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Charles Taylor’s Catholicism
Division of Politics and Sociology, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BU, UK. E-mail: Ian.Fraser@ntu.ac.uk
Charles Taylor is quite rightly ranked as one of the leading philosophers writing in the world today. As such, his recent endorsement of Catholicism as his preferred vision for the good life warrants careful attention. To this end, I examine the core aspects of his Catholicism that centre on four main themes: Catholicism as difference, the need for transcendence, the necessity for acts of ‘unconditional love’, and his support for Matteo Ricci’s Jesuit mission of the 16th century as a model to be followed for Catholics today. I argue that Taylor has severe weaknesses in all these themes, which cast great doubts on the viability of his Catholic vision for offering an orientation towards the good. Contemporary Political Theory (2005) 4, 231–252. doi:10.1057/palgrave.cpt.9300134 Keywords: Taylor; Catholicism; difference; identity; transcendence; unconditional love; Matteo Ricci
In 1996, Charles Taylor received the Marianist Award from the Catholic religious order the Society of Mary and then presented a lecture entitled, ‘A Catholic Modernity?’, which explored the nature of his religious faith (Taylor, 1999a). This lecture was important because it was the first time Taylor had the opportunity to discuss openly his Catholicism after Sources of the Self (Taylor, 1989a) in which his theism was relatively implicit. Indeed, he admits in the beginning of the lecture that he had to keep his religious views tacit in his previous work in order to ‘persuade honest thinkers of any and all metaphysical or theological commitments’ to consider his arguments (Taylor, 1999a, 13). Given the hostility that was shown even towards his implicit theism by some commentators, one can readily understand Taylor’s caution.2 Now, however, he was free to air his views and to put his case for Catholicism. This is a very important moment in the development of Taylor’s work, especially, as in the words of Richard Rorty, he is ‘among the dozen most important philosophers writing today, anywhere in the world’.3 Yet commentators have not systematically explored the nature of his Catholicism in his writings.4 To this end, I critically explore the nature of Taylor’s Catholicism as explicated in
Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism
‘A Catholic Modernity?’ in particular, but also drawing on his other writings that are relevant. I show that four main themes lie at the heart of Taylor’s Catholicism, namely: Catholicism as difference, transcendence, ‘unconditional love’, and his endorsement of the 16th century Jesuit project of Matteo Ricci for modern-day Catholics. I argue that all these themes have distinct weaknesses that ultimately undermine the viability of Taylor’s Catholicism.
Catholicism as Difference
In ‘A Catholic Modernity?’, Taylor argues that for him Catholicism is encapsulated in the phrase: ‘Go ye and teach all nations’ (Taylor, 1999a, 14). He argues that the way this instruction has been traditionally understood is to subsume other points of view and beliefs under the banner of Catholicism. For Taylor, this must be resisted. Instead, he goes back to the origins of Catholicism by taking the original word katholou as meaning both ‘universality and wholeness’ or ‘universality through wholeness’. In doing so, he wants to stress the importance of achieving wholeness not through making people into good Catholics, but in recognizing diversity.5 For Taylor, God weaves his life into human lives in many different forms, so we can only achieve Redemption through Incarnation and thus oneness by recognizing this diversity as a ‘unityacross-difference’ rather than a ‘unity-through-identity’. This, he says, is ‘true Catholicism’ and is itself encapsulated in the life of God as Trinitarian (i.e. Father–Son–Holy Ghost), which implies that human diversity itself is therefore the way in which we are made in the image of God (Taylor, 1999a, 14–15). For Taylor, then, a Catholic principle ‘is no widening of the faith without an increase in the variety of devotions and spiritualities and liturgical forms and responses to Incarnation’ (Taylor, 1999a, 15). He recognizes that the history of the Catholic Church has often failed to respect this principle, but maintains that at times it has, citing the example of the Jesuit missions in China and India at the start of the modern era. Indeed, he specifically mentions Matteo Ricci’s Jesuit mission in 16th century China as a positive example of this form of evangelization and that I consider later. Hence, Taylor argues that the task for Catholics in the modern world is to examine modern civilization to find out ‘what it means to be a Christian here’ and discover ‘our authentic voice in the eventual Catholic chorus’. The fact that this takes place at a time of so many different forms of Christian life is a blessing because it allows the journey to wholeness to take place by recognizing the need to ‘complement our own partiality’, and thus avoid any notion of ‘narrowness’ in one’s beliefs. Taylor therefore urges that there should be no ‘particular outlook’ dominating and this will allow us ‘to live the gospel in a purer way, free of that continual and often bloody forcing of conscience’ that typified the dark side of Christianity
Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4
given the example above. 49–50). Much of Taylor’s argument here can be seen as re-emphasizing a diverse and open Catholicism that emerged from the second Vatican council in the 1960s. 21). 106–107). There is thus a dialogical nature to Taylor’s Catholicism that is emphasizing ‘unity-across-difference’ rather than ‘unitythrough-identity’. Indeed. In Buddhism. 18). For example. ‘decentred’. for the Buddha the ‘world is empty of a Self and anything belonging to a Self’. The Buddhist ‘no self’ therefore has no object or other being to relate to. then.6 Indeed. 107). Taylor’s ‘decentred’ self is decentred in relation to the ‘object’ of God. 76–77. from Vatican II’ and has thus ‘created quite a new predicament’ (Taylor. I will discuss the issue of transcendence more fully in the next section. that some people may ‘consider themselves Catholic while not accepting many crucial dogmas. cf Williams and Tribes. for example. In that sense he thinks he achieves unity-across-difference. 1999a. in his recent examination of the work of William James in Varieties of Religion Today. 2002. So a Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . For example. in relation with God’. this ‘new predicament’ is to be celebrated because it allows for a diverse range of beliefs that exist not only side by side but can also intermingle with each other (Taylor. 1984. which is in stark contrast to Taylor’s decentring of the self in relation with God. Yet such an elision does seem problematic because a ‘decentred self’ is precisely that. but here I want to show how Taylor’s attempt to offer Catholicism as difference actually results in the subsuming of other belief systems under the Catholic banner. Interestingly. 19). 49). as we shall now see when Taylor begins to articulate how his Catholicism relates to different belief systems in ‘A Catholic Modernity?’. Furthermore. This dialogical process is not without problems. 1998. What therefore appeared to be different between Catholicism and Buddhism can. the ‘freedom to come to God on one’s own’ in order to hear better the ‘barely audible voice’ of the Holy Spirit (Taylor. Taylor argues that acknowledging the transcendent means in Christian terms ‘aiming beyond life or opening yourself to a change in identity’ (Taylor. in what could be a reference to himself. it is what it says: a ‘no self’. according to Taylor. however. which led him to posit the notion of ‘Emptiness’’ (Quoted in Lamotte. 2002. We need. 1999a. or they combine Christianity with Buddhism’ (Taylor. 2000. Taylor positively notes how the ‘Christian faith is in the process of redefining and recomposing itself in various ways. now be seen as the ‘same’. 1999a. says Taylor. whereas for the Buddha the ‘no self’ is ‘without object’ (Quoted in Gethin. Taylor suggests. 107). Yet Taylor then adds that the ‘Christian faith can be seen in the same terms: as calling for a radical decentering of the self. For Taylor. 2002. whereas a ‘no self’ is not ‘decentred’ at all. Taylor offers a brief comparison between Christianity and Buddhism on the issue of transcendence.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 233 for many centuries (Taylor. he notes how this change is a radical one in that it is a movement from ‘self to ‘no self’ (anatta)’.
it also opens the floodgates of metta (loving kindness) and karuna (compassion)’. For Stout. ‘we have to come to be able to understand F and therefore also admire F spiritualities which are nevertheless not ours’. 1994. 22). then. Indeed. The same criticism can therefore be applied to Taylor because it is such a coming to terms with his own Catholicism that leads him to ‘fudge’ differences and seek ‘common denominators’ between his belief system and that of Buddhism. Christians should not understand Buddhism in a way to understand their own faith but should instead understand Buddhism on its own terms (van Beeck. Ultimately. Again he compares this to Buddhism where ‘Enlightenment does not just turn you from the world. Indeed. as sensitive Catholic theologians such as van Beeck have noted in considering the relation between Christianity and Buddhism. Taylor cautions.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 234 difference between Catholicism and Buddhism remains and unity is not thereby achieved as Taylor would like to believe. He argued that in considering different belief systems one should respect the other view and in doing so attempt to understand it.16). that doing so ‘means precisely not trying to reduce it to some common denominator. Indeed. 2001. Now. some years earlier. Jeffrey Stout has detected a further problem for Taylor here in that Buddhism itself comes in many different forms. Ultimately. the case of seeing parallels between Christ and Buddha because this is ‘entirely the product of a Christian theologian’s effort to come to terms with his own faith’ instead of appreciating Buddhism on its own terms. 229). the latter of which Taylor equates with Christian ‘agape’. is exactly what Taylor is engaging in with his consideration of Buddhism and Christianity and his reduction of ‘karuna’ to ‘agape’. these different types of Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . his unity-across-diversity either fails in its task as in the case of the ‘decentred self’ and a ‘no self’ or it succumbs to a unity-through-identity approach that Taylor himself rejects outright. he bemoans. not trying to fudge the differences with Christianity. however. Taylor runs into further difficulties with his unity-across-difference approach in that he contradicts his own edicts on relating different belief systems to each other. 1999a. 1995. Taylor himself had specifically warned against this type of exercise (Taylor. Yet this ‘fudging’. which biblically is known as ‘agape’ (Taylor. 98n. ‘some of which are non-theistic and some of which call into doubt the centrality of metaphysical commitments to spiritual practice’ (Stout. So Taylor clearly equates Christian ‘agape’ with the Buddhist notion of ‘karuna’ just as he mistakenly suggested that the Christian ‘decentred self’ can be seen in the ‘same terms’ as the Buddhist ‘no self’. this reducing to a ‘common denominator’. argues Taylor. 426). because very often the power of this other faith resides in what differentiates it from mine’. Taylor argues that affirming any notion of the transcendent in Christian terms ‘decentres you in relation with God’ but ‘God’s will is that humans flourish’. for instance. As we have seen.
Indeed. 1999a. Indeed. Taylor’s emphasis on Catholicism as difference seems very problematic. 1999. 19). and so reduces his Catholicism as difference to a flawed Catholicism of identity. 20). however. the unsatisfactory attempt to elide aspects of Buddhism and Catholicism transgresses Taylor’s own caveat on ‘fudging’ and looking for ‘common denominators’. While the full life is to strive for the benefit of humankind. the path to salvation and enlightenment is precisely to stop this endless cycle of rebirth. this emphasis on transcendence means ‘aiming beyond life or opening yourself to a change in identity’ (Taylor. As the Buddha himself said on reaching nirvana: ‘I have lived the pure life. therefore. what had to be done has been done. she suggests that pursuing whatever it is that we are longing for in such terms as ‘transcendence’ and ‘beyond life’ Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . 1984. In the first instance. 9). ‘acknowledging the transcendent means seeing a point beyond that’. which denies any consideration of the transcendent and instead focuses solely on human flourishing in the here and now. The Transcendent The notion of transcendence is at the core of Taylor’s Catholicism and he attempts to put forward this idea by arguing that life does not exhaust the ‘point of things’ (Taylor. is to reassert the importance of transcendence in emphasizing that ‘more than life matters’ (Taylor. which he refers to as ‘exclusive humanism’. Far from pointing to something ‘beyond life’ as Taylor would like to suggest. Indeed. one could go further. 21). the Buddha is instead pointing to this life and the end of suffering in the here and now. as fellow Catholic Rosemary Luling Haughton points out (Haughton. What worries Taylor about contemporary society is that a ‘spiritual lobotomy’ seems to have occurred. 77). 1984. she accuses Taylor of seemingly privileging the transcendent afterlife over the here and now. 1999a. 1999a. Taylor’s assumption about the importance of something ‘beyond life’ for Buddhism ignores the fact that the Buddha’s path to nirvana where suffering ceases also results in the ending of the cycle of death and rebirth (Gombrich. although without informing us which thinkers fall under this rubric (Taylor. For Taylor. Across a number of issues then. Moreover. 53). 1999a. Taylor’s notion of the transcendent is far from adequate. which is the product of desire and which is itself the cause of suffering. henceforth there will be no further rebirth for me’ (Quoted in Lamotte. 27).Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 235 Buddhism therefore aspires to a different type of transcendence of self that resists explication in the metaphysical terms Taylor otherwise associates with the transcendent F something ‘beyond life’. 1999a. Taylor’s concern. 24) and thus goes so far as to assert that ‘humans have an ineradicable bent to respond to something beyond life’ (Taylor. then.
