By Marcia S. Freeman
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He is not just de facto a certain kind of being, with certain given desires, but it is somehow “up to” him what kind of being he is going to be. (1976, 281; see also “Introduction”, Taylor 1985a/b) Other animals have their purposes determined by their species-specific goals and biologically formed instincts. Persons are able to pursue selfchosen ends. A focus on second-order volitions leads one to stress the capacity to say “no” to any natural desire, and the capacity to set selfchosen ends for oneself.
Self-clarification draws on the context of a specific life history and leads to evaluative statements about what is good for a particular person” (11). Strong evaluations are embedded in the context of a particular self-understanding: “One’s identity is determined simultaneously by how one sees oneself and how one would like to see oneself, by what one finds oneself to be and the ideals with reference to which one fashions oneself and one’s life” (1993, 4). Habermas writes that such self-understanding is Janus-faced; it includes a descriptive component of how one is and a normative component of the ego-ideal.
The same goes for issues of the good life: some goals in life are important. Forming a clear view of these goods is not merely a matter of self-clarification, as Habermas suggests, it is a matter of being sensitive to the real value of different objects. Taylor holds that any kind of good can be valid independently of one’s will. One’s own will or one’s own life does not make a Janus-faced contribution to the validity of strong evaluations in the way Habermas thinks. A whole range of ethical, existential, aesthetic, moral goods can be valid independently of the will of a strong evaluator (1985b, 238).