Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Habermas on "Intellectuals and their Public"

The Institute for Public Knowledge, New York, has published an excerpt from Jürgen Habermas's essay "An Avantgardistic Instinct for Relevances: The Role of the Intellectual and the European Cause" (2006):

"Intellectuals and their Public"

It is an extract from Habermas's acceptance speech on receiving the Bruno Kreisky Prize 2005. An English translation of the speech has been published in Habermas's "Europe: The Faltering Project" (Polity Press, 2009). The original German version is available here [pdf].

Monday, March 29, 2010

The voices of the Frankfurt School on mp3

Press release from Frankfurt University:

Die Stimmen der ‚Frankfurter Schule’

"Über 150 Tondokumente mit Reden und Interviews von Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno und Leo Löwenthal erstmals komplett digitalisiert.

Das Archivzentrum der Universitätsbibliothek Frankfurt am Main hat seine komplette Sammlung der historischen Tondokumente der ‚Frankfurter Schule’ digitalisiert. Die Digitalisierung umfasste über 150 Tonbänder und Audiokassetten der Jahre von 1950 bis 1972 mit einer Gesamtspieldauer von über 6.700 Minuten. Damit steht der wissenschaftlichen Forschung nun ein komfortabler Zugang zu den teilweise noch unveröffentlichten und einzigartigen Original-aufnahmen von Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Leo Löwenthal und Alexander Mitscherlich zur Verfügung. (.....)

Die digitalen Aufnahmen werden im Archivzentrum zusammen mit den dort verwahrten Dokumenten der ‚Frankfurter Schule’ inventarisiert und stehen für die Benutzer/innen an einem speziellen PC mit Kopfhörer als mp3-files zur Einsicht bereit. Diese und zahlreiche weitere originale Dokumente des Archivzentrums können montags bis freitags jeweils von 9:30 - 16:30 Uhr nach Voranmeldung und im Rahmen der Benutzungsordnung eingehend untersucht werden."

Further information here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Critical essays on Robert Brandom

New book:

Reading Brandom: On Making It Explicit

Ed. by Bernhard Weiss & Jeremy Wanderer

(Routledge, April 2010)

384 pp.


Robert Brandom’s "Making It Explicit" (Harvard University Press, 1994) is one of the most significant, talked about and daunting books published in philosophy in recent years. Featuring specially-commissioned chapters by leading international philosophers with replies by Brandom himself, "Reading Brandom" clarifies, critically appraises and furthers understanding of Brandom’s important book.



Part 1: Normative Pragmatics

1. Thought, Norms, and Discursive Practice
[pdf] - Allan Gibbard
2. Language not Mysterious?
[Word] - Charles Taylor
3. The Evolution of Why [pdf] - Daniel Dennett
4. Normativity of Mind versus Philosophy as Explanation [Word] - Sebastian Rödl
5. Pragmatism and Inferentialism [pdf] - John MacFarlane
6. Brandom’s Challenges - Jeremy Wanderer
7. Perception, Language, and the First Person [Word] - Mark Lance & Rebecca Kukla
8. Brandom on Observation [Word] - John McDowell
9. Being Subject to the Rule to Do What the Rules Tell You to Do [Word] - Roland Stout

Part 2: The Challenge of Inferentialism

10. Inferentialism and its Critics - Robert Brandom
11. Brandom Beleaguered [pdf]- Jerry Fodor & Ernest LePore

Part 3: Inferentialist Semantics

12. Inference, Meaning, and Truth in Brandom, Sellars, and Frege [Word] - Danielle Macbeth
13. Should Semantics be Deflated? [Word] - Michael Dummett
14. Representation or Inference: Must We Choose? Should We? - Michael Kremer
15. What is Logic? - Bernhard Weiss
16. Truth and Expressive Completeness [pdf] - Kevin Scharp
17. Assertibilist Truth and Objective Content: Still Inexplicit - Crispin Wright & Bob Hale

Part 4: Responses

Replies - Robert Brandom

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Rorty Reader

The Rorty Reader

Ed. by
Christopher J. Voparil & Richard J. Bernstein

(Wiley-Blackwell, April 2010)

576 pp.


