Honorary degrees from the University of Oxford will be awarded at Encaenia on 20 June.  The ceremony takes place every year at the Sheldonian Theatre and this year, Rhodes Scholar Professor Charles Taylor (Quebec & Balliol 1952) will be made honorary Doctor of Letters. 

Charles Taylor as a Rhodes Scholar, 1952Professor Taylor is an extremely distinguished political philosopher and public intellectual who is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at McGill University.  His writings cover a very broad range of themes, including morality, multiculturalism, social behaviour, religion and artificial intelligence, with over 15 books published during his 50-year career.

As a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, Professor Taylor read PPE at Balliol and was then elected to a Prize Fellowship at All Souls.  He was a pupil of Isaiah Berlin, who since commented: 'Whatever one may think of his central beliefs, [they] cannot fail to broaden the outlook of anyone who reads his works or listens to his lectures, or, indeed, talks to him.' Professor Taylor has previously been Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford, a Fellow of All Souls, and has also been engaged in Canadian politics.

During recent years, Professor Taylor has been particularly known for co-leading the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodation of religious minorities, and for the publication of his comprehensive study A Secular Age (Harvard University Press, 2007).

Professor Charles TaylorIn 2007 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, in recognition of his work considering the role of spiritual thinking in the 21st century.  This prize was originally established by Sir John Templeton (Connecticut & Balliol 1934), a pioneer in both financial investments and philanthropy, who encouraged open-mindedness and a focus on the spiritual.  The Templeton Prize was established in 1972, as the world’s largest annual award given to an individual at that time, and the Prize is intended to recognize exemplary achievement in work related to life's spiritual dimension.

When accepting the Templeton prize, Professor Taylor remarked: 'We have somehow to break down the barriers between our contemporary culture of science and disciplined academic study on one hand, and the domain of spirit, on the other.  This has been one of the driving goals of my own intellectual work.' 

This distinction was followed in November 2008 by him becoming the first Canadian to win Japan's Kyoto Prize for arts and philosophy.  Professor Taylor is also a member of the Order of Canada and a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The other individuals who will be receiving honorary degrees at this year's Encaenia are:

  • Dr Henry Barnett, neurologist
  • David John Moore Cornwell, who writes as John le Carré
  • Professor Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard University
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, Chair of the Burmese National League for Democracy, on her first visit to Europe since 1988
  • Baroness (Eliza) Manningham-Buller, the former Director General of MI5
  • Professor William Phillips, physicist
  • Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman of the Sony Corporation