he is aware that trying to describe this process ‘evades our language’ to a great extent and hence offers Haughton’s own term of ‘bewilderment’ to try and give some description of this process. because he is suggesting that he has no substantial vocabulary to express the very transcendent dimension that exclusive humanism denies. Taylor’s notion of transcendence. Taylor is sensitive to this criticism and admits that he is actually uncomfortable with using the term transcendence as it does not quite capture exactly what he wants to say (Taylor. He therefore further explains the notion of transcendence in two ways that he suggests are both complementary and in tension (Taylor. 1989a. 1989a. however inadequate that might ultimately be. namely. Taylor continues. 1989a. 1999b. 2003). It is therefore ironic that Taylor himself did identify two thinkers who he thought could aid him in articulating his notion of the transcendent. but he used the term because he wanted to say something general that could appeal to all people. or allegiance’ (Taylor. Walter Benjamin and Ernst Bloch (See Fraser. respect. ‘we assume and draw on in any claim to rightness. He recognizes that the term ‘transcendence’ is both ‘abstract’ and ‘evasive’. Articulation therefore acts as a source of empowerment because it brings us into contact with moral sources that have the ‘capacity to inspire our love. part of which we are forced to spell out when we have to defend our responses as the right ones’ (Taylor. The gravity of Taylor’s failure here should not be underestimated because articulation itself plays a very crucial role in his ethical theory. as in the case of Catholic guilt about sex for instance. 1989a. He clearly wants to avoid such a dualism and suggests that we therefore ‘tack back and forth’ between these two moments of human flourishing on the one hand and going beyond life on the other. Yet transcendence is crucial for his Catholicism and is what he says distinguishes the latter from exclusive humanism. then. 109– 110). 9). Writing in the very year Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . should also generate these qualities but of course cannot because it remains unarticulated. not just Christians. Again. In doing this. 8).Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 236 can only lead to ‘theological and spiritual dead ends’. 105–106). Taylor realizes that the emphasis on human flourishing on the one hand and an emphasis on spiritual transcendence on the other can lead to a kind of dualism where such oppositions have been used to deny life. Now this is a very big admission by Taylor. in indicating how we need to get beyond the narrow focus on the ‘exclusively human’. So the failure to articulate transcendence severely weakens Taylor’s Catholicism as an orientation to the good.7 For Taylor. the failure to articulate a moral source is very damaging because it means losing contact with the good and thereby strikes at what it means to be human (Taylor. 96). Indeed. articulation involves explicating the ‘‘background picture’ lying behind our moral and spiritual intuitions’ (Taylor. for Taylor. 1999b. 97). At the core of his Catholic vision therefore is a notion of the transcendent that Taylor cannot fully articulate.
254). For Benjamin. Taylor suggests. in his conception of ‘homogenous empty time’. which he calls an ‘epiphany of interspaces’ (Taylor. the transcendent is present in that the Messianic age is portended in the profane (Benjamin. This ‘time of the now’ is therefore ‘shot through with chips of messianic time’ where the strait gate through which the Messiah might enter’ can appear (Benjamin. 1986. 69). is grasped through theology and religion. Benjamin contrasts the latter with the ‘presence of the now’ (Benjamin. or even Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . 1963). 425). and which is of the highest moral or spiritual significance. 255). Frank.64. 1992. Taylor notes. 419). even as it reveals (Taylor. 1989a. 1992. 1989a. 252–253). 249). 478. a manifestation. he suggests that epiphanic art is one such means because it is the: locus of a manifestation which brings us into the presence of something which is otherwise inaccessible. Realizing an ‘epiphany’. 476) or an ‘interspacial or framing epiphany’. Taylor did not decide to utilize Benjamin and Bloch as a source for articulating the transcendent. Indeed. In Sources. 463). 1989a. A further problem with Taylor’s notion of the transcendent is the means by which he thinks it can be achieved. involves ‘recovering contact with a moral source’ that ‘either fosters and/or itself constitutes a spiritually significant fulfilment or wholeness’ (Taylor. the transcendent aspect of religion provided an ‘explosive hope’ for a better world and offered us a ‘venturing beyond’ our current state of affairs to a situation where we would be at one with ourselves: ‘homeland’ (Bloch. If he had gone to their writings he would have found valuable articulations of the transcendent. but that has simply left him in the unsatisfactory position of offering something as evasive as ‘bewilderment’. which is only briefly mentioned by Taylor in Sources (Taylor. Yet he chose not to develop fully the insights of these thinkers in his work. Taylor argues that this form of epiphany ‘makes something appear by juxtaposing images. 1193 and 1367). 1989a. 1992.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 237 that Sources of the Self was published. 463. For whatever reason. 478 and 588n. Taylor pinpoints a particular form of epiphany as the most important that develops in the 20th century. Benjamin is mentioned only fleetingly (Taylor. 1992. which seems even more strange given the difficulties Taylor has with developing his notion of transcendence. Taylor argued that a transcendent going ‘beyond ourselves’ can be found in the Marxism of Walter Benjamin and Ernst Bloch (Taylor. In Sources. 1989a. which he derives from the work of Joseph Frank (Taylor. Taylor praised Benjamin for seeing the art and philosophy he desires ‘not in terms of self-expression but in terms of something beyond’ which. which involves ‘transition’ and ‘blast[s] open the continuum of history’ (Benjamin. 479) and Bloch not at all. 1989a. 1989b. Moreover. moreover. When we reach ‘A Catholic Modernity?’ neither thinker even warrants a mention. which also defines or completes something. In Bloch’s case.
Stout notes how Taylor errs in stating. ‘the work of art as vortex is a cluster. Taylor maintains that this form of ‘interspacial or framing epiphany has wide resonances throughout 20th century culture’ (Taylor. the possibility of self-transcendence can certainly avoid Taylor’s claim that with exclusive humanism the human spirit is stifled. Stout quibbles with Taylor’s ‘or’ here by suggesting that it is certainly possible for a person to change identity and thereby aim for a transcendence of one’s self without having a belief in a transcendent God. 1989a. Lawrence. and it possibly contains the key F or a key F to what it is to be human’ (Taylor.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 238 harder to explain. In this way. The ‘hunch’ indicates the contingent nature of Taylor’s argument here as he recognizes he could be wrong. it is with the introduction of God here that we can begin to see the exclusivity of Taylor’s epiphany. 1999a. 1989a. having an impaired experience to those who come into contact with a theistic epiphany. Joyce. The epiphanic is therefore ‘genuinely mysterious. Indeed. as Stout further notes. Proust. This is evinced in Taylor’s ‘hunch’ that ‘the significance of human life’ needs to be articulated and understood theistically rather than in a ‘non-theistic’ manner (Taylor. 465–466). 491). 1989a. 1989a. Pound. that acknowledging the transcendent means ‘aiming beyond life or opening yourself to a change in identity’ (Taylor. 1989a. Indeed. 429). 1989a. and Rilke (Taylor. Stout thus accuses Taylor of offering an ‘external critique’ of exclusive humanism in that he ‘does not give Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . 1989a. The final and quite damaging flaw in his notion of the transcendent is that it also contains a contradictory element as Jeffrey Stout correctly points out (Stout. 481). in their use of epiphanies these writers. 465). For Taylor. Hence. 21). 477) and is present in the work of writers such as Eliot. his comment above that coming into contact with an epiphany is what makes us human suggests that those experiencing non-theistic epiphanies are less human than those experiencing the theistic. for Taylor. 1994. 473). and makes them available at one spot/moment’ (Taylor. and not through a central referent which they describe while transmuting’ (Taylor. are ‘pointing to something F God. from the force field they set up between them. images’ and so ‘reach somehow between them and thus beyond them’ (Taylor. the traditionF’. Hence. which can bring us into contact with a ‘transcendent truth’ (Taylor. 475). Moreover. and it also reveals that those who attain a non-theistic epiphany are. 1989a. Now. the ‘epiphany comes from between the words or images. fragments. Mann. 512 and 342. by juxtaposing words’ (Taylor. as he does above. there is an exclusivity lurking within Taylor’s epiphanies that privileges the theistic over the non-theistic and thus undermines his claims to diversity and difference. this allows poetry to ‘say the otherwise unsayable’ by ‘juxtaposing thoughts. as it were. 2001. 1989a. it is a constellation of words or images which sets up a space which draws ideas and energy into it and thus ‘concentrates energies that are otherwise diffuse. Taylor suggests. 46). cf Skinner. 426).