The first comprehensive collection of the work of Richard Rorty (1931-2007), "The Rorty Reader" brings key essays published across many volumes and journals into one collection, including selections from his final volume of philosophical papers, "Philosophy as Cultural Politics" (Cambridge University Press, 2007). It contains the previously unpublished (in English) essay, “Redemption from Egotism” and includes in-depth interviews and several revealing autobiographical pieces.


General Introduction by Christopher J. Voparil [preview]

Part I: Toward Philosophy without Mirrors

1. Introduction to The Linguistic Turn [pdf]
2. Dewey’s Metaphysics
3. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature: Introduction and Chapter VIII
4. Pragmatism, Relativism, and Irrationalism
5. Nineteenth-Century Idealism and Twentieth-Century Textualism

Part II: Conversations with Analytic Philosophy

6. From Logic to Language to Play
7. Pragmatism, Davidson, and Truth
8. Twenty-Five Years After
9. Putnam and the Relativist Menace
10. Analytic and Conversational Philosophy

Part III: From Antirepresentationalism to Political Liberalism

11. Philosophy as Science, as Metaphor, and as Politics
12. Solidarity or Objectivity?
13. The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy
14. Freud and Moral Reflection
15. Private Irony and Liberal Hope

Part IV: Pragmatism, Literature, and Democracy

16. The Humanistic Intellectual: Eleven Theses
17. Heidegger, Kundera, and Dickens
18. De Man and the American Cultural Left
19. Feminism and Pragmatism
20. Human Rights, Rationality, and Sentimentality
21. Looking Backwards from the Year 2096
22. American National Pride: Whitman and Dewey
23. Redemption from Egotism: James and Proust as Spiritual Exercises

Part V: Philosophy as Cultural Politics

24. Truth without Correspondence to Reality
25. Ethics without Principles
26. Justice as a Larger Loyalty
27. Pragmatism as Romantic Polytheism
28. Religion in the Public Square: A Reconsideration
29. Is “Cultural Recognition” a Useful Concept for Leftist Politics?
30. Philosophy as a Transitional Genre

Part VI: Autobiographical:

31. From Philosophy to Post-Philosophy
32. Trotsky and the Wild Orchids
33. Biography and Philosophy
34. The Fire of Life

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Video: Habermas answers questions at Frankfurt University

Excerpts from a colloquium with Jürgen Habermas and four philosophy students from Frankfurt University, June 18, 2009:

TV 3sat Mediathek: Das Geburtstagskolloquium [in German]

Habermas answers questions on
- reason and communication (8 minutes)
- individuality and the otherness of the other (15 minutes)
- the anthropological foundation of ethics (10 minutes)
- civic ethos and democracy (22 minutes).

"Anlässlich seines 80. Geburtstages im Juni 2009 stellte Jürgen Habermas sich auf eigenen Wunsch im Eisenhower-Saal der Universität Frankfurt in einem Kolloquium unter der Leitung von Axel Honneth den Fragen von vier Doktoranden und Diplomanden der Philosophie. 3sat zeigt exklusiv Ausschnitte aus diesem Geburtstagskolloquium."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Webcast: Amartya Sen on Power and Capability

Webcast on Demos' website:

Amartya Sen on "Power and Capability"
Demos Annual Lecture, London
From March 15, 2010

Baroness Williams of Crosby, Liberal Democrat peer
Ed Miliband MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Great Britain
Aryeh Neier, President, Open Society Institute

Richard Reeves, Director, Demos (Chair)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New book: "Beyond Universal Pragmatics"

Beyond Universal Pragmatics
Studies in the Philosophy of Communication

Ed. by Colin B. Grant

(Peter Lang, 2010)

239 pp.


