Specters of the Nineteenth Century: Charles Taylor and the Problem of Historicism

This paper identifies and analyzes the problem of historicism in Charles Taylor's work overall, but with particular emphasis on his most recent publication, A Secular Age. I circumscribe the problem of historicism through reference to the nineteenth-century German philosophical tradition in which it developed, in particular in the thought of Wilhelm Dilthey. I then trace the structural similarities between the notions of history to be found in the thought of Taylor and Dilthey and how these structural similarities raise worries associated with the problem of historicism. I argue that the structural aporia of historicism evident in Taylor's work brings to light a live philosophical problem that is basic to theoretical debates in the study religion.