as we have just seen in the discussion of epiphany. 1999a. Hence.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 239 humanists a reason. and that he thinks it is. 57). for changing their minds about transcendence’. In contrast. not based on what you the recipient have made of yourself’ because we are beings ‘in the image of God’ that. which by definition goes beyond exclusive humanism. is biblically called ‘agape’ (Taylor. grounded in their own commitments. Taking James Joyce as one example from the writers mentioned above. Instead. 1999a. Joyce’s epiphanies allowed him to move beyond religious authority and thereby ‘create his own authority by the light of his senses’ (Levin. Yet given the possibility of transcending one’s self through a change in identity. a humanist could easily point to moments of selftranscendence that are of the greatest spiritual fulfilment but that do not point to God. In the character of Stephen in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. 1970. Taylor then considers the weaknesses he detects in exclusive humanisms. With his emphasis on ‘unconditional love’ stated. due to the Trinity. 22). Unconditional Love Another core aspect of Taylor’s Catholicism is his suggestion that we need to have faith in a Christian spirituality that offers ‘love or compassion that is unconditional F that is. 1971. Joyce did not see epiphanies as bringing us into contact with religion and God (Beja. he wants to show humanists that the position they hold will be seen as ‘spiritually stifling’ even to them. Such an opening to God’s grace therefore means affirming human flourishing that is itself God’s will and that. Taylor says that it makes a big difference if you think this kind of love is possible for human beings. 38 and 57). Indeed. Taylor is closing the epiphany off because he is implying that the true epiphanic moment points towards God. 165). Taylor observes. We must therefore ‘open ourselves to God’ and thereby transcend exclusive humanisms. this is something Taylor specifically fails to do. 1960. Indeed. which he suggests lack Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . means a ‘standing among others in the stream of love’ (Taylor. only if we open ourselves to God. 74–75). 35). which emanate out of his very repudiation of the Catholic faith (Levin. He admits this is a matter of faith rather than a guarantee. having cast away the constraints of the Catholic Church. 1960. his ‘epiphany-producing mind’ (Reynolds. 1981. his epiphanies were an attempt to ‘create a literary substitute for the revelations of religion’. according to Taylor. but it is faith in ‘Christian spirituality’ that is ‘unconditional love’ or the fact that you are a being in the image of God. 183) leads him ‘to discover a mode of life or art whereby his spirit may express itself in unfettered freedom’ (Colum. a Joycean epiphany without God as some end point implies a widening of the epiphanic experience rather than its limitation or closure to one particular source.
the issue of belief is not important because where these high ideals are held. adherents of exclusive humanism do not realize how problematic it is to rely on self-worth to keep us on our mettle and human worth to drive us forward to do good. Taylor also recognizes how even philanthropic actions driven by ‘high religious ideals’ can result in this superiority aspect (Taylor. 1999a. 32). which he admits is a matter of faith rather than a guarantee. Taylor suggests that a lot of these sentiments are in fact fickle and subject to the media focus ‘on the cause of the month’ (Taylor. 30–31). 31). the cause is then forgotten for a new one. but in its wake encourages ‘force. sets high standards to forge towards. is Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . Exclusive humanists do not seem to realize how such motivations ‘can slide into something trivial. the very philanthropy that was meant to help people eventually succumb to ‘contempt. 1999a. The other side becomes disappointed in the very people that are supposed to be getting help. A further criticism he makes here is that ‘lofty humanism’ and a solidarity driven by ‘high religious ideals’ are both Janus faced. controlled and ultimately engulfed in an ‘unconditional love’ of the beneficiaries’. either by exclusive humanists or religious supporters. For Taylor. On a positive note. 1999a. 33). Despite this. but he re-emphasizes that his way out from this dilemma. however. He argues that in the search for justice. Lofty humanism. he suggests. they result in an ‘ugly dialectic’ because they are not ‘tempered. then. He argues that this fickleness is due to the solidaristic efforts being driven by a sense of moral self-worth which. then. Taylor notes a further criticism of exclusive humanism. the history of despotic socialism is evidence of this reversal and is also encapsulated in Elena Ceausescu’s statement just before her execution that the Romanian people were unworthy given all that her husband had done for them (Taylor. the level of indignation over trying to right a wrong often results in hatred towards the perpetrators and inevitably leads to a feeling of superiority. For Taylor. gives us a ‘sense of satisfaction and superiority when we contemplate others’. He again notes how such sentiments were prevalent in the very religion that the Enlightenment critique exposed. Taylor reiterates that much of what he has just discussed was a part of Christendom and not just exclusive humanism. despotism. ugly. and aggression’. 1999a. 34). which he also sees as occurring within certain religious movements such as the Christian right. So even though the initial motive was to seek justice this turns into its very opposite and we become generators of hatred and injustice (Taylor. Taylor praises the unprecedented levels of solidarity and benevolence that pervade modernity and which he admits are also a part of exclusive humanism (Taylor. One side is predisposed to act to do some good. Indeed. tutelage and ultimately contempt’. For Taylor. hatred.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 240 this ‘unconditional love’. When the focus changes. he assumes. or downright dangerous and destructive’. 1999a.
