Previous Winners

Charles Taylor (2007)

spacerCharles Taylor, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at McGill University, argues that problems such as violence and bigotry can only be solved by considering both their secular and spiritual dimensions. Through examination of questions such as “What role does spiritual thinking have in the 21st century?,” Taylor contends that wholly depending on secularized viewpoints only leads to fragmented, faulty results, preventing crucial insights that might help a global community increasingly exposed to clashes of culture, morality, nationalities, and religions.

spacerTaylor has long objected to what many social scientists take for granted, namely that the rational movement that began in the Enlightenment has made notions like morality and spirituality into nothing more than quaint anachronisms. That narrow, reductive sociological approach, he says, denies a fuller account of how and why human beings strive for meaning.

spacerTaylor is the author of more than a dozen books and scores of published essays and has lectured extensively. He holds a bachelor of arts from McGill and Balliol College at Oxford University, as well as a masters and D.Phil. from Oxford. Growing up in a bi-lingual Catholic home in Montréal, Quebec, where language is a political touchstone, spurred an early interest in matters of identity, society, and the potential value of thought that runs against the common grain. Though his first degree was in history, a Rhodes Scholarship led him to study philosophy at Oxford, where he encountered what he describes as “an unstructured hostility” to religious belief. In reaction, he began to question the so-called “objective” approaches of psychology, social science, linguistics, history, and other human sciences.

spacerTaylor’s doctoral dissertation, The Explanation of Behaviour (1964), offered a critique of psychological behaviorism. He went on to write on Hegel, who pioneered contemplation on notions of modernity, in Hegel (1975) and Hegel and Modern Society (1979). Taylor delivered the Gifford Lectures, entitled “Living in a Secular Age,” at the University of Edinburgh in 1998-99. Published in three volumes, the lectures offered a detailed analysis of the movement away from spirituality in favor of so-called objective reasoning. The final volume, A Secular Age, a definitive examination of secularization and the modern world, was published in September 2007.