The Malaise of Modernity, Part 1 - 5

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. Charles Taylor has also been active in politics, having run four times for Parliament during the 1960s. IDEAS producer David Cayley surveys Taylor's thought in a series of extended conversations.

charles-taylor-1.jpgThe American philosopher Richard Rorty called him "one of the... most important philosophers writing in the world today."  Political thinker Benjamin Barber ranks him with Edmund Burke as "one of the few philosophers of high calibre who have dared to dirty their hands in politics."  Isaiah Berlin  praised his "nobility", his "empathy" and his "total moral and intellectual sincerity".

Charles Taylor at 80 is Canada's most celebrated living thinker. A bilingual Quebecer - his father was English, his mother French - he's been a professor of philosophy at the Université de Montréal, as well as at McGill and Oxford, and he's lectured around the world from Berkeley to Frankfurt to New Delhi.

In 2007 Charles Taylor was awarded the Templeton Prize.  The award celebrated a philosophical career that has won him readers and recognition around the world. Taylor has published more than twenty books.  Many other books, and special journal issues, have been devoted to commentary on his work.  He has been translated into twenty-two languages.

One of the keynotes of his philosophy has been the idea that we know the world through our engagement in it, not just as detached observers forming pictures in our minds.  This is an idea that has marked his life, as well as his teaching.  He's been engaged in Canadian politics, standing for Parliament as an NDP candidate in four federal elections during the 1960's, He's helped to define Canadian multiculturalism - when relations between immigrant communities and the French majority grew strained in Quebec in 2007, it was to Charles Taylor that the provincial government turned for help, appointing him the co-chair of the Taylor-Bouchard Commission.  And, in his philosophy he has always reached out to his readers.  His style is genial and expansive, and he engages with questions of contemporary concern - as in his recent and magisterial A Secular Age where he deals with the place of religion in modern society.


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