Philosopher wins prize for exploring spiritual dimension of terrorism

By staff writers
March 16, 2007
Charles Taylor

A Catholic social and political philosopher, has won the 2007 Templeton Prize for exploring the religious and spiritual connections to violence.

Canadian Charles Taylor has suggested that an understanding of spirituality can revel more about violence by religious extremists than secular analysis of human interaction and behaviour alone.

In a press conference in New York on Wednesday Taylor said: “We urgently need new insight into the human propensity for violence”. He also suggested the need for a “full account of the human striving for meaning and spiritual direction, of which the appeals to violence are a perversion."

Taylor has been an advocate of the inclusion of spiritual dimensions in the study of society for many years. In an interview with the Los Angles Times he suggested that people should be able to "think in both languages [secular and spiritual], in both levels — not just with one half of their brain". To leave out the spiritual would be like "working with the other half [of the brain] frozen" he said.

Taylor also suggested that that a prevailing emphasis on the secular in science and academic study had "short-changed humanity".

John M. Templeton Jr., the Templeton foundation's president, observed that Taylor had ‘staked an often lonely position’ by suggesting that spirituality had validity in conjunction with humanistic study.

Taylor has been critical of the Washington response to Islamic inspired Terrorism and says that America has failed to listen to the moderate voices within Islam.

Charles Taylor, 75, is Professor at Northwestern University and specialises in social and political theory, German philosophy of Language and moral philosophy. He is also Emeritus professor of Political Science at McGill University.

The Templeton Prize is awarded annually by an international, multi-faith panel of judges to person of any religious tradition who they deem has made a unique contribution through research or discoveries about spiritual realities.

The Prize of £800,000 is the world's largest annual monetary award given to an individual and was first awarded in 1973 to Mother Teresa of Calcutta and in 1974 to the founder of the Taizé Community, Frère Roger.

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