Arinze Onwuzulike

'Spacing' the Good Life:

Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self in Focus

Metaphors and, as I shall argue, spatial metaphors, are some of the most powerful and reliable ways humans make and communicate meanings, especially with regard to what it means to live a good life. Yet, metaphors often attract misunderstandings and even outright dismissal in certain disciplines, no less in philosophy.

My central claim in this paper is that spatial metaphors, that is, metaphors that relate to our experience of space, are a primary modeling vocabulary on which our key conceptual formulations and everyday discourses on the ethics of the good life largely depend. My task therefore in this paper is to show how, through metaphors, we inescapably engage in “spacing” the good life. This claim is strongly supported by the now well-documented findings that, contrary to the widespread view which tends to confine metaphors to the domain of literary studies, metaphors are equally available and are in fact constitutive of our philosophical and everyday thoughts, more than we are ordinarily prepared to admit. Chief among such easily glossed-over metaphors are those of space.

To make my case, I shall draw primarily on the text: Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, which is Charles Taylor’s magnum opus on the theory of an ethically defined human life. In the end, my paper will show, through a close attention to the text of Sources, that spatial metaphors shape our ethics of the good life.