Charles Taylor (philosopher)

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Language does not only serve to depict ourselves and the world, it also helps constitute our lives. Certain ways of being, of feeling, of relating to each other are only possible given certain linguistic resources.

Charles Margrave Taylor (born November 5, 1931) is a Canadian philosopher from Montreal, Quebec, and professor emeritus at the McGill University best known for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, history of philosophy, and intellectual history.


  • The earlier views, those of Hobbes or Locke for instance, saw language as an instrument, and understood meaning in terms of designation. Discovering the meaning of words is finding what ideas or things they stood for. ... By contrast, a hermeneutical view requires a very different conception. If we are partly constituted by our self-understanding, and this in turn can be very different according to the various languages which articulate for us a background of distinctions of worth, then language does not only serve to depict ourselves and the world, it also helps constitute our lives. Certain ways of being, of feeling, of relating to each other are only possible given certain linguistic resources.
    • Human Agency and Language (Cambridge: 1985), pp. 9-10
  • To know who I am is a species of knowing where I stand. My identity is defined by the commitments and identifications which provide the frame or horizon within which I can try to determine from case to case what is good, or valuable, or what ought to be done, or what I endorse or oppose. In other words, it is the horizon within which I am capable of taking a stand.
    • Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (ed. Cambridge University Press, 1992) - ISBN: 9780521429498

Quotes about Taylor

  • At most points in his discussion, however, Taylor speaks about true beliefs in a more familiar and restricted way. When he asks whether historians should take account of the fact that a particular belief is true when seeking to explain it, what he generally seems to be asking is whether we should take account of the fact that the belief in question accords with our own best current beliefs about the matter at issue.
    • Quentin Skinner, "Interpretation, rationality and truth", Visions of Politics (2002)
Social and political philosophers
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