people are drawn to these goods, it is equally true that one or more may not be so easy to come by. Searching for unconditional love may seem futile, the project of being a good lover utterly perplexing. Cultivating genuine friendships may seem arduous, sorting the genuine ones from the fair-weather especially painstaking. And discovering the kind of work that moves one to be be fully engaged in living may fall, one may believe, into the hands of the precious and fortunate few.
From time to time, philosophical friends and I puzzle through these questions concerning the art of love, the fashioning of genuine friendship, and the nature of meaningful work. To learn more, see ‘What We Talk About.’