The explicit ambition of this collection is to move 'beyond' the Universal Pragmatics of Jürgen Habermas. It is without doubt an ambitious programme whose architect, Jürgen Habermas, has conducted since the 1960s a series of reflections on the rational potential of western society from the Enlightenment to the present. It is no exaggeration to say that the reconstruction of the rational basis of society underpins his entire critical project to this day and thus underlines the fundamental unity and continuity in his work. However, this theoretical emphasis on the irreducibility of the rational content of debate cannot avoid abstracting putative communicative universals from the empirical communication practices which are always embedded in multiple contexts of discourse, identity, media and institutions. This tension in Habermas's oevre has developed an antagonistic potential.

The nine contributions in this volume from the fields of psychology, politics, media, epistemology and aesthetics set out to move beyond the influence of communicative universals and propose alternative approaches to the challenge of reconciling autonomy, interaction and social organisation.

The collection is dedicated to Jürgen Habernas and Niklas Luhmann!


Colin B. Grant: Introduction

Edmond Wright: Habermas as Lacking in Faith?

Mark Olssen: Discourse, Complexity, Life: Elaborating the Possibilities of Foucault's Materialist Concept of Discourse

Bart Vandenabeele/Stijn Van Impe: Kant 'after' Habermas and Searle. Towards a Pragmatics of Aesthetic Judgements

Siegfried J. Schmidt: The Self-Organisation of Human Communication

João Salgado/Jaan Valsiner: Dialogism and the Eternal Movement within Communication

Katerina Strani: Communicative Rationality and the Challenge of Systems Theory

Loet Leydesdorff: Luhmann Reconsidered. Towards an Empirical Research Programme in the Sociology of Communication?

Tino G.K. Meitz: In Praise of Hubris: Habermas, Epistemology and Theory Formation

Colin B. Grant: Radical Contextualism vs. Universal Pragmatics

Monday, March 15, 2010

German TV program with Jürgen Habermas

On Monday March 22, 2010, the German tv station "3sat" will show excerpts from a colloquium with Jürgen Habermas and four students from Frankfurt University, which took place on Habermas's 80th birthday June 18, 2009:

Jürgen Habermas - Das Geburtstagskolloquium
(1 hour - 23.25-0.25)

"Jürgen Habermas wurde am 18. Juni 1929 in Düsseldorf geboren und ist international einer der wichtigsten zeitgenössischen Philosophen. Bekannt wurde er hauptsächlich durch seine Arbeiten zur Sozialphilosophie. Habermas war an allen großen theoretischen Debatten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland beteiligt und bezog als "öffentlicher Intellektueller" zu gesellschaftlichen Kontroversen wie dem Historikerstreit, der Bioethikdiskussion, der Europäische Verfassung, dem Streit um die Willensfreiheit und dem Irak-Krieg Stellung.

Anlässlich seines 80. Geburtstages im Juni 2009 stellte er sich auf eigenen Wunsch im Eisenhower-Saal der Universität Frankfurt in einem Kolloquium unter der Leitung von Axel Honneth den Fragen von vier Doktoranden und Diplomanden der Philosophie.

3sat zeigt exklusiv Ausschnitte aus diesem Geburtstagskolloquium - dem seit Jahren ersten Auftritt von Habermas im Fernsehen".

Sunday, March 14, 2010

At Oxford University: "The Legacy of John Rawls"


Catherine Audard in conversation with Adam Swift
The Legacy of John Rawls

Thursday March, 18, 2010, 2.30 - 4.00 pm
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford

Beyond recognizing the extraordinary influence of Rawls’s work, it is not easy to assess his legacy because his is a dual legacy. Is he primarily a theorist of justice, or a theorist of stability and legitimacy? We will discuss whether Rawls should be read as a liberal seeking to justify individual rights and egalitarian distributive principles, as a republican committed to public reason in the political sphere, or as both.

Catherine Audard is Visiting Fellow, Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, LSE and Chair of the Forum for European Philosophy; Département de philosophie, École Normale Supérieure, Paris. She is the author of John Rawls (Acumen Press, 2007).

Adam Swift is CUF University Lecturer in Politics, Member of the Centre for the Study of Social Justice, Fellow in Politics and Sociology, Balliol College, University of Oxford.

