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Templeton Prize Winner Taylor Talks About Spirituality in Modern Society

The Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which recognizes efforts to create a bridge between the fields of science and religion, is the world's largest annual award. This year's winner, Charles Taylor, speaks with Ray Suarez.

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    This year, the Templeton Prize, given for research or discoveries about spiritual realities, went to Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. The prize is worth more than $1.5 million, making it the largest annual monetary award given to an individual.

    Taylor's currently a professor at Northwestern University. He won the Templeton for his study of societal problems, like violence and bigotry, and advocacy of solutions that are both secular and spiritual, rather than secular alone. And Charles Taylor joins me now.

    Welcome, Professor. And congratulations.

  • CHARLES TAYLOR, Winner, Templeton Prize:

    Thank you. Thank you very much.


    Well, you've been critical of the way things have been going, certainly in the West. And one thing you wrote kind of popped out at me: "The culture of the humanities and the social sciences has often been surprisingly blind and deaf to the spiritual." How?


    Well, because they try to explain everything human beings do by talking about economic factors, political factors, drive for power, all of which are important, but they leave out what I call the spiritual dimension.

    I mean, that means the answers people give to certain very deep questions, like the meaning of life, or what is really good in human life, or how can I make my life better or more pure, and that sort of thing, which actually also motivates people. And that's why you never can really understand what's going on if you just set them aside.


    Motivate people, yes, but can we see as easily, as we do maybe in the drive for wealth and power, how the spiritual affects the way we live day to day?


    Well, sometimes it gets terribly, terribly evident. I mean, some terrible phenomena that worry us very much, like this kind of extreme violence that we see in parts of the world, young people hanging around, they don't know really what their life adds up to, they have no dignity.

    And somebody comes along and gives them a tremendous sense of meaning and dignity and power if they join this movement and even sometimes do some terrible things. Now, that is power of those questions in human life, which is very clearly operative.


    So I guess that leads to what you've also said to several people: We don't understand what's going on unless we understand that, as human beings, we are spiritual beings. So what should we be doing?


    That's what I mean.