January 15, 2008

Encountering all sorts of nearly forgotten thinkers from across the Western tradition

A Catholic Defends the Secular, October 5, 2007 By Robert E. Livingston "Rick" (Columbus, OH USA) - See all my reviews
If you have no previous experience of Charles Taylor, this is not the place to start: 872 pages are a heavy commitment, and Taylor is far from being a great writer. If you want your thinking challenged, try his short essay A Catholic Modernity?: Charles Taylor's Marianist Award Lecture, with responses by William M. Shea, Rosemary Luling Haughton, George Marsden, and Jean Bethke Elshtain, where he previews the argument that secularism actually makes for a fuller realization of Christ's teachings than Christianity allowed. Or, from a different perspective, try William Connolly's Why I Am Not a Secularist, which argues that secular principles are better realized by relaxing secularism.
That said, A Secular Age is vintage Taylor, tracing the roots of secularism deep into the furthest reaches of theology and tracing a series of complicated genealogies of modern thought. It's tough going, and Taylor does have a tendency to loop and qualify in the course of elaborating his claims. But if you have the patience for this kind of Hegel-inspired intellectual-philosophical history, you can count on having your thinking nuanced and complicated as well as encountering all sorts of nearly forgotten thinkers from across the Western tradition. It extends and completes some of the arguments advanced in his earlier Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity Comment Permalink

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