A Little Philosophy for the United Nations: Finding Religion's Role in a Global Project

By Martin, Mike | Science & Spirit, May-June 2007 | Go to article overview

A Little Philosophy for the United Nations: Finding Religion's Role in a Global Project


Martin, Mike, Science & Spirit


The United Nations in New York City is a beehive of departments and a phonebook worth of officious titles. But it lacks one office in particular: U.N. philosopher of community.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

That seemed to change for a moment in March when the Canadian thinker Charles Taylor arrived at the Church Center for the United Nations to receive the annual Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. In the days since, Taylor's message has been that religion needs to be a key element in the U.N.'s effort to end extreme hunger and poverty by 2015.

In 2000, the United Nations convinced every country and major development organization to back eight goals--the Millennium Development Goals--designed to meet the needs of the world's poor. Taylor, who has been called a philosopher of community, argues that the United Nations must acknowledge and enlist the forces of world religions for these humanitarian and political aims to succeed.

Taylor, 75, received the annual Templeton Prize for his lifelong contribution to spiritual progress through his writings on philosophy and politics. The former Oxford and McGill University professor now teaches law and philosophy at Northwestern University near Chicago.

As impressive as the Millennium Development Goals may be, Taylor said in an interview with Science & Spirit, they exclude such concepts as people finding "meaning" in their lives. For a purely secular project, that "makes sense," he said. But because the U.N. goals must have an impact in religious cultures, they will likely come up short or hit unexpected obstacles.

These goals are reducing disease and child mortality; eliminating extreme poverty and hunger; and promoting primary education, gender equality, maternal health, environmental sustainability, and global partnerships. Taylor and others argued that these goals are challenging enough without adding an obstacle by overlooking the religious lives of the people involved in both providing and receiving aid.

In the Western world, spiritual impoverishment may handicap the U.N. plan for "first world" countries to contribute resources to the developing world. Taylor and other philosophers said they wonder if the wealthy West has the values necessary to carry out that mission.

Although "we in the West do give billions in aid, Western self-centeredness prevents more aid from being transferred from us to them--and it is 'us' and 'them' for the most part," said Trent Dougherty, a religion and science philosophy fellow at the University of Rochester. In other words, it is easy to conclude that the prosperous part of the world is not really motivated to cure problems elsewhere.

Taylor said he believes the West's self-absorption hampers its sympathy for the desperate parts of the world. A society of preoccupied individuals becomes passive toward poverty. "This malaise, which arises partly out of modern individualism, is very much a Western--or Northwestern--phenomenon," Taylor said.

James Tully, a fellow countryman of Taylor's and a political scientist at the University of Victoria, is another critic of the way that Western "prosperity malaise" breeds indifference to other nations.

The rush to individualism rather than community, Tully said, results in the "inability and unwillingness of Westerners to see that they are historically responsible for the horrendous inequalities between the global North and South."

Dougherty cited Millennium Development Goal No. 8 as an example of something the West is not prepared for: a global partnership for third-world development. The West cannot be an effective partner unless it sees itself as part of a world community, he said.

Finding a balance between individuals and community is a constant challenge for any political system, Taylor said. The political result in most countries is to separate people into homogenous groups, rather than to create a functioning social diversity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Little Philosophy for the United Nations: Finding Religion's Role in a Global Project
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.