Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor is Professor Emeritus at McGill University. Among his publications are Hegel (Cambridge University Press, 1975), Philosophical Papers (2 vols., Cambridge University Press, 1985), Sources of the Self (Harvard University Press, 1989), Modern Social Imaginaries (Duke University Press, 2004), and A Secular Age (Harvard University Press, 2007). Taylor is a contributor to the SSRC volume Rethinking Secularism.

Posts by Charles Taylor:

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Western secularity

We live in a world in which ideas, institutions, artistic styles, and formulas for production and living circulate among societies and civilizations that are very different in their historical roots and traditional forms. Parliamentary democracy spread outward from England, among other countries, to India; likewise, the practice of nonviolent civil disobedience spread from its origins in the struggle for Indian independence to many other places, including the United States with Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, Manila in 1983, and the Velvet and Orange Revolutions of our time.

But these ideas and forms of practice don’t just change place as solid blocks; they are modified, reinterpreted, given new meanings, in each transfer. This can lead to tremendous confusion when we try to follow these shifts and understand them. One such confusion comes from taking a word itself too seriously; the name may be the same, but the reality will often be different.

This is evident in the case of the word “secular.”

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Monday, October 19th, 2009

The philosopher-citizen

habermasJürgen Habermas is one of the most prominent philosophers on the global scene of the last half century. His work is of an impressive range and depth. It would be impossible to sum it up in a short essay, but I shall try to single out three facets of his extraordinary achievement which help throw light on his deserved fame and influence.

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Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Buffered and porous selves

A Secular AgeAlmost everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of five hundred years ago is that they lived in an “enchanted” world, and we do not; at the very least, we live in a much less “enchanted” world. We might think of this as our having “lost” a number of beliefs and the practices which they made possible. But more, the enchanted world was one in which these forces could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical. One of the big differences between us and them is that we live with a much firmer sense of the boundary between self and other. We are “buffered” selves. We have changed. […]

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Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Secularism and critique

What are we to think of the idea, entertained by Rawls for a time, that one can legitimately ask of a religiously and philosophically diverse democracy that everyone deliberate in a language of reason alone, leaving their religious views in the vestibule of the public sphere? The tyrannical nature of this demand was rapidly appreciated by Rawls, to his credit. But we ought to ask why the proposition arose in the first place.

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Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Two books, oddly yoked together

Mark Lilla’s The Stillborn God feels like two books, oddly yoked together. One is a fascinating study, which traces a post-Enlightenment tradition of theorizing about religion starting from an anthropocentric focus. Religion is to be understood from the human desire or craving or need for religion. The originator of this way of thinking is Rousseau, but he rapidly acquires followers in Germany: Kant, the German Romantics, Schleiermacher. [...]

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Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Constitutional patriotism

Robert Bellah’s latest post poses clearly the issues that we’ve been agonizing over in Canada, and in a different way now in Quebec. Lots of people want to shy away from a political identity which is primarily defined in ethnic terms. On the contrary when asked what are the crucial uniting ideas of our society, they come up with some variant of universal “values,” defined in terms of modern charters of rights (all heavily influenced by the Universal Declaration), principles of equality and non-discrimination, and democracy. Canadian “multiculturalism” fits into this category, as does “interculturalisme” in Quebec. [...]

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Friday, December 21st, 2007

What inspires us & what holds us together

secular_age.jpgHaving escaped for a few seconds from the Commission, I had a chance to read many of the very interesting posts to the blog. With many I agree, others not. But there are two points where I obviously failed to communicate what I wanted to say (possibly because that is incoherent, though I hope not). [...]

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Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Problems around the secular

secular_age.jpgOne great problem is that the term “secular” is a western term, and corresponds to a very old distinction within Christendom. Then it goes through a series of changes in order to surface in such neologisms as “secularization,” and “secularism.” But even so, some of the original meanings carry over. These terms are then applied unreflectingly to what are seen as analogous processes and ideas elsewhere, and the result can be great confusion. [...]

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Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

The buffered self and the battle of ideas

secular_age.jpgAs I read Wendy Brown’s recent post on A Secular Age, I see that I made a bad job of communicating my intent. I organized the book in sections, and the main thrust of my account comes in the first half. Crucial to my view is a Foucault-influenced notion of Reform as both feeding on and further potentiating certain disciplines, which become woven into our family, work, schooling and professional lives and hence continue to define us. What I call the “buffered self” is one facet of what results. [...]

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