How (Not) to Be Secular:
Reading Charles Taylor
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An Amazon Review:
By Clint Schnekloth on May 20, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not every book about a book is a good book. This book about a book is not only a good book… it is a great book! Smith handily summarizes Charles Taylor’s complex argument on secularity in his magnum opus, A Secular Age. You can read Smith’s book as a chapter by chapter commentary on Taylor’s book (it is that). But the book also stands alone as a summary presentation of Taylor’s overall argument. It also stands alone as an introduction to secularity and contemporary philosophical reflection on it.
In other words, you don’t have to read Taylor while reading Smith. You can read Smith, and with great benefit.
This book originated in a class Smith hosted with students, a focused reading of A Secular Age. Readers could do a lot worse than assemble a group of sympathetic souls, and read Smith and Taylor together over a summer or semester. On the other hand, if you’ve been curious about Taylor but intimidated by the heft of A Secular Age, Smith offers here a handy and wonderful primer.
One of the most helpful parts of the book is Smith’s glossary. He offers simple definitions of some of Taylor’s technical terminology. I believe these will solidify some of the terminological discussions around Taylor’s work. See the definition of things like Age of Authenticity, Buffered Self, Cross-Pressure, Social Imaginary, the Unthought, and Excarnation.
This is a handy, helpful, and wonderful short read. You will not be disappointed.