Taylor, Charles

Charles Taylor, philosopher, political theorist (b at Montréal 5 Nov 1931). Charles Taylor was educated at McGill University, where he earned a BA in History. He then went as a Rhodes Scholar to Oxford, where he completed a BA, MA, and PhD in Philosophy. After teaching philosophy and political science at McGill, Taylor became Chichele professor of political and social theory at Oxford (1976); he returned to the political science department at McGill in 1982, where he eventually achieved the rank of Professor Emeritus. He later joined the departments of Philosophy and Law at Northwestern University. Taylor has also been actively involved in Canadian politics, serving as VP of the federal NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY and president of the Québec NDP. He ran for Parliament against Pierre TRUDEAU in 1965. Charles Taylor is an internationally celebrated public philosopher, one who strives to bridge the gap between philosophical theories and political action.

In his early work Explanation of Behaviour (1964), Taylor critiqued the psychological theory of behaviourism, and maintained instead that explanations of human actions must include reference to purpose and always involve an element of interpretation. As a result he saw the SOCIAL SCIENCES as being fundamentally different in method from the physical sciences. In addition to his well-known Pattern of Politics (1970), he produced a noteworthy philosophical commentary, Hegel (1975), and in 1979 published Hegel and Modern Society. Many of his shorter pieces are collected in Philosophical Papers (2 vols, 1985).

Taylor first drew an audience beyond his fellow philosophers with the publication of his widely read Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (1989). The book provides an annotated history of the changing notions of identity, and the subsequent implications for personal and social interactions. His 1991 The Ethics of Authenticity is based on his Massey Lecture, which was titled with the phrase he coined, The Malaise of Modernity. Here Taylor considers ways to reconcile the seeming conflict between individualism and larger social groups.

Taylor has been a staunch and outspoken defender of Canadian federalism. Reconciling the Solitudes: Essays on Canadian Federalism and Nationalism, was published in 1993. His ongoing interest in the practical effects of contemporary theories and ideas is evident in his 1994 Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition.

In 2003, Charles Taylor was the first recipient of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Gold Medal for Achievement in Research. His continuing efforts to break down the traditional barriers between scientific and spiritual approaches to knowledge and understanding were recognized in his receipt of the world's most lucrative academic award. In 2007 he received the $1.7 million Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. Charles Taylor is a Companion of the Order of Canada.