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He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, August 22, 2003

In an attempt to make Biblioblog live up to its name, I'll be listing interesting new academic books, along with snippets from as many reviews as I have access to. And our first entry is...

Taylor, Charles. Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited. Harvard, $19.95.

International Philosophical Quarterly: “Brief yet rich and densely argued…On virtually every page he offers new ways of considering such important issues as the nature of personal identity and the development of the modern state. Taylor’s attempts to weave James into these reflections, however, are for the most part not very productive. Taken separately, as either a commentary on James or as an expression of Taylor’s current thinking on the role of religion in society, the book works well; but when these projects are combined, the result is often obscure.”

Journal of Religion: “a focused, warm, and insightful book…Much of the time in this book, Taylor is more sociologist than philosopher…Taylor’s discussion of these Jamesian ideas is extremely insightful even though limited to a very small portion of his total corpus, that is, The Varieties and the essays collected in The Will to Believe…this book is excellent and constitutes a genuine contribution to both the philosophical and social science study of religion.—Don S. Browning, Univ. of Chicago.”

Review of Politics: “Taylor’s lectures are more suggestive and comprehensive, but they reflect immense learning and humane understanding. Those who agree-as I do-that his own book Sources of the Self has reached near classic status will wish to read these lectures which show us that a classic work has a surplus of meaning.—Lawrence Cunningham.”

New Republic: “a helpful if uneven review of the primacy of the individual in James’s work, an inquiry into the philosophical origins of this view, and a criticism of it in the name of communitarianism…Taylor presents a criticism of James that operates on two somewhat confused levels…Taylor has too much confidence in the community…Taylor is oddly unconcerned about the actual content of religious belief, about its truth…It is an odd criticism to make about Taylor, but in this book there is not enough philosophy.—Erin Leib.”

Library Journal: “a well-written, easily accessible overview of today’s individualistic religious tendencies. Recommended for larger public collections and those with strong holdings in theology.”


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