The man in the middle, Or, The Truth About the Muslim Plot Against Pea Soup
May 20, 2011 11:15 PM   Subscribe

A bridge builder, a student of how societies hold together; an advocate of dialogue. Standing against polarized and simplistic styles of thought. Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor is Canada's best known and most widely read contemporary thinker. In books like Sources of the Self and A Secular Age, he has attempted to define the unique character of the modern age. He maps the fault-lines in our modern identity, and points to both the pitfalls and the promise of our condition. Learn about his life, history, upbringing, and... ideas. Now available, CBC IDEAS in five one-hour parts: the malaise of modernity (this special program has the same title as the 1991 Massey Lecture of the same name, but is not the same [MP3's, get them now, they will go away, and then you can only stream them]). One, Two, Three, Four, Five.

Taylor (as well as Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Walzer, Michael Sandel, and Gad Barzilai) is associated with a communitarian critique of liberal theory's understanding of the "self." Communitarians emphasize the importance of social institutions in the development of individual meaning and identity.

In his 1991 Massey Lecture, "The Malaise of Modernity," Taylor argued that political theorists, from John Locke and Thomas Hobbes to John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin, have neglected the way in which individuals arise within the context supplied by societies. A more realistic understanding of the "self" recognizes the social background against which life choices gain importance and meaning.

With modern modes and avenues of self-creation multiplying -- fracturing even -- zones of syntheses arise, as this research (linked recently on the Blue) suggests a rethinking of the thesis of Modernity as a “reductive” force (ie. Slowly chipping away at, decreasing, or deprecating the forces of Religion), rather, the study brings to light a “diversifying, dialogical spirituality”.
But an alternative framework is that to see science as only undermining faith is to adopt a simplistic view of secularization and of science and scientists. Scientists are potentially not simply carriers of secularization but explorers of what Charles Taylor characterizes as a frontier of thought that provides an alternative to a moral order centered on God and traditional religion (Taylor 2007). Scientists may be at the vanguard of what Taylor called the “nova” effect, the idea that after non-belief (a shift from a society where belief in God is taken for granted to one where belief in God is an option among many), there is a proliferation of various kinds of spirituality. Yet this possibility has not been empirically explored, and the nature of what might be a particular spiritual sense among scientists has never been examined. Rather, scientists have been judged mainly according to the a priori categories of religiosity found among the general population. Or to put it in Taylor's framework, they have been understood as those people responsible for removing the “blinders of faith” rather than as those who might provide alternative or new sources of meaning (Taylor 1989).

In the broadest way then, these findings have implications for understanding modernity and secularism, signaling that both may be more complex (and not just among scientists) than many current conceptions would hold.
-Scientists and Spirituality.
posted by infinite intimation (4 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks. Looks great.
posted by painquale at 11:17 PM on May 20, 2011

for more Taylor;
The Politics of Recognition (this is a really interesting distillation/summary of some of the ideas that he raised in his essay of the same title, which was recently collected with several other essays, and an introduction by Amy Gutman [in this clip Taylor also discusses how he and Gérard Bouchard were appointed to head a one-year 'Commission of Inquiry' into what would constitute "reasonable accommodation" for minority cultures in his home province of Quebec).

Our Collective Identity Crisis: A Reading, Sources of the Self - Charles Taylor

The History of American Secularism

The Future of the Secular

Religion in the Public Sphere

Can Human Action Be Explained?

Keynote Lecture with Charles Taylor

Taylor won the templeton prize in 2007:
Clip 1: The case for spiritual rediscovery (Templeton Foundation)

Clip 2: Solving ethnic conflicts like Darfur (Templeton Foundation)‬

Clip 3: The importance of narrative in understanding (Templeton Foundation)‬

Clip 4: The key to living together (Templeton Foundation)

(If you are a "reader" person, the Wikipedia page of "external links" contains some really interesting textual interviews, discussions and essays).
posted by infinite intimation at 11:18 PM on May 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Nice! Does anyone have any good links on Taylor and the "post-metaphysical Hegelians"?
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:52 AM on May 21, 2011

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