Habermas and Postsecularism: The Liberal State and the Religious Scources of Normativity
This paper explores the ramifications of Habermas's account of the religious resources of normativity for our understanding of the legitimacy of the modern liberal state. Its points of departure are the meeting of Jurgen Habermas and the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) on 19th January 2004, at the Catholic Academy of Baveria and Habermas's recent analysis of the significance of religion in a post-9/11 world. The paper thus uses the Habermas-Ratzinger exchange as a starting point from which to provide a critical discussion of Habermas's recent analysis of the role of religion and religious norms in Western political liberalism. Central to this discussion will be an analysis of Habermas's attempt at a 'translation' of religious ideas and moral judgements into what he considers to be the neutral discursive space of the liberal state in oder to provide the basis for an illumination of the creative role that religious belief can and should play in contemporary liberal-democratic social formations. The paper concludes with some critical reflections on the possibility of this notion of 'translation', principally concerning the belief that the liberal public sphere represents the kind of neutral discursive space that Habermas contends.
Keywords: Liberalism, Normativity, Religion, Political Theory, Philosophy, Ethics, Habermas, Lyotard, Nietzsche
Dr. Peter Richard Sedgwick
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Cardiff University