(Thanks to The Brooks Blog for the pointer).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Habermas: A Guide for the Perplexed"

New book:

Habermas: A Guide for the Perplexed

by Lasse Thomassen

(Continuum, 2010)

182 pp.


"This book will try to make sense of Habermas. I will try to make up for the difficulties in reading and understanding Habermas by translating Habermas into a more accessible language and give a systematic account of the main tenets of his work. Although I shall mention some of the criticisms that have been raised against Habermas, the aim of the book is not to find contradictions or oversights in Habermas's work; rather, this introduction is meant as a friendly reconstruction of Habermas's work." (From the introduction).

"Habermas: A Guide for the Perplexed" follows Habermas’s critical and philosophical project through all the stages of its development – the early critical theory, the linguistic turn, communicative action and discourse ethics, the theory of deliberative democracy -building up a complete overview of his work, and offering close and incisive analysis throughout.


1. Introduction
2. Towards a Critical Theory of Society
3. The Public Sphere
4. Communicative Action and Reason
5. Discourse Ethics
6. Deliberative Democracy
7. The New Political Constellation

Lasse Thomassen is Senior Lecturer in Political Theory in the Department of Politics at Queen Mary, University of London.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Forthcoming: "The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere"

From the webblog "The Immanent Frame":

A collection of essays by Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, Judith Butler, and Cornel West will be published by Columbia University Press in fall 2010, entitled "The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere".

The essays are:

Jürgen Habermas - "The Political": The Rational Meaning of a Questionable Inheritance of Political Theology

Charles Taylor - Why We Need a Radical Redefinition of Secularism

Judith Butler - Is Judaism Zionism?

Cornel West - Prophetic Religion and the Future of Capitalist Civilization.

Each chapter was originally presented as a talk at a recent symposium co-hosted by the Social Science Research Council, the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, and the Humanities Institute at SUNY Stony Brook. Materials related to this event, including audio recordings and transcripts of the panel sessions, are available here.

"The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere" is edited and introduced by Jonathan Van Antwerpen (editor of The Immanent Frame) and Eduardo Mendieta (Stony Brook).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New book: Joshua Cohen on Rousseau

A Free Community of Equals

by Joshua Cohen

(Oxford University Press, 2010)

224 pp.


In famously beautiful and laconic prose, Jean-Jacques Rousseau presents us with a forceful picture of a democratic society, in which we live together as free and equal, and our politics focuses on the common good. In "Rousseau: A Free Community of Equals" Joshua Cohen explains how the values of freedom, equality, and community all work together as parts of the democratic ideal expressed in Rousseau's conception of the 'society of the general will'. The book also explains Rousseau's anti-Augustinian and anti-Hobbesian idea that we are naturally good, shows why Rousseau thinks it is reasonable for us to endorse that idea, and discusses how our natural goodness might make a free community of equals possible for us. And Cohen examines in detail Rousseau's picture of the institutions of a democratic society: why he emphasised the importance of political participation, how he argued against extreme inequalities, and what led him to embrace a civil religion as necessary for the society of the general will. This book provides an analytical and critical appraisal of Rousseau's political thought that, while frank about its limits, also explains its enduring power.



1: A Free Community of Equals? [pdf]
2: The Society of the General Will
3: Reflections on the General Will's Sovereignty
4: The Natural Goodness of Humanity
5: Democracy

Joshua Cohen is a professor of law, political science, and philosophy at Stanford University. He is program leader for the Program on Global Justice at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and editor of Boston Review.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Manfred Frank on Sloterdijk - the "Honneth/Sloterdijk debate" continues

"Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" has today an article by professor Manfred Frank on the connection between philosophy and social crises - "Die spätgriechische Dekadenz" (March 10, 2010).

In the last part of the article Manfred Frank attacks Peter Sloterdijk and his critique of the tax-financed welfare state. The so-called "Honneth/Sloterdijk debate" continues!

