The Catholic Register: Canadian philosopher, a dissenter against secularism, wins $1.5 million religion prize
TORONTO, Canada (The Catholic Register) – Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has won the $1.5 million (U.S.) Templeton Prize for his lifetime spent thinking and writing about the spiritual reality of modern culture.
The Templeton is the most lucrative prize given to an individual. The Templeton Foundation deliberately keeps its prize a little richer than the Nobel Prize as a way of asserting that spiritual and religious thinking are at least as significant as scientific discovery.
“A blindness to the spiritual dimension of human life makes us incapable of exploring issues which are vital to our lives,” said the law and philosophy professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill., on winning the prize. The announcement on Taylor being named to receive the award was made March 14.
Taylor will formally receive the prize from Prince Philip, duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace in London on May 2.
Taylor’s career of dissent from post-Enlightenment, secular thinking began in the 1950s while at Oxford studying under philosopher Isaac Berlin. His first attack on secular rationalism was a doctoral thesis which critiqued psychological behaviorism, published as The Explanation of Behaviour in 1964.
Through the 1960s, Taylor ran for Parliament four times for the New Democratic Party in Montreal, losing to Pierre Trudeau in 1964.
The brilliant youngest son of Simone Beaubien and Walter Margrave Taylor, Charles Margrave Taylor was born in Montreal into a bilingual Catholic household Nov. 5, 1931. Fired by the writings of Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac and Dominican Yves Congar, Taylor graduated in history from McGill University there and then accepted a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.
He married artist and social worker Alba Romer in 1956 and the couple had five daughters. Romer died in 1990, and Taylor remarried in 1995 to art historian Aube Billard.
Later this year, the 75-year-old Taylor will add one more volume to a publishing record of more than a dozen books and scores of academic essays. There is anticipation among philosophers, theologians and sociologists for A Secular Age, which will be released by Harvard University Press in the fall.
A grand officer of the National Order of Quebec and a companion of the Order of Canada, Taylor has matched his brilliant academic career with a record of public service. Quebec Premier Jean Charest recently appointed Taylor to co-chair a commission that will look at ways to accommodate cultural and religious difference in public life.
Taylor’s career as a professor has included: teaching posts in political science at McGill University, philosophy at the Université de Montreal, philosophy at the University of California Berkeley and social and political theory at the University of Oxford; lectureships at Carleton University, Queen’s University, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, India, Princeton University, J.W. Goethe University in Frankfurt, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Stanford University and Northwestern University.
In the 1999 book A Catholic Modernity?, based on 1997 Marianist Lectures delivered in Dayton, Ohio, Taylor declared that the Catholic Church could find its place within the modern world by seeing Western modernity as one among the many civilizations in which Christianity has been preached and practiced.
He warned against a total identification of Catholicism with European civilization because it would blunt the Christian message. On the other hand, rejecting modernity as the enemy of the Christian faith similarly narrows the possibilities for the Christian message.
“There can never be a total fusion of the faith and any particular society, and the attempt to achieve it is dangerous for the faith,” Taylor wrote.
The Templeton Award was created in 1972 by philanthropist Sir John Marks Templeton, who stipulated that its monetary value always be larger than the Nobel Prize.
Taylor is the first Canadian to win the prize, of which five of the last seven winners have been scientists.
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Republished with permission by Catholic Online from The Catholic Register (www.catholicregister.org ), the largest circulation national Catholic newspaper in Canada, a Catholic Online Preferred Publishing Partner. To subscribe to The Catholic Register, click here.
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