Headline: How Do We Strengthen Democracy? IASS Welcomes Canadian Philosopher Charles Taylor as Senior Fellow

The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor is joining the IASS as a Senior Fellow for a month from mid-November to mid-December. He will contribute in particular to Scientific Director Patrizia Nanz’s research projects on truth and knowledge in post-factual times as well as on the loss of the value of democracy and social cohesion.

Charles Taylor
Charles Taylor Malte Jaeger/laif

On Thursday, 16 November, Taylor will give the Fritz Stern Lecture titled Democratic Degeneration: Three Easy Paths to Regression at the American Academy in Berlin. In his talk, he argues that democracies carry within them the seeds of their own degeneration. He describes three paths upon which democracies can easily falter and which must be fought against: elitist control, nativist exclusion, and majority rule.

Charles Taylor is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at McGill University in Montreal. He has held honorary positions at the universities of Princeton, Berkeley, Frankfurt a. M., and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. From 1976 to 1981, Taylor was the Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at the University of Oxford, and he is a Fellow of All Souls College.

Taylor is known worldwide for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science and intellectual history, and for his sweeping comprehension of the meaning and significance of modernity, as in his widely cited Sources of the Self (Harvard, 1989). More recently, Taylor has written on the philosophy and sociology of religion, including in his 2007 book, A Secular Age (Harvard, 2007), described by sociologist Robert Bellah as “one of the most important books to be written in my lifetime. Taylor succeeds in no less than recasting the entire debate about secularism.” Taylor’s latest book is The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity (Harvard, 2016).

Taylor became the first Canadian to be awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize in 2007. In the following year, he received the Kyoto Prize for Thought and Ethics, one of the highest awards for lifetime achievements in the social sciences and humanities. In 2015, Taylor was awarded the prestigious John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity, granted by the Library of Congress. In 2016, he was the inaugural recipient of the Berggruen Prize, for his role as a “thinker whose ideas are of broad significance for shaping human self-understanding and the advancement of humanity.” Taylor is Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec.


"Crisis and Futures of Democracy. A discussion with Charles Taylor and Patrizia Nanz", 11 December 2017

Section 1: Democracy and Crisis 

Section 2: Symptoms and causes - what has gone wrong? Why populism? 

Section 3: Social Media and the crisis of the public sphere 

Section 4: Revitalizing Democracy - Future Imaginaries 

Section 5: Drivers and Agents of Change