Here are some excerpts:

"Die von den Frühromantikern gegebene Diagnose des Legitimationsproblems der Moderne zeigt ihre Kraft darin, dass das Problem ungelöst fortbesteht. Und wieder sehen wir zwei Diskurse im Wettstreit um seine Lösung: den religiösen und den philosophischen. Der letztere traut der Menschenvernunft zu, die normativen Potentiale der Vorweltreligion mit ihren eigenen Mitteln zu beerben, ohne selbst die Sprache der Religion zu reden."

"Es gibt aber eine dritte Art von Reaktion auf die jüngste Krise, und sie ist gefährlicher. Statt die dem Leben in gesellschaftlicher Kooperation innewohnenden normativen Potentiale aufzurufen, träumt sie von der "Züchtung" eines neuen Menschen, den Sinnfragen nicht mehr kratzen, weil er den Humanismus in sich ertötet hat. Wer sich zu Werten wie Solidarität und Gerechtigkeit bekennt, muss sich als "weiches", als "Dattel-Herz" verspotten lassen, als "Milch-Busen" und "Süßholz-Herz-Beutelchen". "Oh Humanität! Oh Blödsinn!", rufen die über die Aufklärung aufgeklärten Vernunftfeinde und weisen uns den Weg für das, was Nietzsche "die große Politik", das "Gefährlichdenken" und Peter Sloterdijk die "gattungspolitische Entscheidung" nennt." (.....)

"Sloterdijk hat sich zu Recht von den "Philosophieprofessoren" abgegrenzt, weil er ihr Handwerk verachtet - und wirklich auch nicht gelernt hat. (.....) Die Kunst der Argumentation ist das Handwerk, der lernbare, methodische Anteil der Philosophie, den "die Schule" vermittelt. Darin besteht ihre unscheinbare Würde. Die Schulverachtung postmoderner Jugendsekten ersetzt kein Argument: Den einzigen Triumph feiert, wer es besser macht als der Schulmeister. Sloterdijk versteckt sein Schulmanko jedoch hinter einer gleisnerisch-geistreichen und belebenden Suada voller aufgedonnerter wie erlesener Fremdworte (wie jüngst "thymotisch") und aparter Begriffszusammenstellungen nach Foucaults Manier (Menschenpark, Menschentreibhaus, Makrosphärologie, politische Kinetik, Anthropotechnik, Staats-Kleptokratie), die wegen Ungewohnheit verblüffen, aber bei genauer Betrachtung keine argumentative Arbeit leisten." (.....)

"Nun würde Sloterdijks Aversion gegen eine gewisse Argumentationskultur sowie die Frankfurter Schule niemanden beunruhigen, wenn die Motive nicht von Allgemeininteresse wären. Am Anfang des Elends sieht Sloterdijk Rousseau. Leicht lässt er sich identifizieren als der geistige Anstifter einer leistungsträgerfeindlichen Miesmachungskampagne, deren letztes Glied die Kritische Theorie zu sein scheint. (.....) Leistungsbringer wie Sloterdijk werden von legal dazu ermächtigten leistungsschwachen Plebejern, von Sozialparasiten ausgesaugt. Statt den Enteigneten Recht zu verschaffen, ist der moderne Staat "eine beinahe selbstlose, rechtlich gezügelte Staats-Kleptokratie geworden". Zwar haben Steuerrechtler und Wirtschaftsfachleute Sloterdijk rasch eine Konfusion von Leistung und Verdienst nachgewiesen - davon abgesehen, dass die von Sloterdijk beklagte progressive Einkommensteuer weniger als dreißig Prozent aller Steuereinnahmen ausmacht. Und nur von diesem Anteil erbringt, wie Sloterdijk sich empört, "eine Handvoll Leistungsträger gelassen mehr als die Hälfte". Der Erbe eines großen Vermögens, der Börsenspekulant, der Kasino-Kapitalist oder der Autor leicht lesbarer und massenhaft verkaufbarer Bahnhofsromane - Personen, die Sloterdijk wegen ihrer vergleichsweise höheren Einkommensteuer umstandslos zu den "produktiven Schichten" schlagen muss - erreichen erwartbarerweise ein größeres Einkommen als der Wissenschaftler, der ein maßgebendes Fachbuch schreibt und daran wenig oder nichts verdient." (.....)

