Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Honoring Jürgen Habermas

International Journal of Constitutional Law honors Jürgen Habermas (vol. 17 no. 4):

* Seyla Benhabib - "For Jürgen Habermas on his 90th birthday"

Excerpt: Jürgen Habermas became known in the United States during the mid- to late 1970s, at a crucial point in the development of philosophy and the social sciences. The hegemony of Cold War analytical philosophy of language was disrupted by John Rawls’s Theory of Justice (1972); by Charles Taylor’s critique of atomist behaviorism through his magnificent essay on “Interpretation and the Sciences of Man;” by Richard Bernstein’s Praxis and Action (1971); and, somewhat later, by Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue (1981). What united all these texts was the thesis that the interpretation of human action and social phenomena was no less “scientific” than natural ones simply because such interpretations did not fit the positivist conception of science. Nor were normative problems of social justice and equality to be discarded as merely “emotive” rather than as matters that permitted rational inquiry. What was needed was a more comprehensive understanding of human rationality and knowledge. (.....) What I most appreciated about Habermas as a teacher of philosophy was his capacity to listen to the other, to seek to understand the other’s argument and to summarize it better than the author or speaker herself had done."

* Jean L. Cohen - "My/our Debt to Habermas"

Excerpt: "Habermas’ normative political theory has always been based on the assumption that reality must “meet it half way”—thus he has sought to develop realistic utopian, normatively justified, future-oriented, and praxis-based remedies to the systemic and contextual problems his analyses diagnosed. It is this dual focus on analyzing social structural dynamics in specific conjunctures (social theory) and developing normative, critical political philosophy in a comprehensive theoretical framework that makes Habermas’ thought so important also for fourth, fifth and, I am sure, future generations of critical theorists worldwide.
Habermas’ astounding synthetic ability has allowed his work to speak to philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, political theorists, and legal and constitutional theorists. The impact on political theory is clear: Habermas’ theory of discourse ethics, communicative interaction, and democratic legitimacy triggered the political theory debates around deliberative and epistemic democracy taken up by the Rawlsians and by critical theorists, that continue unabated today."

* Oliver Gerstenberg - "Radical Democracy and the Rule of Law: Reflections on J. Habermas’ Legal Philosophy"

* Frank I Michelman - "Legitimacy and Moral Support"

* Cheryl Misak - "Habermas’s Place in the History of Pragmatism"

Excerpt: "Habermas’s appearance on the pragmatist scene was an important and welcome moment in its history. Pragmatism was reeling from Richard Rorty’s version which held that if we can’t have certainty, we can’t have any truth or rightness over and above agreement within a community, or what works for an individual, or what is found to solve a problem. In some moods, Rorty went as far as claiming that truth and objectivity are nothing more than what our peers will let us get away with saying. Habermas provided a corrective to that kind of relativist pragmatism. He argued that there are some universal rules of communication or inquiry, and they structure evaluation of belief."

* Vlad Perju - "Supranational States in the Postnational Constellation"

* Michel Rosenfeld - "Habermas at 90: A Personal and Professional Tribute"

Excerpt: "Viewing Habermas’s entire intellectual trajectory from a bird’s eye view, what is most impressive is his unbending commitment to the equal worth and dignity of all human beings as against all oppression and excesses stemming from the spread of exclusionary ideologies, contested conceptions of the good, or systemic encroachments. Throughout his long and most illustrious intellectual journey, Habermas has been guided by an ironclad determination not to forget the unspeakable evils of Nazism and to erect the most unforgiving comprehensive theoretical barrier against the recurrence of or return to any ideological bent that may open the way to any tendencies towards such evils. In essence, Habermas is an endlessly creative, resourceful, innovative, and unyielding defender of the ideals of the Enlightenment against all odds: disenchantment and instrumentalization of reason; globalization and its discontents; fundamentalist global terrorism; postmodernism and post-secularism; as well as illiberal populism."

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

The 10 most influential living philosophers

"Le nouveau Magazine Littéraire" (January 2020) lists the ten most influential living philosophers:

Jürgen Habermas (Germany)
Judith Butler (US)
Bruno Latour (France)
Slavoj Žižek (Slovenia/UK)
Martha Nussbaum (US)
Charles Taylor (Canada)
Alain Badiou (France)
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (US)
John Searle (US)
Kwame Anthony Appiah (US)

Sunday, January 05, 2020

New essays on "Habermas on Religion"

The new issue of "European Journal for Philosophy of Religion" (vol. 11, no. 4, 2019) features essays on "Habermas on Religion":

Maureen Junker-Kenny - "Editorial"

Maeve Cooke - "Transcendence in Postmetaphysical Thinking. Habermas' God"

Abstract: Habermas emphasizes the importance for critical thinking of ideas of truth and moral validity that are at once context-transcending and immanent to human practices. in a recent review, Peter Dews queries his distinction between metaphysically construed transcendence and transcendence from within, asking provocatively in what sense Habermas does not believe in God. I answer that his conception of “God” is resolutely postmetaphysical, a god that is constructed by way of human linguistic practices. I then give three reasons for why it should not be embraced by contemporary critical social theory. First, in the domain of practical reason, this conception of transcendence excludes by fiat any “Other” to communicative reason, blocking possibilities for mutual learning. Second, due to the same exclusion, it risks reproducing an undesirable social order. Third, it is inadequate for the purposes of a critical theory of social institutions.

