As a 5-year-old in a bilingual household, Charles Taylor realized that French and English Canadians had very different understandings of the role of language.
Of course, he couldn't articulate it like that then.
"What struck me was that the two sides were talking past each other. The Anglophones were saying that language is just a tool to communicate with," he says. "The Francophones were saying, 'No, language constitutes your whole way of being.' "
The French, he says, were right. You can't look at language - or anything - simplistically.
That thought helped him become one of the foremost philosophers of the 20th century. Mr. Taylor argues that all …