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Secular Age

by Charles Taylor Belknap Press
Pub Date:
09/2018
ISBN:
9780674986916
Format:
Pbk 896 pages
Price:
AU$77.99 NZ$82.60
Product Status: Available in Approx 7 days
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A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year
A Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Tablet Best Book of the Year
Winner of a Christianity Today Book Award


“One finds big nuggets of insight, useful to almost anybody with an interest in the progress of human society.”
The Economist

“Taylor takes on the broad phenomenon of secularization in its full complexity…[A] voluminous, impressively researched and often fascinating social and intellectual history.”
—Jack Miles, Los Angeles Times

A Secular Age is a work of stupendous breadth and erudition.”
—John Patrick Diggins, New York Times Book Review

“A culminating dispatch from the philosophical frontlines. It is at once encyclopedic and incisive, a sweeping overview that is no less analytically rigorous for its breadth.”
—Steven Hayward, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“[A] thumping great volume.”
—Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian

“Very occasionally there appears a book destined to endure. A Secular Age is such a book.”
—Edward Skidelsky, Daily Telegraph

“It is refreshing to read an inquiry into the condition of religion that is exploratory in its approach.”
—John Gray, Harper’s

A Secular Age represents a singular achievement.”
—Christopher J. Insole, Times Literary Supplement

“A determinedly brilliant new book.”
London Review of Books

“A Secular Age is a work of stupendous breadth and erudition.” - John Patrick Diggins, The New York Times Book Review

“In a determinedly brilliant new book, Charles Taylor challenges the ‘subtraction theory’ of secularization which defines it as a process whereby religion simply falls away, to be replaced by science and rationality. Instead, he sees secularism as a development within Western Christianity, stemming from the increasingly anthropocentric versions of religion that arose from the Reformation. For Taylor, the modern age is not an age without religion; instead, secularization heralds ‘a move from a society where belief in God is unchallenged and indeed, unproblematic, to one in which it is understood to be one option among others.’ The result is a radical pluralism which, as well as offering unprecedented freedom, creates new challenges and instabilities.” - London Review of Books

“A Secular Age represents a singular achievement… Taylor is somehow uniquely able to combine chutzpah and good manners, making bold and imaginative claims, yet always attending respectfully to the whole range of disciplines that touch on the philosophical trajectory being drawn, whether that be history, sociology, theology, art theory, cultural studies, anthropology or social theory… A Secular Age succeeds in the same way as his previous work: in illuminating through complicating. At the same time, this book seems to step up the ambition somewhat: by attempting to provide a final definitive account of all the narratives and complications that make up our contemporary age, as they implode on themselves and interact with one another… Hegel knew, of course, that ‘the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk’; or, in other words, that philosophy can only fathom the truth about an age in hindsight, when the day has passed. But then again, that didn’t stop Hegel having a go; and we should be glad that it hasn’t stopped Charles Taylor, either.” - Christopher J. Insole, The Times Literary Supplement

“One finds big nuggets of insight, useful to almost anybody with an interest in the progress of human society… A vast ideological anatomy of possible ways of thinking about the gradual onset of secularism as experienced in fields ranging from art to poetry to psychoanalysis… Taylor also lays bare the inconsistencies of some secular critiques of religion.” - The Economist

“Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age offers a uniquely rich historical and philosophical overview of how we came to take a disenchanted world for granted - quietly inviting us to reflect that if disenchantment and the absence of the divine were learned habits of mind, they might not necessarily be the self-evidently rational truths so many think they are.” - Rowan Williams, The Times Literary Supplement

“It is refreshing to read an inquiry into the condition of religion that is exploratory in its approach. Charles Taylor, a Roman Catholic as well as one of the world’s leading political theorists, does not aim to attack or defend any system of belief in his new book, A Secular Age. Rather, he wants to elucidate the very idea of a secular world. For Taylor, the difference between the pre-modern Western world and the modern West is not simply that beliefs held then are no longer accepted today; it is that the entire framework of thought has changed.” - John Gray, Harper’s

“Charles Taylor’s remarkable book A Secular Age achieves something quite different from what other writers on secularization have accomplished. Most have focused on decline as the essence of secularism - either the removal of religion from sphere after sphere of public life, or the decrease of religious belief and practice. But Taylor focuses on what kind of religion makes sense in a secular age… Taylor is asking not only how secularism became a significant option in a civilization that not so long ago was explicitly Christian, but what that change means for the spiritual quest, both of those who are still religious and those who consider themselves secular. I doubt many people have even perceived that aspect of secularism, and Taylor’s book should be as much of a revelation to them as it was to me.” - Robert N. Bellah, Commonweal

“In an idiosyncratic blend of the philosophical, the historical, and the speculative, Taylor describes the shift from a world brim-full with spirits and magic to a world where divinity is absent. His account resists the idea that the rise of secularism is a process of subtraction, of loss, and of disenchantment. Rather, Taylor describes secularity’s birth as the migration of ideas, subtle changes in those ideas, and the opening of new possibilities. If Taylor’s communitarian scholarship celebrated historical and social rootedness, A Secular Age is an encomium to the sheer happenstance of how those circumstances arose.” - Azziz Huq, The American Prospect
Charles Taylor is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at McGill University.