Charles Taylor on Disenchantment

As perhaps the world’s premier scholar on the character of Secularism, Charles Taylor shouldn’t need an introduction. If the reader is unfamiliar with him, however, he or she should simply accept that Taylor has had a remarkable career. Following the publication of his landmark book A Secular Age, Harvard’s Belknap Press published a volume of Taylor’s essays related to the themes he earlier explored in Secular Age; the work is titled Dilemmas and Connections: Selected Essays.

Below is an abbreviated version of one of his essays from Dilemmas, titled “Disenchantment-Reenchantment” (it is Chapter 12 of Dilemmas); the bracketed numbers [xxx] indicate a page number in the original English-language hardback release. Taylor’s essay is 15 pages or so, and of course has more meat. Currently, I’ve only reduced it to about 1/4 of its original size. I plan to post more such abbreviations.

Possibly, the general thrust of Taylor’s argument may be found in the final words of the summary, below: “Despite the widespread loss of the magical world and of the metaphysics of the Great Chain of Being –even despite the widespread loss of belief in God– a strong evaluation of meaning is still possible in the modern world, even if it is a world painted by a reductive and mechanistic science, so long as this reductive language doesn’t swallow the self-perceived integrity of the evaluating agent, so that it cannot be said to truly evaluate the wonder of the world and be so motivated, by this evaluation, to respond in love.”

* Continue reading