Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen. I am John M. Templeton, Jr., President of the John Templeton Foundation. I am delighted to welcome all of you to the annual news conference for the announcement of the 2007 Templeton Prize.
It is a great privilege to welcome our 2007 Templeton Prize Laureate, Professor Charles Taylor of McGill University in Montreal, and currently professor of law and philosophy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He will share some comments and answer your questions in just a few minutes.
Our format this morning is as follows: First, I shall share with you some of the perspectives of my Father, Sir John Templeton, when he established the Templeton Prize Program and the John Templeton Foundation. Because my Father is now 94 years old, he finds that the rigors of international travel are overly taxing on him. He sends his sincerest apologies, therefore, for his not being able to be with us this year. However, he asked me to share with you his joy in the wisdom of the judges in selecting Professor Taylor as the 2007 Templeton Prize Laureate.
After my introductory comments, I shall then introduce Mr. Michael Goldbloom, the Vice-Principal of McGill University, who will offer the congratulations of the institution where Professor Taylor has served as professor since 1961.
This will be followed by Mr. Michel Robitaille, Delegate General of the Quebec Government Office in New York, who will offer his government’s congratulations to Professor Taylor.
Finally, I shall highlight the accomplishments of Professor Taylor which clearly influenced the judges in their selection of him as this year’s Prize Laureate. After this brief review, Professor Taylor will share with us some of the perspectives of his life’s work in philosophy and the humanities. Then, after Professor Taylor’s comments, we shall open the floor to questions.
The Templeton Prize is the world’s largest annual prize given to an individual. This year’s award is in the amount of 800,000 Pounds Sterling, more than 1.5 million dollars.
The Prize is a cornerstone of the John Templeton Foundation’s international efforts to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discovery in areas engaging life’s biggest questions, which we describe as ranging from explorations into the laws of nature and the universe to questions on the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness, and creativity.
Certainly, a Big Question which illustrates the mission of the Prize and our Foundation is one that Professor Taylor is currently engaged in and has written and lectured on extensively throughout his extraordinary career of nearly half a century.
That question is: “What is the role of spiritual thinking in the 21st Century?”
Our Foundation’s vision is derived from my Father’s commitment to progress through rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The Foundation’s motto ‘How little we know, how eager to learn’ exemplifies our support for open-minded inquiry and our hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries. By honoring those whose research and discoveries have opened new perspectives and insights into such spiritual realities as purpose, love, and thanksgiving, the Prize fosters an environment that encourages others to help us more fully understand ourselves and our universe.
You may recall that five years ago the name of the Prize, which is now in its thirty-fifth year, was changed to: The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries About Spiritual Realities. We have been looking for ways to draw greater attention to the idea that progress in spiritual information and spiritual discoveries is just as feasible as progress in medicine, science and cosmology. In fact, spiritual progress may be more important than all of these other areas. The name of the Prize was, therefore, changed to inspire greater attention to research or discoveries of a spiritual nature. Spiritual realities refer to matters of the soul that are universal and apply in all cultures and all peoples. These realities are non-material, transcendent or metaphysical areas about which many people have intuitive perceptions.
The Prize is given each year in honor of a living person who represents through his or her work a remarkable spirit of inquiry to understand not only the nature of these spiritual realities, but also the nature of the divinity which gives life to these realities. The inquiry can come in many forms, including scientific research or other methods of discovery by which knowledge might compliment ancient scriptures and traditions in opening our eyes more fully to our growing understanding about God’s nature and purpose.
In highlighting his vision when he spoke with us here four years ago, my Father said: “All of this points toward tremendous blessings for humanity and that is what I am devoting my life to. My challenge to you is that if you want to be happy, if you want to be of benefit to humanity, you will not come up with anything more beneficial than new discoveries about spiritual realities including the nature of God and his purposes for us.”
That line of thinking explains why we are here today. Years ago my Father looked at the work of Alfred Nobel and discovered that by giving five Prizes in Chemistry, Physics, and so forth, he had persuaded the most brilliant people on earth to devote a huge amount of attention to discovery. Brilliant people who might not otherwise have made these discoveries were inspired by the fact that other people had discovered something important and were recognized by winning one of his distinguished Prizes.
Nevertheless, My Father felt that Alfred Nobel had a blind spot when it came to spiritual discovery. He said: “I, therefore, established this Prize program to encourage an attitude of progress in the domain of religion and also a spirit, even an enthusiasm, for a quest for discovery regarding spiritual realities. I feel that this quest will have the most powerful and beneficial impact in the whole realm of research and discoveries – an impact that will advance the well being of each individual and the world as a whole.”
This spirit of inquiry and scholarly commitment is most certainly demonstrated by the life’s work of Professor Charles Taylor and the impact that his work is having throughout the world.
Before I introduce Professor Taylor, I want to welcome a few representatives of his university and his country, who will offer their congratulations. Mr. Michael Goldbloom is the Vice-Principal of McGill University, responsible for the university’s government relations and inter-institutional affairs. Four generations of his family have attended McGill, where Michael earned a Bachelor of Civil Law in 1978 and a Bachelor of Common Law in 1979. Before returning to McGill, Mr. Goldbloom was the publisher of the Toronto Star from 2003 to 2006, and publisher of the Montreal Gazette from 1994 to 2001. May I introduce to you, Mr. Michael Goldbloom.
