The multi-faceted Charles Taylor

The multi-faceted Charles Taylor McGill University

| Skip to search Skip to navigation Skip to page content

User Tools (skip):

Sign in | Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Sister Sites: McGill website | myMcGill

McGill News
ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
McGill News cover

| Help
Page Options (skip): Larger
Home > McGill News > 2000 > Summer 2000 > The multi-faceted Charles Taylor

harles Taylor has dined in Rome with the Pope, discussed the break-up of Czechoslovakia in Prague with Vaclav Havel, debated in Montreal with Pierre Trudeau. over a prolific, peripatetic academic career now entering its sixth decade of McGill association, he has lectured in Frankfurt, Oxford and Jerusalem among other locales. this spring he was in Vienna, next fall will be at the New School in New York. His curriculum vitae publications list takes up only slightly fewer pages than the average master's thesis and boasts original work in two languages (English and French), and translations into at least ten others (including Chinese, Turkish and Portuguese).

Ruth Abbey, Taylor scholar

About the only thing he failed to do is single-handedly change the course of Canadian history. He ran for the NDP in the 1965 federal election against Trudeau in Mount Royal and lost. He ran in three other federal elections in the 1960s and lost them, too.

Taylor remains unfazed by all of it. Yet the idea that there will soon be a scholarly survey devoted exclusively to his philosophical work -- that the magnitude of his academic accomplishments have made such a book helpful for introductory-level undergraduate students -- is something that apparently will take some getting used to.

"I still haven't adjusted to all that," the 68-year-old Montreal native said earlier this year from his visiting professor's office at Chicago's Northwestern University. "But it certainly is very gratifying that people want to read that stuff."

In 1994, then-McGill political science professor James Tully edited a collection of articles on different aspects of Taylor's thought, but the latest work by Taylor's former graduate student Ruth Abbey, MA'89, PhD'95, will be the first comprehensive monograph on his work. It will be available this fall as part of the Philosophy Now series published by Princeton University Press in North America and Acumen Press in England. Under Taylor's tutelage, Abbey captured the McGill Governor General's Gold Medal as top PhD student in the human sciences and the K.B. Jenckes Prize as outstanding PhD student in social sciences and humanities in 1995.

Abbey's book is divided into main chapters on Taylor's moral theory, theory of selfhood, political philosophy and epistemology, yet she admits the boundaries are somewhat artificial given Taylor's fluidity and extraordinary breadth. Indeed Tully, now at the University of Victoria, calls him "the most broad-minded philosopher today," while Laval political science professor Guy Laforest says Taylor is considered in French-speaking Quebec as one of the province's "two great intellectuals of the twentieth century" along with sociologist and poet Fernand Dumont. In 1992, the provincial government awarded Taylor the Prix Léon-Gérin, the highest honour given for contribution to Quebec intellectual life, and he has just been named a Grand Officer of the Order of Quebec.

Such praise makes Taylor's well-known humility that much more admirable. When Abbey first told him of the book project, he warned her that another Australian-based scholar was already writing a book on him, "as if there was only room for one book on Charles Taylor," she laughed.

view sidebar content | back to top of page