"Nein, nicht Unprofessionalität qualifiziert Sloterdijks Interventionen zum Symptom einer Krise. (.....) Die Philosophie überlebt nur, solange Argumente und ihre Überzeugungen begründende Kraft auf einen gesellschaftlich akzeptierten Vertrauensvorschuss rechnen dürfen. Dass Sloterdijk und seine Bücher Erfolg bei deutschen Lesern haben finden können, ist Symptom des Fortbestands der Krise, auf die die Philosophie der Griechen sich einmal als Lösung verstand. Es ist die Krise der Philosophie selbst. Man muss sich Sisyphos als Philosophen vorstellen."

Manfred Frank is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tübingen. He has written extensively on romanticism, German idealism, and analytic philosophy.

See my links to previous contributions to the Honneth/Sloterdijk debate here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

LSE Conference on Justification and Practice in Contemporary Liberalism

LSE Department of Government Conference
Justification and Practice in Contemporary Liberalism: Critical Perspectives
Friday April 30, 2010
London School of Economics

The relationship between theories of justice and existing social practices has become a shared focus of concern for analytical liberal political philosophers and theorists working within the Frankfurt School tradition of critical social theory. Liberal political philosophers have taken inspiration from critical theory at the same time as critical theorists have developed the approaches of John Rawls and T.M. Scanlon by drawing on the discourse theory of Jürgen Habermas. In this one-day conference four prominent theorists working at the intersection of liberal political philosophy and critical social theory will critically examine points of overlap and unresolved tensions between these two traditions and whether combining insights from both can inform contemporary philosophical and political debates.


Kenneth Baynes (Syracuse University):
Scanlonian Constructivism

Gordon Finlayson (University of Sussex):
Justification and Legitimacy

Rainer Forst (University of Frankfurt):
Constructivist Justification of Human Rights

Andrea Sangiovanni (King's College London):
In What Sense, if any, is Justice Practice-dependent?

Places are limited. To register, or for further information, please contact Dr. Katrin Flikschuh or Mr. James Gledhill, LSE Department of Government.

(Thanks to James Gledhill for the information!).

LSE Dialogue on "The Habermas-Rawls Dispute Reconsidered" on March 11, 2010, 12.30-2.00 p.m.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Congratulations to Ernst Tugendhat

Congratulations to Ernst Tugendhat on his 80th birthday:

Martin Seel - Ein Solitär (Die Zeit)

Jürgen Kaube - Gegen Willkür und Lüge (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

Martin Bauer - Mustergültig streitlustig (Süddeutsche Zeitung)
[all 3 articles in one pdf file]

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Ernst Tugendhat's 80th birthday

On the occasion of Ernst Tugendhat's 80th birthday March 8, 2010, a new revised edition of his latest book is coming out:

Anthropologie statt Metaphysik
(New edition, C.H.Beck Verlag, 2010)

In a recent interview Ernst Tugendhat stated that "the time for philosophising is over" and that his new book was going to be his last.

Ernst Tugendhat was professor of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg from 1966 to 1975 and professor of philology at the Free University of Berlin from 1980 to 1992. In the late 1970's he worked with Jürgen Habermas at the Max Planck Institute in Starnberg. Among his books are "Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die sprachanalytische Philosophie" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 1976; English translation 1982), "Selbstbewußtsein und Selbstbestimmung" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 1979; English translation 1986), and "Vorlesungen über Ethik" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 1993). He now lives in Tübingen, Germany.

The new edition contains:

1. Nietzsche und die philosophische Anthropologie [preview]
2. Anthropologie als "erste Philosophie"
3. Willensfreiheit und Determinismus
4. Retraktationen zur intellektuellen Redlichkeit
5. Das Problem einer autonomen Moral
6. Der Ursprung der Gleichheit in Recht und Moral
7. Unsere Angst vor dem Tod
8. Über Mystik
9. Über Religion
10. Nazismus und Universalismus
11. Noch einmal über normative Gleichheit

Review of Tugendhat's book:
- Uwe Justus Wenzel (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, March 6, 2010)
- Cord Riechelmann (Die Tageszeitung, March 6, 2010)

See also the interview with Santiago Zabalaon (Johns Hopkins University) on Ernest Tugendhat and the importance of his work. Santiago Zabalaon is the author of "Hermeneutic Nature of Analytical Philosophy: A Study of Ernst Tugendhat" (Columbia University Press, 2008).

