Symposium "Charles Taylor's Questions"

Conferences and Workshops

[Closed conference for invited guests only]

Charles Taylor asks questions of a rare quality which go to the heart of things. They are inspiring in two ways, both intellectually and personally.  

Taylor’s main questions are so closely interconnected that he is often seen as a philosopher driven by one quest only. Small wonder then, that trying to single out three questions is difficult, as one continually comes up against more equally central questions, connections, underpinnings or spheres, in which a question takes on a new form. We had to weave those aspects, which we know are connected to these three. The three questions represented three areas of Taylors interest and engagement: philosophy, religion and secularism, politics and the political. His interests in multiculturalism, language and the ambiguities of modernity would also deserve individual panels but were discussed in the given frame.

His questions and ours were daunting as they are existential. Conversations, be they in writing and asynchronously or in shared space and time synchronously, are intellectually and personally enriching experiences.

In cooperation with Hartmut Rosa and the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt.


Panel 1 (10:00-11:45) - What is human action?
Taylor early on explored the difference between behavior and action. Later the question took the form of an inquiry into Hegel’s theory of action. One of his very influential writings straightforwardly asked what human action is. Bound together with this question is his powerful idea of strong evaluations and sources of the self, his notions about what it is to be a person, how individuals interact with their surrounding social spheres and generally how human beings are in contact with the world.
1.    Jens Beljan
2.    Bettina Hollstein
3.    Michiel Meijer
4.    Hartmut Rosa
Chair: Paolo Costa


Panel 2 (13:30-15:15) - What are the limits of the immanent frame?
In many if not all of Charles Taylor’s conceptions one can discern a fight against reductionism. This is clearly the case in his engagement with questions of religion, i.e. the long-term research on disenchantment and secularity as well as the pertinent patterns of re-enchantment. There are at least three aspects, in which these conceptions are discussed in an emphatically non-reductive way: namely his mappings of the porous as opposed to a buffered self, secondly the relation to both the world and the kingdom of God or the transcendent, and lastly how these relations are imagined as either aiming for a final form or showing an awareness for their necessarily tentative, preliminary character.
1.    Clemena Antonova
2.    Gesche Keding
3.    Hans Schelkshorn
4.    Michael Staudigl
Chair: Rajeev Bhargava

Panel 3 (15:45-17:30) - What does democracy need?
Next to his deep interest in multiculturality, his engagement with democracy is a core issue of Taylor’s work. His most recent book, conceived together with Dilip Gaonkar and Craig Calhoun and to be published soon, examines Degenerations of Democracy. It examines why democracy is under duress worldwide and states that “saving” democracy requires more than just processual or technical repairs. A renewal of democracy, the authors are convinced, must address two foundational issues: first, republican constitutions and norms of civic virtue, and second, social conditions for effective citizenship, solidarity and limits to inequality.
1.    Jason Blakely
2.    Ulf Bohmann
3.    Craig Calhoun
4.    Ludger Hagedorn
5.    Ruzha Smilova
Chair: Dilip Gaonkar