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Why Awarded

Charles Taylor is one of the most prominent, influential and powerful active philosophers on the world stage. Best known for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, the history of philosophy and intellectual history, his work has received international acclaim and has influenced academia and the world at-large. Published in 20 languages, his writings link disparate academic disciplines and range from reflections on artificial intelligence to analyses of contemporary multicultural societies to the study of religion and what it means to live in a secular age.


"Charles Taylor is a philosopher of extraordinary eminence. His writings reveal astonishing breadth and depth, ranging across subjects as diverse as metaphysics, modern culture, human conduct and behavior, modernization and the place of religion in a secular age. He writes with a lucidity that makes his work accessible to the non-specialist reader, ensuring that his contributions to our understanding of agency, freedom, spirituality and the relation between the natural sciences and the humanities will be of lasting import."
—Librarian of Congress James H. Billington



Born in 1931 in Montreal, Canada, Charles Taylor ranks among the world’s most wide-ranging and influential writers in contemporary philosophy. Known for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, the history of philosophy and intellectual history, Taylor is the author of more than 20 books and more than 500 articles. His work has been translated into numerous languages including French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Turkish. He has received international acclaim and has been cited for his exceptional contributions to the scientific, cultural and spiritual betterment of mankind.

Taylor was educated at McGill University and as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He began his professional career as a Fellow at All Souls’ College, Oxford, and then as a professor at McGill University. His first major work, “The Explanation of Behavior” (1964), took aim at behaviorism and probes the explanation of our actions. These were issues that would continue to preoccupy his philosophy. In his seminal work “Sources of Self: The Making of Modern Identity” (1989), he argues that humans are self-defining or self-interpreting animals, and that, paradoxically, to be human is not to know what it is by nature to be human. Taylor analyzes the application of moral choice and surveys Western ethical history to reveal a succession of moral visions. He concludes by suggesting that purely humanistic, secular sources of inspiration may not be able to sustain important values such as universal benevolence over the long run.

Himself a devout Catholic, Taylor has espoused a return to some kind of spirituality in the modern world. He has asserted that this holds the most promise for maintaining a moral society. Throughout his work, Taylor has investigated what has led many people to assume that modern society and religious spirituality are incompatible, and has explored the possibility that there may be different ways to be modern. He espoused this possibility as a political candidate in Canada in the 1960s.

Throughout his career, Taylor has analyzed a wide array of philosophers. His 1975 book “Hegel” had a profound impact on the field. Taylor’s book helped explain Hegel, whose reputation was in decline, and offered a defense of Hegel, situating him within his historical moment, and understanding Hegel as a theorist of modernity. Taylor was interested in how Hegel could help improve our understanding of modern times, particularly modern freedom and agency in general. The book has been described as a watershed and a powerful work of scholarship.

In his later career, Talyor has been concerned not solely with abstract issues, but with key intellectual problems for modern democratic societies. In “A Secular Age” (2007), Taylor asks what is secularism and what does it mean to live in a secular society? In the same year Taylor was awarded the Templeton Prize, the most prestigious prize in the world of religion and one of Taylor’s many international recognitions. His later works have ranged from reflections on artificial intelligence to analyses of contemporary multicultural societies. His work spans academic disciplines and has contributed to broad philosophical conversations. His breadth of study, consistency of argument, accessibility and pertinence for contemporary issues have won him an audience not only among students and professionals in philosophy, political science, and religious studies, and other social sciences but among the general public.

Charles Taylor - "Charles Taylor" by Makhanets - Own workPreviously published: http://makhanets.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/charles-taylor/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charles_Taylor.jpg#/media/File:Charles_Taylor.jpg
Charles Taylor
(Photo credit: Makhanets)

A Philosopher for the Modern Age

Kluge Prize Recipient 2015

Quick Facts

Born: 1931, Montreal, Canada



Emeritus Professor of Philosopy, McGill University

Professor of Philosopy, McGill University

Professor of Philosophy, University of Montreal

Chichele Chair of Social and Political Theory, Oxford University

Ceremony Links

September 29, 2015

Acceptance Speech | Full Text

Press Release (August 11, 2015)

Selected Publications


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