Expressive Individualism. Ethics of Authenticity Revisited

Seventh Annual Meeting of the Center for European Philosophy 

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015
University of Antwerp, Stadscampus
Room D.015
Grote Kauwenberg 18
2000 Antwerpen


Charles Taylor is widely recognized as a leading philosopher in the fields of philosophy of culture, political philosophy and theory of secularization. Though Taylor is best known for his detailed and comprehensive studies, in 1991 he wrote a small book which succeeded in presenting a concise and insightful analysis of modern Western society: The Ethics of Authenticity, first published in Canada under the title The Malaise of Modernity. In that book, Taylor argues that although modern individualism tends to degenerate into relativism and loss of meaning, it also embodies a powerful moral ideal: the ideal of authenticity. The search for authenticity reveals the ‘expressive aspects’ of modern individualism, which according to Taylor require openness to horizons of significance and self-definition in dialogue, even if they frequently involve opposition against convention.

In The Ethics of Authenticity, Taylor analyzes cultural evolutions in the second half of the 20th century. Today, one may wonder whether his reflections still hold for the first decades of the 21st century. Are contemporary Western societies still prone to fall below the ideal of authenticity, merely reflecting the dark side of modern individualism and fostering a culture of narcissism? Or did they draw out something of its fuller potential, along the lines that Taylor suggested in the early 1990s? Is Taylor’s analysis of modern individualism still applicable to our current situation or have we explored new roads since then?

The meeting is preceded by an evening lecture by Patrick Madigan, entitled "Expressive Individualism: The Cult of the Artist as Genius and Milton’s Lucifer", organized in cooperation with UCSIA and Center Pieter Gillis.


09:00 Coffee & Croissant

09:20 Herbert De Vriese (UAntwerpen): Welcome and Introduction

09:30 Peter Losonczi (KU Leuven): "Authenticity and Fundamentalism"

10:00 Meirav Almog (Tel Aviv University): "Selfhood and Style: Merleau-Ponty's Ethics of Authenticity"

10:30 Liza Cortois (KU Leuven): "Mindfulness and Authenticity: Where Instrumental and Expressive Individualism Meet"

11:15 Coffee Break

11:30 "Personal Authenticity – Challenge for or Condition of Responsibility?" - Keynote lecture by Katharina Bauer (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)

12:30 Lunch

14:00 “Charles Taylor's Ethics of Authenticity” - Text seminar led by Guido Vanheeswijck (UAntwerpen) and Patrick Madigan (Heythrop College, University of London)

15:30 Coffee Break

16:00 "Does Subjectivism Undermine the Meaningfulness of Life?" - Keynote lecture by Iddo Landau (Haifa University)


Registration for this event on April 23 is free of charge. You can register by sending an e-mail to

Please consult this flyer (pdf - 629 kb) for all relevant information.