Now it is my pleasure to introduce Mr. Michel Robitaille, The Delegate General of the Quebec Government Office in New York. Mr. Robitaille was appointed to this top-ranking U.S. position in August 2002. He is responsible for relations with eight states and Washington, D.C. We are most honored by his presence here today. Mr. Robitaille, we welcome your comments.
Now I would like to briefly share with you some of the extraordinary background and lifetime work of Professor CharlesTaylor.
Many of the details of his accomplishments are highlighted in the Press Package which you have received. Let me take a few moments, however, to highlight some of his remarkable life’s work, which clearly caught the attention of the judges in their selection of him as this year’s winner.
Charles Taylor is Professor of Law and Philosophy at Northwestern University and Emeritus Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. He was raised in a bilingual English-French family in Quebec, which from an early age, gave him a deep sense of the relationship of language and culture. In his extraordinary career, he took first class honors at McGill University in History in 1952, which was followed by his selection as a Rhodes Scholar with a first class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. His perspectives, however, even at that stage, were very much affected by a sense he developed at about 15 years of age of what he described as “the power of God.”
Subsequently, he achieved distinction through his Doctor of Philosophy thesis at Oxford which was subsequently published as his first major work entitled, “The Explanation of Behavior.”
The briefest reviews of his extraordinary curriculum vitae demonstrate a rapid academic progress back at McGill University leading to his dual status of full professor in the departments of both Political Science and Philosophy. Through his prolific writings, he became widely sought as a visiting professor, lecturer and fellow at 18 different institutions.
In addition to receiving 13 awards, including the Distinguished Companion of the Order of Canada, he became a Member and Fellow of 8 eminent societies from 5 different nations including selection as a Fellow of the British Academy.
As already noted, his productivity as a writer and scholar have been prodigious. He has he written and published 23 books – soon to be 24 books – many of which have been translated into 22 different languages. This is a reflection of the truly global impact of his life’s work. Added to this extraordinary productivity are over 170 peer review articles on subjects including Nationalism, Cause and Action, Materialism, Meaning and Purpose, Justice and Virtue, Human Agency, and Faith and Reason.
But what is of greatest significance regarding Professor Taylor extends beyond the depth and breadth of his work. His significance is best seen in the content of his writings and lectures. Reviewers have called him one of the most exemplary polymaths of our age. Many of the prior Templeton Prize Laureates have been distinguished winners of the Gifford Lectureship, as was Professor Taylor. In 1998 and 1999, Professor Taylor delivered his lectures entitled, “Living in a Secular Age” at the University of Edinburgh. Past Gifford lecturers often produced a single volume based on their lectureship. In Professor Taylor’s case, however, the framework for his Gifford lectures resulted in 3 different volumes including “Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited”, secondly “Modern Social Imaginaries” and this year, his most significant publication entitled, “A Secular Age” to be published by Harvard University Press.
Speaking on behalf of my father, Sir John Templeton and the Templeton Prize Program, we are deeply grateful that the Reverend Dr. David Martin, himself a leading scholar of religion in a secular culture, nominated Professor Taylor for consideration by the Templeton Prize Judges.
Reverend Dr. Martin, in making his nomination, identified Professor Taylor as the leading contributor in the conversation between Religion and the Social Sciences. Professor Taylor has been described as “one of the greatest social thinkers in the English-speaking world in our era”, especially in regard to his eloquent and acute analysis of the spiritual crisis of modernity. The Professor’s main contribution has been to new knowledge in religion – precisely in the way in which religious belief and practice is an essential part of wider cultural history. In his citation for nomination of Professor Taylor, Reverend Dr. Martin said that Professor Taylor’s “Latest Summa, “The Secular Age,” provides a magisterial overview of the relations between religion, secular humanism and science as no one else has attempted, or perhaps could attempt.” The citation went on to say, “In particular, it draws out the special character of the last 500 years and the fragility now attendant on all positions whether secularist or religious.”
In conclusion, the Judges for the Templeton Prize recognized the importance of Professor Taylor’s life’s work in his raising the important distinction between the human sciences and the natural sciences and his stress on the necessity of taking human consciousness and personhood seriously in its fullest social context. Professor Taylor has helped to increase understanding of what religious belief is, and how it can be shaped toward a created future in which new knowledge will be possible. In warning against the danger of social scientists becoming impoverished if their research continues to be guided by an orientation to avoid value-relatedness, Professor Taylor’s style of thinking and argumentation is characterized more by an impulse toward integration rather than polarization. His continuing work pushes forward the common boundaries of Philosophy and the Social Sciences with respect to the history, future dynamics and manifestations of the spirit of God and man.
Please join me in welcoming Professor Charles Taylor, the 2007 Templeton Prize Laureate, as he steps to the podium to share his remarks with us.