Charles Taylor is one of the world’s most significant social philosophers. Nicholas Smith calls him ‘the leading analytic exponent of Continental philosophy’. Taylor’s book A Secular Age, developed from his Gifford Lectures, is an essential treatise for understanding our times. Taylor’s approach is highly cross-disciplinary, drawing on philosophy, history, sociology and Catholic theology. Despite his vast range of philosophical influences and orientations – his analytical training, his interest in political philosophy and multi – culturalism, and his theological orientation – Taylor has a unified philosophical project. Central to this project is Maurice Merleau- Ponty’s insight that ‘because we are in the world, we are condemned to meaning’. This meaning is more than some pure Cartesian con ceptual sense, beginning with an abstract agent or a head-stuck-ina- stove ‘I think; therefore, I am’. Instead, it comes from humans having to grasp the world, to act in it, and to morally reflect upon those acts. So, for Taylor, we are not merely self-meaning making beings – though he starts here – but also meaning mirroring beings, reflecting reality back to ourselves. This is a self-conscious and self-critical process in globalised ‘cross-pressured’ societies, influenced by cross-narrated, meaning-seeking and acting beings searching for fullness, whether religious or secular, transcendent or immanent. Taylor ultimately sees us as embodied beings, part of a bigger body – the body of Christ – expressed in trinitarian communion.
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