Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet

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November 5, 1931:  Charles Margrave Taylor is born in Montréal, Canada, the youngest of three children (one brother, one sister) to Simone Beaubien, a dress designer, and Walter Margrave Taylor, a partner in a Montréal structural steel factory which he helped run.

The home is bilingual and the children are brought up Catholic.  It is also a very political home, with a particular focus on issues of the place of Quebec within Canada. 


1936 – 1949:  Attends a private boys school, Selwyn House School, Montréal, where a teacher introduces him to English poetry of the Romantic period, which leads him to early 19th century music, both of which become lifelong influences.  He finishes secondary education at Trinity College School, a co-educational college preparatory school in Port Hope, Ontario.


1952:   Receives Bachelor of Arts (1st Class Honours) in history from McGill University, Montréal.  The first seeds of interest in theology are sewn among widespread discussion in Quebec on the writings of major theologians – including Henri de Lubac and Yves Congar – who helped shape the second Vatican Council. 

Awarded Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University.


1955:   Receives Bachelor of Arts (1st Class Honours) in philosophy, politics and economics from Balliol College, Oxford University. 


1956:   Named Fellow of All Souls’ College, Oxford (through 1961).  Studies under Isaiah Berlin, a major 20th century political philosopher who helped foster understanding of the relationship of liberty and equality, and analytic philosopher G.E.M. Anscombe, whose article “Modern Moral Philosophy” introduced the term “consequentialism” and influenced the study of ethics.

Marries Alba Romer, an artist and social worker.  The couple has five daughters: Karen, born 1958; Miriam, 1959; Wanda, 1960; Gabriela, 1962; and Gretta, 1965.  Alba Romer Taylor dies in 1990 at age 59.


1960:   Receives Master of Arts from Oxford University.


1961:   Receives D. Phil. from Oxford University with a thesis supervised by Isaiah Berlin.

Appointed Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, McGill University.


1962:   Seeks election to Canadian House of Commons as member of the social democratic New Democratic Party in Mount Royal.  Places third.

Begins a double university appointment, through 1971, at McGill in the Department of Political Science, and at the Université de Montréal, in the Faculté de Philosophie.


1963:   Places second in federal parliamentary elections.


1964:   Doctoral dissertation, an analysis and criticism of psychological behaviorism, published as The Explanation of Behavior (Routledge and Paul Kegan, UK).

In third campaign to the House of Commons, loses to newcomer and future prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.


1968:   Loses fourth and final campaign to win a seat in the House of Commons, again placing second.


1974:   Named Mills Visiting Professor in Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley.


1975:   Hegel, an introduction to Hegel’s philosophy presented to make his work understandable to people trained in the analytical tradition, published (Cambridge University Press, various languages). 


1976:   Appointed Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at the University of Oxford, a post previously held by Isaiah Berlin, and Fellow of All Souls’ College (through 1981).


1978:   Named Alan B. Plaunt Memorial Lecturer at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. 


1979:   Hegel and Modern Society, a shortened, more accessible version of Hegel emphasizing the relevance of the philosopher today, published (Cambridge University Press, various languages).


1980:   Named Alex Corry Lecturer at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. 


1981:   Appointed B.N. Ganguli Lecturer, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, India.


1981 – 1982:   Named Member, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton.


1983:   Again appointed as Mills Visiting Professor in Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley.


1984:   Appointed Suhrkamp Lecturer, University of Frankfurt, and guest professor, J.W. Goethe University, Frankfurt.


1985:   Philosophical Papers 1: Human Agency and Language and Philosophical Papers 2: Philosophy and the Human Sciences, a 20-year compilation of various papers and critiques examining mechanistic, reductive, and atomistic approaches to human sciences, published (Cambridge University Press).

Named visiting Professor in political science and philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


1989:   Taylor’s first large-scale attempt to create a philosophically-informed reflection on history, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, published (Harvard University Press, various languages).  This major work scrutinizes the development of our modern understanding of what defines a human along with all of that definition’s peculiar and often conflicting features, such as an individual – potentially disengaged from history, society and the body – who yet has inner depths that call for further definition, including self definition, through expressive activity.


1991:   As Massey Lecturer for the Canadian Broadcasting Company, delivers that year’s annual series of talks on CBC Radio.  The collected lectures, an exploration of the conflicts to understanding modernity, particularly modern individualism, its stress on instrumental reason, and the problems these pose for democracy, largely in a Tocquevillean spirit, are published as The Malaise of Modernity (Anansi, various languages), and in the United States as The Ethics of Authenticity (Harvard University Press, 1992).


1992:   A major essay exploring how modernity has fostered a new concept of identity, one derived partly from our world and our history and partly from how we redefine ourselves, is published in Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition” (with Amy Gutman and others; Princeton University Press, various languages). 

Appointed Tanner Lecturer at Stanford University, Sproule Lecturer at McGill University, and Carlisle Lecturer at Oxford.


1995:   Philosophical Arguments published (Harvard University Press, various languages).  Similar to the two volumes of his papers published in 1985, this collection of previous papers reflects further developments of the same themes, with a greater emphasis on epistemological (the theory of knowledge) issues.

Marries Aube Billard, an art historian.

Honored as a Companion of the Order of Canada.


1996:   Appointed Max Horkheimer Lecturer, University of Frankfurt.


1997:   Delivers the Marianist Lecture in Dayton, Ohio, outlining how the Catholic Church should relate to the modern world through an understanding of Catholic Christianity as capable of finding a place among all civilizations and cultures without necessarily identifying with them.  Noting the possibility of a “spiritual lobotomy,” he warns, “There can never be a total fusion of the faith and any particular society, and the attempt to achieve it is dangerous for the faith.”


1998:   Appointed Storrs Lecturer, Yale University.  Appointed Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, McGill University.


1999:   Delivers Gifford Lectures at Glasgow University examining the rise of the contemporary secular age in the West.  The lectures include a look back at the thoughts of William James, whose Gifford Lectures a century earlier in 1902 offer uncanny parallels to present-day views.  Later, delivers William James Lecture on Religious Experience at Harvard University.

A Catholic Modernity? based on the 1997 Marianist Lecture,published (Oxford University Press).


2000:   Made a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec.


2002:   The first of three works sourced in the 1999 Gifford Lectures, Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited, published (Harvard University Press, various languages).

Appointed Board of Trustees Professor of Law and Philosophy at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.


2004:   The second work from the Gifford Lectures, Modern Social Imaginaries, published (Duke University Press, 2004).  An expanded version of one of the chapters in the forthcoming A Secular Age (see 2007), it defines how the development of Western modernity has shifted and helped constitute society’s collective imagining of itself.


2007:  The third and central work stemming from the Gifford Lectures which aims to, at once, follow and define the development of the modern Western secular age, A Secular Age, to be published in the fall by Harvard University Press.

Named 2007 Templeton Prize Laureate.