Jonathan D. Fitzgerald On Charles Taylor

This Charles Taylor, not this one:

The importance of being true to oneself, Taylor would argue, doesn’t affirm the right of a person to make her own choices simply because she can. He calls this “soft relativism;” rather, there is a “moral force” to authenticity that insists that individuals understand their originality. But even this we don’t do alone. We discover who we are and achieve this kind of self-fulfillment in relation to other people and, ultimately, in relation to something “more or other than human desires or aspirations,” as Taylor writes. I’m pretty sure he’s saying that yoga alone won’t do it.

What I argue in my book Not Your Mother’s Morals isn’t necessarily that authenticity and sincerity are high moral virtues in and of themselves, but rather that their emergence in popular culture has created opportunities to discuss moral questions openly and honestly. If an artist can, without fear of recourse, explore issues of faith and family, environmentalism and politics, and come to definite conclusions about the morality or immorality of these things, then there is inherent value in authenticity.

So, while the New Sincerity is not itself the new morality I’ve been building to, it is what makes this new morality possible. It provides the bedrock for pop culture creators to build on. And, as culture runs all through life, what they build touches just about every aspect of how we live now. The television and films they create, the music they make, and the books they write teach us lessons that reach into the most crucial areas of our life—our attitudes toward, and beliefs about, God, Family, and Country.

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is the author of Not Your Mother’s Morals: How the New Sincerity Is Changing Pop Culture for the Better and the editor of

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