Sunday January 22, 2017

Charles Taylor's clear-eyed vision of our distress, coupled to a deep-rooted celebration of humanity

(Oleksandr Makhanets/Wikipedia)

Listen 35:06

It's 2017, and much of the world has a major case of the jitters.

No one knows exactly what to expect from it, but not many people, aside from Donald Trump's more fervent supporters seem to expect much good to come of it…aside from thinking it couldn't be much worse than 2016. 

With such a cloud hanging over the new year, the media and public and political discourse are full of rancour, anger and fear. The wisdom of philosophers struggles to be heard above the din of so much shouting and deploring. They don't have nearly as many followers on Twitter as Trump, after all. 

But the voice of one of the world's most renowned thinkers, Canadian Charles Taylor, does seem to be reaching some people with its unflagging optimism and generosity of spirit.

I think democracy depends on a sense of what I call "citizen efficacy" in a large number of people - a sense that there's somewhere you can go, some levers you can push, some votes you can make, and that revivifies democracy. Just think back eight years. What was the great slogan of Obama's campaign? It was "Yes we can"...When that goes, a real kind of panic takes over, a real sense that it's getting worse, out of control, it'll go on getting worse.   - Charles Taylor

He is a professor emeritus of philosophy at McGill University. In October, Professor Taylor won the inaugural Berggruen Prize, a million-dollar award to honour "thinkers whose ideas are intellectually profound but also able to inform practical and public life across the range of world civilizations."

He spoke with Michael about the politics of resentment, political impotence and restoring people's faith in democracy and collective movements. 

Click the button above to hear Michael's interview with Charles Taylor.