Selected works by Ernst Tugendhat, available online:
- Comments on some Methodological Aspects of John Rawls' "Theory of Justice" (1979)
- Die Kontroverse um die Menschenrechte (1993)
- Moralbegründung und Gerechtigkeit (1997) [Lecture and colloquium]
- Es gibt keine Gene für die Moral (1999) [on Sloterdijk]
- Interview on ethics (2006)
- Über west-östliche Mystik und höhere Traurigkeit (2006)

- Interview on religion (2007)

Saturday, March 06, 2010

New Book: A Discussion with Habermas on Religion

An Awareness of What is Missing
Faith and Reason in a Post-secular Age

By Jürgen Habermas et. al.

(Polity Press, 2010), 96 pp.


In his recent writings on religion and secularization, Habermas has challenged reason to clarify its relation to religious experience and to engage religions in a constructive dialogue. Given the global challenges facing humanity, nothing is more dangerous than the refusal to communicate that we encounter today in different forms of religious and ideological fundamentalism. Habermas argues that in order to engage in this dialogue, two conditions must be met: religion must accept the authority of secular reason as the fallible results of the sciences and the universalistic egalitarianism in law and morality; and conversely, secular reason must not set itself up as the judge concerning truths of faith. This argument was developed in part as a reaction to the conception of the relation between faith and reason formulated by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2006 Regensburg address.

In 2007 Habermas conducted a debate, under the title ‘An Awareness of What Is Missing', with philosophers from the Jesuit School for Philosophy in Munich. This volume includes Habermas's essay, the contributions of his interlocutors and Habermas's reply to them. It will be indispensable reading for anyone who wishes to understand one of the most urgent and intractable issues of our time.


Michael Reder und Josef Schmidt, S.J. - Habermas and Religion [preview]
Jürgen Habermas - An Awareness of What is Missing
Norbert Brieskorn, S.J. - On the Attempt to Recall a Relationship
Michael Reder - How Far Can Faith and Reason Be Distinguished?
Friedo Ricken, S.J.
- Postmetaphysical Reason and Religion

Josef Schmidt, S.J. - A Dialogue in Which There Can Only Be Winners
Jürgen Habermas - A Reply

The book is a translation of "Ein Bewusstsein von dem, was fehlt" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2008) edited by Michael Reder & Josef Schmidt.

The two contributions by Habermas are not adding much to what Habermas has published elsewhere, but his essay includes a short critique of Pope Benedict XVI's 2006 Regensburg address.

The most recent essay by Habermas on religion is "What is Meant by a Post-Secular Society?" in his book "Europe. The Faltering Project" (Polity Press, 2009) pp. 59-77. See a version of the essay here:

A “post-secular” society – what does that mean?

(Paper presented by Habermas in Istanbul June 2008).

Excerpts from "An Awareness of What is Missing"

Excerpts from Habermas's essay [pp. 15-23]

In his recent address in Regensburg, Pope Benedict XVI interpreted the old controversy over the Hellenization and de-Hellenization of Christianity in a way which is unexpectedly critical of modernity. In doing so he also answered the question of whether Christian theology must wrestle with the challenges of modern, postmetaphysical reason in the negative. The Pope appeals to the synthesis of Greek metaphysics and biblical faith forged in the tradition extending from Augustine to Thomas, and he implicitly denies that there are good reasons for the polarization between faith and knowledge which became an empirical feature of European modernity. although he criticizes the view that one must "[put] the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and [reject] the insights of the modern age", he resists the power of the arguments which shattered that worldview synthesis.

