McGill philosopher one of two Canadians to win “Japan’s Nobel”
McGill University professor emeritus Charles Taylor, one of the most profound intellectuals of our time on spirituality and secularism, has been awarded the 24th annual Kyoto Prize in the category of Arts and Philosophy. He is the first Canadian to win the coveted international award in this category.
The Kyoto Prize, administered by the Inamori Foundation, is considered among the world’s leading awards for lifetime contributions to the scientific, cultural and spiritual development and betterment of humankind. It is presented annually in three categories: Advanced Technology, Basic Sciences, and Arts and Philosophy. The prize consists of a commemorative gold medal and 50 million yen (approx. $450,000 USD). The award will be presented to Dr. Taylor at a ceremony on November 10 in Kyoto, Japan. He will be joined by fellow Canadian Dr. Anthony Pawson, a leading cancer researcher at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, winner in the Basic Sciences category, and Dr. Richard Manning Karp, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at University of California, Berkeley, and a senior research scientist at the International Computer Science Institute, winner in the Advanced Technology category.
“McGill University is deeply honoured that the distinguished Kyoto Prize will be awarded to Charles Taylor, a highly esteemed member of the McGill community for more than 45 years,” said McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum. “Through his profound and inspirational teaching, his prolific research and writings, and his tireless service to community, Professor Taylor has set an outstanding example of how a university professor can change the world.”
The Inamori Foundation was established in 1984 by Dr. Kazuo Inamori, founder and chairman emeritus of Kyocera and KDDI Corporation. The Kyoto Prize was founded in 1985, in line with Dr. Inamori's belief that people have no higher calling than to strive for the greater good of society, and that humankind’s future can be assured only when there is a balance between our scientific progress and our spiritual depth. The laureates are selected through a strict and impartial process that considers candidates recommended from around the world. Previous honorees include Akira Kurosawa (1994), Jane Goodall (1990) and Noam Chomsky (1988).
“I am very, very honoured, very pleased,” Dr. Taylor said. “I feel a great sense of agreement with and affinity for the basic standpoint of the Inamori Foundation.”
Born in Montreal in 1931, Dr. Taylor’s academic career began at McGill, where he obtained an undergraduate degree in History, (BA’52). He continued his studies at the University of Oxford, first as a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College, (BA ’55), and then as a post-graduate, (MA ’60 and DPhil ’61).
Dr. Taylor joined McGill’s department of political science in 1961 and its department of philosophy in 1973. Through a body of work that spans nearly half a century and includes more than a dozen books and scores of published essays, Dr. Taylor has consistently pressed for the inclusion of spiritual dimensions in discussions of public policy, history, linguistics, literature, and every other facet of humanities and the social sciences. Throughout his career, he has argued that an exclusive dependence on secularized viewpoints only leads to fragmented, faulty results. He has described such an approach as crippling, preventing crucial insights that might help a global community increasingly exposed to clashes of culture, morality, nationality and religion.
In 2007, Premier Jean-Charest appointed Dr. Taylor to co-chair a commission to explore the widespread and emotional debate surrounding the reasonable accommodation of religious and cultural minorities in Quebec society. The commission’s extensive report was presented in May.
Dr. Taylor’s continuing efforts to break down traditional barriers between scientific and spiritual approaches to knowledge and understanding have been recognized through countless accolades and awards. In 1995, Dr. Taylor was made a Companion of the Order of Canada and was named a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2000. In 2003, he was the first recipient of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Gold Medal for Achievement in Research. In 2007, he received the $1.7-million Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.
Charles Taylor lives in Montreal with his wife, Aube Billard, an art historian.
McGill, Canada’s leading university, has two campuses, 11 faculties, 10 professional schools, 300 programs of study and more than 33,000 students. Since 2000, more than 800 professors have been recruited to McGill to share their energy, ideas and cutting-edge research. McGill attracts students from 160 countries around the world. Almost half of McGill students claim a first language other than English – including 6,000 francophones – with more than 6,200 international students making up almost 20 per cent of the student body.