One offering from the 1970s is that of Manser and Cass. who argued that the ‘Judeo-Christian concept of love of Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . From a position of ‘Christian spirituality’. and the possibility that her treatment of the poor and sick was far from benign (Shields. however. Taylor presents two forms of giving and helping above. In the case of Mother Theresa. while also acknowledging that not all of her life was about flourishing. theists or non-theists. 517). however. 1999a. On that point let me give a non-theistic account. He argues that in doing so. extraordinarily saintly people. he is giving a ‘Christian ‘spin’’ to the things that seem to point to God.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 241 faith in ‘Christian spirituality’. 226). Now. which is ‘unconditional love’ or the fact that you are a being in the image of God (Taylor. What I am suggesting is that the very process of Christian ‘spin’ he is engaged in is problematic because it offers an uncritical interpretation of the acts of others. I look at the world and see individuals. ‘we might recognize. Indeed. 1996. which for him is only possible if we open ourselves up to God. a more realistic reading of the saintly experience may be gleaned from Elizabeth Stuart. 1994. Taylor admits that all the above can be given a non-theistic ‘spin’ but his own preferred account is theistic. has to spin doctor them into paragons of virtue who are purveyors of ‘unconditional love’. because saints are assumed to be engaged only in acts of ‘unconditional love’. The problem with this is that it accepts uncritically the practices of these people that might not be as ‘saintly’ as Taylor supposes. It blinds him to the fact that they are human beings who can have weaknesses just like everyone else. 1994. through his emphasis on ‘unconditional love’. Indeed. For Taylor. Taylor himself thinks he avoids this. like Taylor. 35). celebrate and tap into her energy as manifested in particular actions or ways of being. When. however. which result in a superior air and/or utter contempt towards the beneficiaries. 227). undertaking extraordinary benevolent acts I admire them while recognizing that they are also fallible human beings. individuals like Mother Theresa are ‘exceptional people’ whom he calls for short ‘saints’ (Taylor. Taylor. even when we do examine studies on giving. it is not enough to suggest here that Taylor has picked a bad example and could therefore get a better one. Taylor’s extreme position cannot allow for this. 1995). Indeed. Taylor praises Mother Theresa for extending help to the ‘irredeemably broken’. 133). she can either be interpreted in a positive light as the embodiment of ‘unconditional love’ (Muggeridge. 1971) or she can be seen far more problematically given her extreme form of Catholicism. 1989. and his own experience of prayer (Taylor. for example. who argues that in the case of female saints. that some of it may have been about withering of herself and others’ (Stuart. hostility to Vatican II (Hitchens. there is little evidence to support Taylor’s extreme position here. One individual that Taylor does put forward as an exemplar for offering ‘unconditional love’ is Mother Theresa (Taylor. a Christian Feminist. 1997/98).
1996. Yet Connolly does not think that this fully undermines Taylor’s Catholicism and advocacy of diversity because he could come to appreciate non-theistic sources of the good. Such a holier than thou attitude. Yet just why non-theists are incapable of ‘unconditional love’ is unclear. Piliavin and Charng. 123–124. thus emerges in his Catholicism. even if they were deemed altruistic. Let us say as a hypothetical example we have a theist and a non-theist both working in the Third World to help the poor. 7–8). Is it therefore not slightly arrogant of Taylor to tell the non-theist that although her actions and motivations are exactly the same as the theist. Some suggest that altruism is the main motivating factor (Clary and Snyder. 2004)8. 236–240. as Taylor himself realizes. 1976. which does not help Taylor’s position either. there is a superior air in Taylor’s loading of the dice in the favour of theists. but as this is not necessarily linked to God it does not help Taylor’s position anyway. they must. 1991. then he is still committed to denying that the love offered by the non-theist is ‘unconditional’. Indeed. 35). Schervish and Havens. Others have suggested that motives are always mixed (Martin. those of us who do not open ourselves up to God are incapable of ‘unconditional love’ whereas those who do are. 1997. Such a lack of openness in Taylor’s Catholicism due to his apparent hostility to non-theistic sources of the good has also been detected by William Connolly (Connolly. are inferior compared to giving premised on the love of God. but exactly the same can be said for the theist as well. Mount. Yet what we have just seen above is that on the issue of ‘unconditional love’ no Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . Ruth Abbey utilizes Connolly’s argument here in order to defend Taylor against the charge of not offering due respect to non-theistic moral sources (Abbey. which also undermines the supposed openness of his Catholicism. however be conditional and thus inferior? Hence.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 242 one’s neighbour’ is at the core of people’s desire to help others (Manser and Cass. forthcoming). which Taylor would no doubt like to reject out of hand. 1990). Let us assume that they both do so not for anything for themselves. 1994. So on the whole there is little evidence among studies on giving to support Taylor’s contention that a truly benevolent act is only possible if you open yourself up to God. the majority of more recent studies on giving do not see the love of God as a motivating factor at all. How is the love offered different between the theist and the non-theist? Taylor would no doubt say that the non-theist is susceptible to the problems of lofty humanism mentioned earlier. At one stroke then. but simply for the ‘unconditional love’ they offer to fellow human beings who are suffering. Taylor would have to declare that multiple examples of giving. Yet if they do not descend into this ‘ugly dialectic’ as Taylor calls it. The extremity of Taylor’s position also reveals another problem in that it shows him to have the very superior air he tried to assign to lofty humanism and those adopting a high religious standpoint. However.