However, the move from Duns Scotus to nominalism does not merely lead to the Protestant voluntarist deity [Willensgott] but also paves the way for modern natural science. Kant's transcendental turn leads not only to a critique of the proofs of God's existence, but also to the concept of autonomy which first made possible our modern European understanding of law and democracy. Moreover, historicism does not necessarily lead to a relativistic self-denial of reason. As a child of the Enlightenment, it makes us sensitive to cultural differences and prevents us from over-generalizing context-dependent judgements. Fides quaerens intellectum ("faith seeking understanding") - regardless of how welcome the search for the rational core of fath may be, it seems to me that it is not helpful to ignore those three stages in the progress of de-Hellenization which have contributed to the modern self-understanding of secular reason when tracing the genealogy of the "shared reason" of people of faith, unbelievers, and members of different religions. [p. 22f]

[Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture, delivered on September 12, 2006, is available here in an English translation.]

Excerpts from Habermas's reply
[pp. 72-83]:

Violations of universally accepted norms of justice can be more easily established, and denounced with good reasons, than can pathological distortions of forms of life. The moral sensibility to the unjust distribution of life opportunities has by no means diminished in societies of our type. The sensibility to social injustice extends not only to the marginalization of groups, the disenfranchisement of social strata, and the dilapidation of regions within one's own country, but also the more drastic misery on other continents. However, these perceptions and reactions in no way affect the trends towards a breakdown in solidarity in different sectors of society. This increases all the more inexorably the deeper the imperatives of the market, in the guise of cost-benefit analyses or competition to perform, permeate ever more spheres of life and force individuals to adopt an objectivizing standpoint in their dealings with one another. At the level of elementary interactions, a gap seems to be opening up between a prickly moral consciousness and the impotence in the face of the structurally imposed switch to strategic conduct, This makes the withdrawal into the private domain and the repression of awkward cognitive dissonances all the more understandable. [p. 73f]

If we now switch our level of observation and examine, from a philosophical perspective, the resources generated by a cultural modernity which draws on its own sources, we encounter, among other things, the oft-mentioned motivational weaknesses of a rational morality...(....). Rational morality sharpens our faculty of judgment for the violation of individual claims and individual duties and motivates us to act morally with the weak force of good reasons. However, this cognitivism is aimed at the insight of individuals and does not foster any impulse towards solidaity, that is, towards morally guided, collective action. (.....). Secular morality is not inherently embedded in communal practices. Religious consciousness, by contrast, preserves an essential connection to the ongoing practice of life within a community and, in the case of the major world religions, to the observances of united global communities of all of the faithful. The religious consciousness of the individual can derive stronger impulses towards action in solidarity, even from a purely moral point of view, from this universalistic communitatianism. Whether this is still the case today I leave to one side. [p.74f]

The encounter with theology can remind a self-forgetful, secular reason of its distant origins in the revolution in worldviews of the Axial Age. Since the Judeo-Christian and Arabian traditions are no less a part of the inheritance of postmetaphysical thinking than Greek metaphysics, biblical motifs can reminds us, for example, of dimensions of a reasonable personal self-understanding which have been abandoned too hastily. [p.82]

Following Max Weber, though not for sociological reasons, I draw upon the heritage of those "strong" traditions whose origin can be traced back to the Axial Age and which have retained their power to shape civilization, into the very definitional conflicts of a multicultural world society, until the present day. (.....) One the one hand, anyone who is interested in the present constellation of postmetaphysical thinking, religion, and science must examine the genealogy of the peculiar affinity between metaphysics and the coeval East Asian traditions of Hinduism, Confucisnism, and above all, Buddhism. On the other hand, an unexhausted semantic potential, assuming that such exists, can be found only in traditions with, although their mythical kernel was transformed into a thinking of transcendence through the cognitive advance of the Axial Age, nevertheless have not yet completely dissolved in the relentless acceleration of modern conditions of life. The Californian syncretism of pseudoscientific and esoteric doctrines and religious fundamentalism are thoroughly modern phenomena which may even express social pathologies of modernity, but which certainly do not offer any resistance to them (.....) I cannot see what importance religious movements which cut themselves off from the cognitive achievements of modernity could have for the secular self-understanding of modernity. [p. 77f]