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Canadian philosopher wins Templeton Prize

15 March 2007

by Pat Ashworth

THIS YEAR’s Templeton Prize of $1.5 million, awarded each year for progress in research or discoveries about spiritual realities, has been awarded to Professor Charles Taylor, a Canadian philosopher, who argues that problems such as violence and bigotry can be solved only by considering their spiritual as well as their secular dimensions, .

Professor Taylor is the first Canadian to win the prize — the world’s largest annual monetary award given to an individual. He is currently professor of law and philosophy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and professor emeritus in the political science department at McGill University in Montreal, where he was born. His work addresses the part played by spiritual thinking in the 21st century.

“He has given us bold new insights that provide a fresh understanding of the many problems of the world, and, potentially, how we might together resolve them,” said John Templeton, the Foundation’s president.

Professor Taylor, who is 75, was brought up a Roman Catholic. It was as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford that he encountered what he has described as “an unstructured hostility” to religious belief. His Gifford lectures, “Living in a secular Age”, delivered at the University of Edinburgh in 1998-9, are described as offering “a staggeringly detailed analysis of the movement away from spirituality in favour of so-called objective reasoning.”

“The divorce of natural science and religion has been damaging to both; but it is equally true that the culture of the humanities and social sciences has often been surprisingly blind and deaf to the spiritual,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.

He described the belief that “the terrible violence of the 20th century has nothing to do with right-thinking, rational, enlightened people like me” as “sloppy thinking”, and went on: “What is equally imperfectly understood is the way in which charismatic spiritual leadership can bring people back from the brink.”


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