such as doing benevolent actions for greater self-worth. Moreover. but only as vehicles for showing your love of God. conditionality is also present because it is not caring for people for their own sake. Conditionality. must be linked to God. 35). they are a means to an end – loving Godrather than an end in themselves. ‘unconditional love’ is ‘only’ (my emphasis) possible if we adopt a theistic perspective.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 243 such respect is possible because. as Taylor suggests. Taylor thinks it ‘can’ descend into contempt or a superior air towards the women she will be trying to help. otherwise all the problems mentioned above about contempt and superiority can begin to emerge. which he was so critical of in lofty humanism. Taylor’s position is so extreme here that we must remember that all acts of giving. it does not mean it ‘will’ happen. A further problem with Taylor’s conception of ‘unconditional love’ is that when it is given to beneficiaries. which Taylor thinks is present in lofty exclusive humanism and some religious groupings. the love must therefore be directed at an ‘other’ with no strings attached as it were. For Taylor. 1999a. must be rejected. Taylor’s conception of ‘unconditional love’ for his Catholicism is therefore problematic in a number of areas. a woman escaping domestic violence by seeking shelter in a women’s refuge may regain her self-esteem and thus be fired by an ambition to help other women who have been abused. the attempt by Taylor to maintain that only theists are capable of ‘unconditional love’ brings in a superior air to his Catholicism. Her very belief in the rights of women could have a very positive effect in inspiring women to escape domestic violence and also support other women in distress. The offer of ‘unconditional love’ is therefore actually conditional on loving God. Taylor’s hostility to Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . An additional problem also arises when we consider the dangers present in offering love or compassion that is unconditional and that cannot therefore be based on the ‘worth realized in you just as an individual’ (Taylor. which has developed from her own experiences. Additionally. as Taylor explicitly states. Yet while this is certainly a possibility it also might not be the case as Taylor’s ‘can’ indicates. Now while this ‘can’ happen. It further ignores the fact that self-worth as a motivating factor for helping need not lead into contempt or a superior air over others. So the very possibility of Taylor appreciating non-theistic sources of the good collapses in the case of ‘unconditional love’. if they are to avoid falling into the ‘ugly dialectic’. Yet when we examine Taylor’s own position here. and thus undermines Abbey’s defence of Taylor. As this involves her own worth. For example. It is also self-contradictory because it is conditional on the love of God. His emphasis on ‘unconditional love’ also ignores the fact that the extreme theistic form of giving Taylor desires finds little support across a number of studies on that issue. His religious spin doctoring means he has an uncritical and thereby unrealistic approach to those he considers capable of ‘unconditional love’.
which is a little strange given the latter is his paradigm for modern-day Catholicism. what was distinctive about this approach was that the ‘key to conversion was in discovery of and Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . 105). disillusioned with the hellfire and damnation approach to preaching the gospel. Now when a major philosopher pinpoints an individual as. which clearly shows the illogical nature of his edict. will be two-fold. Before that. but it would not have resulted in diversity because Protestantism would have lost one of its recruits. Taylor would not want the Protestant to become a Catholic. 44). Let us suppose that Taylor was to have a conversation with a Protestant about his Catholicism and the Protestant was so impressed by Taylor’s ‘best account’ that he decided to become a Catholic. Matteo Ricci Another core aspect of Taylor’s Catholicism. then. Ricci’s mission of widening the faith was not as Taylor assumes. I show how Taylor runs into further difficulties when he begins to backtrack on this aspect of Ricci’s approach and instead suggests he was using it to consider modernity without preconceptions. In short. Taylor would certainly have widened the Catholic faith. First. To this end. Further problems arise for Taylor when we consider his endorsement of Matteo Ricci as an exemplar for modern-day Catholicism. I examine the nature of Ricci’s mission below to reveal that it is not at all as open to difference as Taylor suggests. then we must take him at his word and carefully examine the nature of Ricci’s mission and his approach to differing belief systems. In his history of the Jesuits. By definition then. ‘the emblem of his argument for inculturation’ (Shea. however.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 244 non-theistic sources of the good is evident in his emphasis on the possibility of ‘unconditional love’ ‘only’ from within a theistic perspective. emphasized the importance of immersing oneself in the culture of the Other in order to achieve ‘active exchange and mutual fertilisation’ (Lacouture. it is worth pointing out straight away that Taylor’s Catholic principle of propagation only with diversity is itself illogical in practice. is his clarion call to ‘try to do for our time and place what Matteo Ricci was striving to do four centuries ago in China’ (Taylor. Taylor suggests that this involves asserting the Catholic principle stated earlier of ‘no widening of the faith without an increase in the variety of devotions and spiritualities and liturgical forms and responses to incarnation’. Taylor offers us no historical references or evidence about the nature of Ricci’s mission to support his argument. My contention here. 1996. Jean Lacouture notes how Ricci followed in the footsteps of Francis Xavier who. For Lacouture. Second. 1999a. 1999. in the words of one of his fellow Catholics. and that he admits does seem ‘strange’ and ‘outlandish’. 15). Indeed. as we noted earlier.
A dialogue or exchange therefore takes place to achieve what Lacouture calls a ‘cultural symbiosis’. sundials. 194–195. 71–72.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 245 respect for the Other’ and conversion itself was also ‘self-conversion. In his reply. intelligence gathering and understanding as conditions for the progress of the faith’ would certainly seem to fit in with Taylor’s own preference for only propagating the Catholic faith while allowing for diversity. Indeed. Lacouture informs us that these tactics were part of strategy in ‘winning the Chinese to Christianity’. which. It was left to Ricci to take up this quest. 179). 1996. The emphasis on ‘information. Initially. He further maintained that ‘at this moment we are not in China to reap or even sow but simply to clear the forest’. the propagation of the faith is ‘fundamental’ for Ricci. as Lacouture himself admits. which modern day Jesuits refer to as ‘‘inculturation’’. he adopted the garb of a Buddhist monk. However. 1995. To ‘propagate the Holy Faith’ Ricci certainly attempted to ‘inculturate’ himself into Chinese culture. say how they had been received and establish ‘what opportunities this country offers for the propagation of our Holy Faith’ (Lacouture. which would seem to undermine the supposedly open approach of ‘acculturation’. and clocks that he constructed (Lacouture. Xavier advocated that the missionary’s aim in China was to detail the affairs of the country. 195). by his use of cartography. Woodrow. These tactics resulted in a ‘meagre’ forty conversions. Mitchell. and Ricci duly received a letter from his friend Father Costa in Rome asking the reason why. He attempted to gain the confidence of the Chinese by allowing them to borrow books. 1980. as it turned out. 126). and in showing them the prisms. 155–156). 186 and 188. 1996. Woodrow. which again suggests subsumption rather then the ‘unity-across-difference’ that Taylor supposes Ricci’s mission to be about (Lacouture. That Ricci’s ultimate aim was the very ‘unity-through-identity’ that Taylor opposes therefore seems abundantly clear. 1996. 1996. 137). 1996. Moreover. 1995. 1996. or in Lacouture’s term ‘acculturation’ (Lacouture. the ultimate goal of which was subsumption and not a respect for difference as Taylor assumes and so desires as a model for his modern-day Catholicism. Ricci confirmed that ‘it is with this object that we have come here’ (Quoted in Lacouture. the fact that Lacouture can say that Ricci’s aim was to ‘conquer China’ through his intelligence suggests something more than ‘acculturation’. He learnt Chinese and adopted the appearance of a Buddhist monk (Lacouture. Ricci’s strategy of dressing himself in the clothes of those he would like to convert to Catholicism further reveals the ‘unity-through-identity’ nature of his mission. yet the ‘Chinese are not so wanting in intelligence that a single one of them is misled as to our final intentions’. 1996. was a mistake because monks were held in general contempt due to the Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . 223). or at least self-adaptation to fit the contours of another culture’ (Lacouture. 71–75). This will become clear as we now examine Ricci’s mission in China. To this end.
