Taylor, long one of our most insightful thinkers on such questions, offers a historical perspective. He examines the development in "Western Christendom" of those aspects of modernity which we call secular. What he describes is in fact not a single, continuous transformation, but a series of new departures, in which earlier forms of religious life have been dissolved or destabilized and new ones have been created.
As we see here, today's secular world is characterized not by an absence of religion - although in some societies religious belief and practice have markedly declined - but rather by the continuing multiplication of new options, religious, spiritual, and anti-religious, which individuals and groups seize on in order to make sense of their lives and give shape to their spiritual aspirations.
What this means for the world - including the new forms of collective religious life it encourages, with their tendency to a mass mobilization that breeds violence - is what Charles Taylor grapples with, in a book as timely as it is timeless.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By P on 25-03-16
Marred by the long quotes in terrible French
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
This was always going to be a challenging listen, because of its length and the complexity of its theme. But the reason I had to abandon it partway through had nothing to do with the content.
The written work includes frequent long (up to a paragraph in length) quotations from key thinkers in the original language, followed by a translation. For the audible version, it needed to be edited so that only the translation was narrated. I don't know anybody who can translate mediaeval Latin or 18th century French by ear while driving a car down the motorway, so including the original texts added nothing. As the book progressed, I became increasingly frustrated at having to listen to several minutes of incomprehensible narration before getting to the translation.
As the narrative of the book moved to consider the thinkers of 17th and 18th century France, my frustration was increased by the grating, truly bad French accent of the narrator, and for the first time I had to abandon an audio book in the middle
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
By Anonymous User on 08-09-18
Rich but mixed performance
This would be an excellent reading of Taylor’s magnum opus if the narrator did not insist on reading French and German quotations despite being ignorant of both languages. The work itself is obviously hugely stimulating.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Norman on 13-06-15
Needs Guest Narrators for French and German
It's great to have such a serious academic title available on audio, but the publisher, Audible Studios, need to seriously reconsider using English language narrators for the many long passages in French or German. Audible Studios produces French and German audiobooks for their foreign .fr and .de sites, so this is hardly beyond their resources or competence. Holland makes so many errors with his French, and his German is simply growling, guttural English (not remotely like anything that sounds like German and utterly unintelligible), that the foreign language passages, which frequently come in the space of every couple minutes, make the book an unnecessarily painful experience for the many multilingual listeners who are likely to be among its audience. Passages shouldn't be unintelligible just because they're in a foreign language, especially for listeners fluent in those languages.
Prospective listeners not fluent in French or German needn't be put off from the book in that all such passages are translated after the initial (horrific) reading.
I still give the book 4 stars overall, as any audio production of a 900-page tome from Harvard Press is a considerable service. Holland well captures Taylor's meditative yet embattled tone, though the book lacks structure and I think promises more than it delivers in terms of its thesis.
19 of 20 people found this review helpful
By Marcus on 28-07-15
The Path to Exclusive Humanism
One can see the development of the western societies as a road to progressive secularization, a way that leads to a social organization in with religious beliefs are no more necessary to explain the human life. This narrative, Charles Taylor convincingly argues, is questionable and has alternatives. The development of science and the reinvention of the individual aren't incompatible with the desire of transcendency. Modern societies show the revival of religious beliefs - the author refers the examples of the United States and Latin American countries - and entertain ideas and institutions based in a conception of the human that is not exclusively naturalistic. This is a most read book by whom wants to understand postmodern human society.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful