Remarks by President John J. DeGioia
Launching the "Narratives of Secularity" Lecture Series: Introducing Keynote Speaker, Dr. Charles Taylor
October 21, 2008
Welcome. It’s an honor to join you this evening. And I’d like to thank Tom and the Berkeley Center for hosting these three lectures on “Narratives of Secularity.
Our lecturer, Charles Taylor, is an internationally recognized philosopher in the areas of modernity, secularity, and religion…someone who the late Richard Rorty said in 1996 was “among the dozen most important philosophers writing today.” Having received in 2007 both the Kyoto Prize for Arts and Philosophy and the Templeton Prize—and with the recent publication of A Secular Age—it is obvious that Dr. Taylor’s influence has not only continued—it has never been greater.
McGill Principle and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum characterized Dr. Taylor’s legacy as such: “Professor Taylor has set an outstanding example of how a university professor can change the world.” We are honored to have him on our campus to share his thoughts and engage our community.
Born in Montreal, Dr. Taylor received his bachelors in history from McGill University in Montreal. He then moved to England to study at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, where he completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in philosophy. His dissertation was advised by noted-philosopher Isaiah Berlin.
Dr. Taylor currently serves as professor emeritus at McGill University, where he teaches political science and philosophy. Over the course of his career, he has also taught at numerous American, Canadian, and European universities. He has received numerous awards, including the Companion of the Order of Canada in 1995; was named a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2000; and in 2003 he became the first recipient of the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Gold Medal for Achievement in Research.
Dr. Taylor has also delivered the Marianist Lecture – a lecture of his reflections on Catholicism – at the University of Dayton in 1997 and the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 1999.
He has published on a wide range of philosophical topics, including the works of Hegel, theories of identity, multiculturalism, modernity, and the human sciences. In each of these studies and works, Dr. Taylor’s Catholic faith has implicitly influenced his perspectives and views.
He firmly believes that we cannot attempt to study the world without recognizing the role that religion and spirituality play. We cannot adopt, in his own words, “a stripped-down secular outlook, without any religious dimension or radical hope in history…”.
Dr. Taylor has, according to John M. Templeton, Jr. upon awarding him the Templeton prize, “staked an often lonely position that insists on the inclusion of spiritual dimensions in discussions of public policy, history, linguistics, literature, and every other facet of humanities and the social sciences.”
With this position, however, Dr. Taylor has a deep resonance with the ethos of Georgetown. Our very motto, Utraque Unum—taken from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians—and meaning “both into one,” speaks to the joining of faith and reason that is at the core of our Jesuit tradition and heritage of scholarship.In everything we do—in the work of the Berkley Center; the Prince Alwaleed Center; our Program for Jewish Civilization; and so many other areas— we seek to explore the spiritual dimensions of human action.In the following three lectures, Dr. Taylor will present a survey of the master narratives that have underpinned secularization, specifically exploring:
1. The master narratives of modernity
2. The meaning and implications of disenchantment and “re-enchantment”
3. And the relationship of Western secularity with present politico-religious mobilization
I look forward to these lectures and the discussion that they will generate on our campus. So it is now my pleasure to introduce to you…Dr. Charles Taylor.