Philosopher awarded Templeton Prize

Published May 1, 2007

Canadian Charles Taylor (right) is congratulated by John Templeton after winning the $1.8 million Templeton Prize.

New York
Charles Taylor, a Canadian philosopher whose work focuses on contemporary concerns about religion and secularism, and who recently began exploring the spiritual connection to violence, has won the 2007 Templeton Prize.   

In announcing the award, the John Templeton Foundation said that for more than 40 years, Mr. Taylor, who is 75, “has argued that wholly depending on secularized viewpoints only leads to fragmented, faulty results.” The prize carries an award of £800,000 ($1.8 million Cdn).

“(Mr. Taylor) has described such an approach as crippling, preventing crucial insights that might help a global community increasingly exposed to clashes of culture, morality, nationalities, and religions,” the Templeton announcement added.   

The Templeton winner, who teaches at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., is the first Canadian to receive the award. A former Rhodes Scholar, Mr. Taylor holds a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University.   

At the announcement of the award at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York, Mr. Taylor took exception to the notion that rational Enlight-enment approaches toward learning and explanation had rendered spiritual concerns obsolete.   

“The deafness of many philosophers, social scientists and historians to the spiritual dimensions can be remarkable,” Mr. Taylor said. He has also criticized “moral certitude” about religious beliefs that can result in the infliction of “righteous violence.”   

In an interview with Ecumenical News International (ENI) prior to the announcement, Mr. Taylor underlined a theme he strongly advocates: that the human propensity for violence, be it political or religious, has a strong spiritual underpinning, and that appeals to violence – while a perversion of spirituality – cannot be separated from spiritual concerns.   

Nor can religion be separated from politics, Mr. Taylor told ENI. He added that he is concerned that current policies of the West “are feeding rather then quenching” violence in much of the world.   

The full title of the award is the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries About Spiritual Realities. The prize was first given in 1973, and for a few years went to such notables as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mother Teresa, and American evangelist Billy Graham. More recently, the award has gone to ethicists, theologians and scientists engaged in the field of religion and science.   

The Templeton Foundation said the selection of Mr. Taylor – a philosopher concerned with spirituality and its connections to the wider world – launches a “broad, online discussion” (at of the question, “What role does spiritual thinking have in the 21st century?”  

Britain’s Prince Philip was scheduled to award Mr. Taylor the prize at a private ceremony on May 2 at Buckingham Palace in London.


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