Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 19, 2007
Canadian philosopher wins prestigious Templeton Prize
By Catholic News Serviceiter
A Canadian Catholic philosopher is the 2007 winner of the Templeton Prize for his life's work on the need to bring both secular and spiritual dimensions to bear in studying such problems as violence and bigotry.
Charles Taylor, 75, is currently professor of law and philosophy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and professor emeritus in the political science department at McGill University in Montreal, the city of his birth.
Presented annually since 1973 by the John Templeton Foundation, the Templeton Prize for Progress or Discoveries About Spiritual Realities has a value of 800,000 pounds, or more than $1.7 million, making it the world's largest annual monetary award to an individual.
The prize was announced March 14 at a New York news conference and will be presented to Taylor May 2 by Prince Philip in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
He is the first Canadian to win the Templeton Prize.
In remarks at the news conference, Taylor criticized "the deafness of many philosophers, social scientists and historians to the spiritual dimension."
The deafness becomes more damaging when it "affects the culture of the media and of educated public opinion in general," he said.
Search for meaning
Noting some argue that even communism was a religion, he said that "any set of beliefs which can induce decent people, who would never kill for personal gain, to murder for the cause, is being defined as 'religion.'
"'Religion' is being defined as the murderously irrational."
"We urgently need new insight into the human propensity for violence," including "a full account of the human striving for meaning and spiritual direction, of which the appeals to violence are a perversion," he said.
"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."
Raised in Montreal in a Catholic home, Taylor earned a bachelor's degree in history at McGill and Balliol College at Oxford University in England.
A Rhodes scholarship in 1952 led him to study philosophy at Oxford, where he completed his master's degree and doctorate.
Premier Jean Charest recently appointed Taylor to co-chair a commission on the accommodation of cultural religious differences in public life.
A Catholic Modernity?
Four times he ran for Parliament as a candidate for the NDP.
He and his wife, art historian Aube Billard, have homes in Montreal and Evanston.
He has said he will use the Templeton Prize money to continue his studies of the relationship of language to art and theology and to developing new concepts of relating human sciences with biological sciences.
In the 1999 book A Catholic Modernity?, Taylor declared that the Catholic Church could find its place in the modern world by seeing Western modernity as one among the many civilizations in which Christianity has been preached and practised.
Blunting the message
He warned against a total identification of Catholicism with European civilization because it would blunt the Christian message.
On the other hand, rejecting modernity as the enemy of the Christian faith similarly narrows the possibilities for the Christian message.
"There can never be a total fusion of the faith and any particular society, and the attempt to achieve it is dangerous for the faith," Taylor wrote.