NEW YORK, MARCH 14 – Professor Charles Taylor, a Canadian philosopher
who for nearly half a century has argued that problems such as violence and
bigotry can only be solved by considering both their secular and spiritual dimensions,
has won the 2007 Templeton Prize.
For more than 45
years, Taylor, 75, has argued that wholly depending on secularized viewpoints
only leads to fragmented, faulty results. He has described such an
approach as crippling, preventing crucial insights that might help a global
community increasingly exposed to clashes of culture, morality, nationalities,
Key to Taylor’s investigations of the
secular and the spiritual is a determination to show that one without the other
only leads to peril, a point he outlined in his news conference remarks. "The
divorce of natural science and religion has been damaging to both," he said,
"but it is equally true that the culture of the humanities and social sciences
has often been surprisingly blind and deaf to the spiritual."
"We urgently need new insight into
the human propensity for violence," including, he added, "a full account of the
human striving for meaning and spiritual direction, of which the appeals to
violence are a perversion. But we don’t even begin to see where we have
to look as long as we accept the complacent myth that people like us –
enlightened secularists or believers – are not part of the problem. We
will pay a high price if we allow this kind of muddled thinking to prevail."
Taylor has long objected to what many
social scientists take for granted, namely that the rational movement that
began in the Enlightenment renders such notions as morality and spirituality as
simply quaint anachronisms in the age of reason. That narrow, reductive sociological
approach, he says, wrongly denies the full account of how and why humans strive
for meaning which, in turn, makes it impossible to solve the world’s most
intractable problems ranging from mob violence to racism to war.
"The deafness of many philosophers, social
scientists and historians to the spiritual dimensions can be
remarkable," Taylor said in remarks prepared for the news conference.
"This is the more damaging
in that it affects the culture of the media and of educated public
Conversely, Taylor has also chastised
those who use moral certitude or religious beliefs in the name of battling
injustice because they believe "our cause is good, so we can inflict righteous
violence," as he once wrote. "Because we see ourselves as imperfect, below
what God wants, we sacrifice the bad in us, or sacrifice the things we
treasure. Or we see destruction as divine…identify with it, and so renounce
what is destroyed, purifying while bringing meaning to the destruction."