Cristina Lafont - "The Priority of Public Reasons and Religious Forms of Life in Constitutional Democracies"

Abstract: In this essay I address the difficult question of how citizens with conflicting religious and secular views can fulfill the democratic obligation of justifying the imposition of coercive policies to others with reasons that they can also accept. After discussing the difficulties of proposals that either exclude religious beliefs from public deliberation or include them without any restrictions, I argue instead for a policy of mutual accountability that imposes the same deliberative rights and obligations on all democratic citizens. The main advantage of this proposal is that it recognizes the right of all democratic citizens to adopt their own cognitive stance (whether religious or secular) in political deliberation in the public sphere without giving up on the democratic obligation to provide reasons acceptable to everyone to justify coercive policies with which all citizens must comply.

Hille Haker - "Habermas and the Question of Bioethics"

Abstract: In this article, I want to explore Habermas’ “substantial” argument in the hope that (moral) philosophy and (moral) theology become allies in their struggle against an ever-more reifying lifeworld, which may create a “moral void” that would, at least from today’s perspective, be “unbearable”, and for upholding the conditions of human dignity, freedom, and justice. I will contextualize Habermas’ concerns in the broader discourse of bioethics, because only by doing this, his concerns are rescued from some misinterpretations.

Jonas Jakobsen - "Moderate Inclusivism and the Conversational Translation Proviso: Revising Habermas' Ethics of Citizenship"

Abstract: Habermas’ ‘ethics of citizenship’ raises a number of relevant concerns about the dangers of a secularistic exclusion of religious contributions to public deliberation, on the one hand, and the dangers of religious conflict and sectarianism in politics, on the other. Agreeing largely with these concerns, the paper identities four problems with Habermas’ approach, and attempts to overcome them: (a) the full exclusion of religious reasons from parliamentary debate; (b) the full inclusion of religious reasons in the informal public sphere; (c) the philosophical distinction between secular and religious reasons; and (d) the sociological distinction between ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’ religions. The result is a revised version of the ethics of citizenship, which I call moderate inclusivism. Most notably, moderate inclusivism implies a replacement of Habermas’ ‘institutional translation proviso’ with a more flexible ‘conversational translation proviso’. 

Adrian Nicolae Atanasescu - "Jürgen Habermas' Turn to a "Post-secular Society": from Sublation of the Sacred to Translation of the Sacred"

Abstract: In this article I place Jürgen Habermas' recent turn to a "post-secular society" in the context of his previous defence of a "postmetaphysical" view of modernity. My argument is that the concept of "postsecular" introduces significant normative tensions for the formal and pragmatic view of reason defended by Habermas in previous work. In particular, the turn to a "post-secular society" threatens the evolutionary narrative that Habermas (following Weber) espoused in The Theory of Communicative Action (1981, 1987), The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (1990) or Postmetaphysical Thinking (1992), according to which modern "communicative" reason dialecticlly supersedes religion. If this narrative is undermined, I argue, the claim to universality of "communicative" reason is also undermined. Thus, the benefits Habermas seeks to obtain from translation of religion are offset by a destabilization of tenets central to a "postmetaphysical" view of modernity.

(See also Atanasescu's paper: "What is Missing? Jürgen Habermas's Turn to a 'Post-secular Society' and the Limits of Postmetaphysical Modernity" [pdf]).

Klaus Viertbauer - "Jürgen Habermas on the Way to a Postmetaphysical Reading of Kierkegaard"

Abstract: Habermas’s postmetaphysical reading of Kierkegaard is paradigmatic for his understanding of religion. It shows, why Habermas reduces religion to fideism. Therefore the paper reconstructs Habermas’s reception of Kierkegaard and compares it with the accounts of Dieter Henrich and Michael Theunissen. Furthermore it demonstrates how Habermas makes use of Kierkegaard’s dialectics of existence to formulate his postmetaphysical thesis of a cooperative venture.

Martin Beck Matuštík - "Rituals and Algorithms: Genealogy of Reflective Faith and Postmetaphysical Thinking"

Abstract: What happens when mindless symbols of algorithmic AI encounter mindful performative rituals? I return to my criticisms of Habermas’ secularising reading of Kierkegaard’s ethics. Next, I lay out Habermas’ claim that the sacred complex of ritual and myth contains the ur-origins of postmetaphysical thinking and reflective faith. If reflective faith shares with ritual same origins as does communicative interaction, how do we access these archaic ritual sources of human solidarity in the age of AI?