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, and religions.
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 opinion in general.”
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.”