almost contemptuously’ (Lacouture. but also played it. cf Spence. 1985. 1981. Gernet. 1996. exchanging his brown robe for a habit of dark red silk (Lacouture. 200–201). Yet Ricci himself was completely hostile to Buddhism (Lacouture. Similarly. 1996. This was because the Emperor had ultimate authority and would thereby ordain Catholicism throughout China (Lacouture. Hence. 1996. Aveling. Lacouture notes how Ricci’s diatribes against Buddhism were ‘often expressed angrily. Ricci’s interpretations of Confucian ideas. he advanced the claim that the only principle of Buddhism Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . 1996. 1985. 182). 1985. then. He therefore changed his appearance from a Buddhist monk to a Confucian. we noted earlier how Taylor himself attempted to draw positive parallels between aspects of Christianity and Buddhism. 1985. Gernet also notes how Ricci ‘poured ridicule’ upon central Buddhist beliefs such as transmigration and by ‘giving an incorrect interpretation to the Buddhist thesis of the unreality of the self and the general phenomena. Another aspect of Ricci’s approach. 1996. which is the origin of the cosmos (Gernet. 1985. 202). As Jacques Gernet notes Ricci ‘did not wish to reveal himself as what he was: a priest who had come to preach the true God to Pagans’ (Gernet. 15–16). so that we appear not so much to be following Chinese ideas as interpreting Chinese authors in such a way that they follow our ideas’ (Quoted in Gernet. 26–27). even on his deathbed Ricci ‘babbled ceaselessly of his desire to convert the Chinese and their emperor’ (Spence. to turn it in such a way that it is in accordance with the idea of God. Ricci in his work The True Meaning of the Master of Heaven stated that ‘we have judged it preferable in this book. however. as Jonathan Spence notes. 17). This was further evinced in his attitude to Confucianism and its principle of the Taiji. 207.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 246 history of monasticism. 199. Buddhism was the ‘central rival’ to Ricci’s Christian teaching and is why he spent so much of his time trying to ‘demolish’ the arguments of Buddhist believers (Spence. This is not surprising because. rather than attack what they [Confucius scholars] say. which would certainly not result in the ‘increase in the variety of devotions’ that Taylor’s Catholic principle desires. were to ‘make them say something other than what they really mean’ to win the Chinese over to Christianity and not to ensure diversity as Taylor’s Catholic principle suggests (Gernet. 26–27). was the fact that his main target for conversion was the Emperor. Indeed. He not only looked the part of a Confucian scholar. 1985. which suggests subsumption under the Catholic banner rather than diversity. 250). 1985. 1985. which involved beggary and thieving (Lacouture. all with the aim of getting the Catholic religion accepted. the best way to propagate the Catholic faith was to go straight to the place where it would have the greatest possibility of dissemination over all the people. 160). Finally. 196. 27). He also now had servants and was carried about on a palanquin. 161).
because it is a store house for ‘many spiritual forms. 1999. 78). this involves not only focusing on the present but also the past. modes of prayer. 108). and. 1999a. 1999a. 14–15). 85–86. cf Haughton. again it is not just the case that Taylor has picked a bad example here. devotion. Now. it is the inculturation approach that Ricci is renowned for and furthermore it was the use of this approach that Taylor explicitly endorsed for what modern-day Catholics should be doing in terms of his emphasis on ‘unity-across difference’ (Taylor. Taylor suggests that Ricci’s attempt to ‘‘go native!’’ and begin with an appreciation of what was good in Chinese civilization ‘must have been somewhere in my mind’ (Taylor. 1999b. 1999a. Ricci did have the ‘right answer’ and that was the authority of Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . Taylor now maintains that the point of using the example of Ricci was mainly to ‘think more fruitfully’ about society because we are both too close and too far from it to understand it properly (Taylor. Taylor’s persistence in using Ricci as a role model for modern-day Catholics. especially as he also contradicts himself later when he says. Ricci’s approach was riddled with preconceptions in that he was always looking for a way to subsume the ‘Other’ under the Catholic banner. In this way. 118). In explaining this further. 1999b. again in response to Marsden. Taylor argues that what the Ricci image offers is a way to consider modernity ‘without preconceptions’ and allow ‘ourselves to be both enthused and horrified by its different facets’ (Taylor. as we have seen. The point is that proselytizing was the main reason for Ricci’s mission and his attempt to understand Chinese society and its different faiths was to achieve that end. It is difficult to take Taylor seriously here. For instance. in the case of Buddhism in particular. which somewhere got lost and whose existence condemns whatever came after. says Taylor. 1999. 107). One main problem. is that in describing our current age we do so in ‘terms of what it is not’ and instead we need to have a ‘kind of Ricci-distance’ to understand it better. means that he still inherits the weaknesses that we have identified earlier. So Taylor’s endorsement of Ricci’s approach sits very uneasily with his proffering of the Catholic principle of widening the faith while allowing for diversity. Taylor begins to backtrack. who also questions Taylor’s use of the Ricci project but mainly in terms of strategy (Marsden. 1985. 106). however. For Taylor. Despite this.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 247 was nothingness’ (Gernet. Taylor’s change of tack is even more incredulous because. 106). It is therefore not surprising to note that in a response to fellow Catholic George Marsden. that he ‘was not really thinking about’ this facet of Ricci’s mission (Taylor. 76–77). of common life that could help us revivify the love and service of God in the present’ (Taylor. 1999a. Taylor thinks that his Catholicism will remain open and tolerant and is therefore less likely to slip into its more authoritarian and negative forms. he was downright hostile and dismissive. Taylor is quick to caution that the latter can only be useful as long as he and his fellow Catholics do not claim that they have the ‘right answer’.
