The Nova Effect:
Following Taylor’s explanation of how exclusive humanism becomes a live option, this chapter begins part III of the book, in which he focuses on the three phases of the nova effect, “an ever-widening variety of moral/spiritual options.” (299)
This nova effect is the explosive multiplicity of faiths which originally happened in the elites, and reached down to society as a whole by the beginning of twentieth century. This effect, says Taylor, is largely driven by various reactions to the malaise of immanence.
Malaise of Immanence:
The buffered self, as previously characterized by Taylor, has closed itself off from the danger of mysteries. This phenomenon results in the rise of rationality and a sense of invulnerability. However, the negative side of this buffered identity is the cross-pressure from the previous order, a sense in which something beyond the human world is lost.
“There is a generalized sense in our culture that with the eclipse of transcendent, something may have been lost.” (307)
The buffered self, with the power of rationality, suffers from the malaise of modernity, the sense of emptiness, a lack of meaning within the immanent social order. Dissatisfied with the human world of freedom and mutual benefits, the buffered self is pushed to begin the search for meaning within the immanence.
Forms of Malaise of Immanence:
Malaise of Immanence can typically be found in three forms: (309)
(1) The sense of fragility of meaning, the search for an over-arching significance:
Fragility, according to Taylor, is the sense that all of the significances of life are fragile, uncertain; hence the search for “one thing needful”, the meaning which will gives sense to all the lower ones.
(2) The felt flatness of our attempts to solemnize the crucial moments of passage in our lives
The attempt to solemnize certain moments of our lives is to associate them to something beyond the immanent. With the loss of transcendence, we are left with a hole that cannot be filled within the bound of immanent order.
(3) The utter flatness, emptiness of the ordinary
People, who live modern commercial, consumer society, commonly experience the feeling of emptiness about their surrounding environment, their culture and so on…
Is Taylor fair in using the term “malaise of modernity”? How does his sympathy for the pre-modern ages come into play in this chapter? Is his analysis of malaise of immanence suggestive of a recovery to transcendence?