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A Secular Age Hardcover – 28 Sep 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (28 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674026764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674026766
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.8 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Sophisticated, erudite...with excursions into history, philosophy and literature, A Secular Age is a weighty and challenging tome. It is also a brilliant account of the 'sensed context' in which secularization developed. And a moving meditation, by a believer, on the 'ineradicable bent' of human beings to respond to something beyond life, to keep open 'the transcendent window.'--Glenn C. Altschuler"Baltimore Sun" (09/09/2007)

In A Secular Age, philosopher Charles Taylor takes on the broad phenomenon of secularization in its full complexity... [A] voluminous, impressively researched and often fascinating social and intellectual history...Taylor's account encompasses art, literature, science, fashion, private life--all those human activities that have been sometimes more, sometimes less affected by religion over the last five centuries.--Jack Miles"Los Angeles Times" (09/16/2007)

The real genius of this erudite and profound book resides in its grandeur of theme and richness of detail. For all its imposing intellectual density, it is a delight to read; at times, it was literally impossible to put down. Yet it is also a work that ought to be read by degrees--one chapter at a time, with ample pause for reflection.--Lorenzo DiTommaso"Montreal Gazette" (09/22/2007)

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"American Prospect" (10/02/2007)

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. Its subject is a philosophical history of the past, present and future of Western Christendom. As such, it begins with a deceptively simple question: How did it become possible for anyone to not believe in God? ...A Secular Age recounts the history of an idea, in other words, but in it the past is not an inert, settled fact, but a reservoir to be drawn upon to shatter the sameness and the apparent inevitability of the present. As a history it clarifies crucial intellectual and theological divisions that continue to structure debates about divinity, but with the aim of reforming the way we think about them, 'to show the play of destabilization and recomposition.' Though this isn't a book you take to the beach, it remains eminently readable. As philosophers go, Taylor is a kind of behaviorist, more concerned with elaborating the implications of a way of thinking than with showing its contradictions. Unlike most philosophers, though, Taylor seems at pains to remain accessible to a general audience to capture complex philosophical debate in ordinary language. An important part of Taylor's argument is that religion and the belief in God, most particularly the experience of transcendence, are not at all outmoded... Though it avoids predictions or prescriptions, A Secular Age leaves us with the sense that the future will be a far poorer, less human place, if we do not discover some expression for that transcendent otherness.--Steven Hayward"Cleveland Plain Dealer" (11/18/2007)

A Secular Age is a towering achievement... It shows the ways we have traveled from the automatic certainties of 1500 to the fragile alignments of today. It transforms the secularization debate.--David Martin"The Tablet" (12/01/2007)

A Secular Age is a work of stupendous breadth and erudition.--John Patrick Diggins"New York Times Book Review" (12/16/2007)

Very occasionally there appears a book destined to endure. A Secular Age is such a book... A Secular Age is an important and deeply interesting work. Its central thesis is that secularization must be understood not simply as the decline of certain beliefs and institutions, but as a total change in our experience of the world... There are subtle, original discussions of the modern self, of changing conceptions of time, of the religious landscape of art, and much else besides. Taylor has a great gift of empathy, an ability to inhabit and bring to life the mental world of both believers and unbelievers. A true Hegelian, he sees the goal of philosophy as understanding, not judgment.--Edward Skidelsky"Daily Telegraph" (12/08/2007)

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" (01/01/2008)

Taylor makes a strong case for the presence in ordinary moral life of something like Plato's idea of the Good, however little acknowledged... A Secular Age carries the story further, into the question of the role of religion in constituting a person's identity. Taylor wants to lay out what it takes to go on believing in God, in the absence of any equivalent to the intellectual, cultural and imaginative surroundings in which pre-modern religion was quietly embedded. This is what he calls our 'social imaginary': how we collectively sense what is normal and appropriate in our dealings with one another and with the world around us. This is something deeper and more diffused than philosophical theories or thought-out positions.--Fergus Kerr"The Tablet" (09/22/2007)

Review

In a determinedly brilliant new book, Charles Taylor challenges the `subtraction theory' of secularisation

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