226). it should also be noted how in comprehending the world Taylor thinks he and his fellow Catholics do so with one aim in mind and that is to serve God in the here and now. Michael L Morgan has attempted to defend Taylor here by arguing that the ‘self and God are related directly and not mediately. ‘Somehow’. Second. like Ricci. however. As we saw earlier in the discussion of ‘unconditional love’. and by drawing on the positive spiritual moments of the past to enlighten their ‘service of God in the present’ (Taylor. Taylor attempts to deny this by suggesting that ‘internalizing moral sources’. 108). which means that the ‘self is not overwhelmed or belittled’ (Morgan. A number of problems arise here. is accomplished by ‘free. 1999a. Morgan continues. of which God is one such source. I argued Taylor was making the latter conditional on loving God. 1989a. and is not answered by Taylor. ‘the self remains autonomous and becomes fulfilled even as it opens itself to the impact of the other’. 57). 1994. 1994. Morgan has to help Taylor out here by suggesting that Martin Buber’s I and Thou could be a useful resource for an autonomous rendering of the divine–human relationship (Morgan. What is interesting. Yet as we have seen. through the moral law’. to understand the world better by getting some distance from it. by not having preconceptions. In Sources of the Self. 1994. however. 454–455). The ‘somehow’ is the crux of the issue. when Taylor looks at the world he sees it as the will of God manifesting itself in the benevolent actions of human beings. 59). In this instance he is subordinating the lives and actions of individuals to serving God and at one stroke undermining any notion of an autonomous self. Such manifestations are also presumed to be good as God is again presumed to be incapable of evil. If our good actions are evidence of God’s love in the world then those actions are being directed by another and not by the person carrying them out. In the section on ‘unconditional love’. is that Taylor’s response to Morgan is merely to thank him ‘for the interesting discussion of Buber’ and does not develop the issue of the autonomy of the self in relation to God (Taylor. It is therefore difficult to see how Taylor can say he can look at the world without preconceptions given these pretty large and questionable assumptions. reasoning subjects’ who have their own ‘inner powers of constructing or transfiguring or interpreting the world’ (Taylor. Taylor sees certain things in the world as a manifestation of God’s existence.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 248 Catholic doctrine as laid down by the Catholic Church. Taylor suggests that Catholics need. Indeed. His mission therefore was to get this doctrine accepted throughout Chinese civilization. They most certainly do but in doing so they are not carrying out their own will but the will of God. A further problem for Taylor here is in the very course of action Taylor wants Catholics to take. by not having the ‘right answer’. however. The first point to note is that Taylor and his fellow Catholics do have a very major preconception when they look at the world and that is they see it as having been created and influenced by God. People are Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 .
1999b. When he further explores the divine–human relation in Varieties of Religion Today. the attempt by Taylor to walk away from this aspect of Ricci’s mission and suggest that it was mainly about attaining some distance from society only results in further problems. Conclusion In his concluding comments at the end of A Catholic Modernity?. 16). Yet this does still not get Taylor off the hook as regards the autonomy of the individual in relation to God. however. or God’s commandsywithout necessarily relying for guidance on one’s own inner sense of these things’ (Taylor. but in reality it is. Taylor asserts that there are two aspects to religious practice in relation to God that he thinks should complement each other (Taylor. They may internalize God as a moral source and use that to reason about the world but ultimately it is God’s reasoning and not theirs. Taylor pleads with those who are critical of his views to ‘calm down. Overall. it is incredibly difficult to think of a figure who can be less suited to Taylor’s modern-day Catholic project. The ‘unity-across-difference’ that Taylor suggests Ricci displays is not only illogical in practice but is also really the ‘unitythrough-identity’ approach that Taylor is so hostile to. it is clear that severe doubts still remain. then. The second type of religious practice is quite blatantly following God’s will and not the will of the individual involved. ‘Devout humanism’ again appears free because it emphasizes the internalization of God’s thought. So the divine–human relation remains shrouded in a distinct lack of autonomy of the self that Taylor fails to recognize. In his emphasis on Catholicism as difference. he has picked an unsuitable role model in Matteo Ricci’s Jesuit missionary work. God’s thought not theirs. Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . 15–16). 2002. 15). 125). 2002. and listen’ and not to dismiss them out of hand (Taylor. the ultimate aim for Ricci was conversion and a subsumption of Confucianism under the Christian banner. On the other side is ‘a religious practice that stresses the demands made by Godywhich consists in following the Law.Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 249 thereby reduced to conduits of God’s will and are thus not autonomous in their actions as Taylor would suggest. Additionally. With this itself being internally problematic. and given his intolerance of Buddhism. On the one side is what he calls ‘devout humanism’ where there is an ‘inner’ relation to God where people focus their lives on him through trust (Taylor. Despite the supposed emphasis on ‘acculturation’. Taylor does have preconceptions when examining the world and does not account for the lack of autonomy involved in the divine–human relationship. Having listened to his first full and explicit enunciation of the nature of his Catholicism. the Ricci project that Taylor wants modern Catholics to embrace is deeply flawed. 2002. again.
the viability of Taylor’s Catholicism for offering an orientation towards the good must be severely doubted. is conditional on loving God. forthcoming). I attempt to offer a systematic analysis of the four main tenets that I identify as defining Taylor’s Catholicism. which itself is also contradictory. J. 3). Date submitted: 18 March 2003 Date accepted: 17 July 2003 Notes 1 I would like to thank Ruth Abbey. 250pp. and ignores the powerful role self-worth can have in motivating people to engage in benevolent actions. which he thinks is only possible if we open ourselves up to God has little support in studies on giving. (forthcoming) ‘The Primary Enemy? Monotheism and Pluralism’. Contemporary Political Theory 2005 4 . and the anonymous reviewers of Contemporary Political Theory for their helpful comments and suggestions. leads Taylor to assume a superior air and a lack of respect to non-theistic sources of the good. Abbey. Lawrence Wilde. 6 For a useful overview of Vatican II and its implications for the Catholic faith see the selection of essays in (Hastings. Taylor’s very own Catholic principle of widening the faith only with increases in spiritual diversity has been shown to be illogical. 390pp. 2002). which need not fall into contempt towards the beneficiaries. 227–236). Moreover.) How Should We Talk about Religion? Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. he has no substantial vocabulary to articulate his conception of the transcendent. The usual disclaimers apply. New Jersey: Princeton. Aveling. Chapter 6). Finally. R. 2 For a notable and vociferous example. in J. see Skinner (1991. 8 I am grateful to Ruth Abbey for supplying me with a manuscript copy of this forthcoming chapter. 5 The emphasis on diversity also permeates his discussion of William James in Varieties of Religion Today (Taylor. (1981) The Jesuits.H.B. R. 1994). 3 Quoted in Heft (1999. Thus. Abbey (2000. and Connolly (2004). 4 The exceptions are Redhead (2002. 41–47). 31–33.C. 7 For an excellent account of the various roles articulation plays in Taylor’s thought see Abbey (2000. London: Blond & Briggs. White (ed. his notion of ‘unconditional love’. References Abbey. Smith (2002. Additionally. 1991) and for a more recent assessment Burns (2001).Ian Fraser Charles Taylor’s Catholicism 250 which was more about subsumption or ‘unity-through-identity’ rather than ‘unity-across-difference’. Indeed. Taylor himself further undermines the diversity aspect by reducing aspects of Buddhism to Catholicism and thus ignoring his own warnings not to ‘fudge’ or find a ‘common denominator’ between different belief systems. (2000) Charles Taylor.
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