Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Postsecular World Society? - an interview with Habermas

From "The Immanent Frame", a new interview with Jürgen Habermas by Eduardo Mendieta:

A Postsecular World Society?
On the Philosophical Significance of Postsecular Consciousness and the Multicultural World Society


On religion in the public sphere and politics
(*) In my view, positions that do not wish to subject the political influence of religious voices to formal constraints blur the limits without which a secular state cannot maintain its impartiality. What must be safeguarded is that the decisions of the legislator, the executive branch, and the courts are not only formulated in a universally accessible language, but are also justified on the basis of universally acceptable reasons. This excludes religious reasons from decisions about all state-sanctioned — that is, legally binding — norms. Apart from that, I do not believe that secular citizens can learn anything from fundamentalist doctrines that cannot cope with the fact of pluralism, with the public authority of the sciences, and with the egalitarianism of our constitutional principles.

(*) The liberal state may not in the political public sphere, that is to say, at the root of the democratic process, censure the expressions of religious citizens, nor can it control their motives at the ballot box. To this extent, the collective self-understanding of a liberal polity should not remain untouched by worldview pluralism in civil society. To be sure, the content of religious expressions must be translated into a universally accessible language before it can make it onto official agendas and flow into the deliberations of decision-making bodies. But religious citizens and religious communities retain influence precisely in those places in which the democratic process originates in the encounter between religious and non-religious sections of the population. As long as politically relevant public opinion is fed by this reservoir of the public use of reason by religious and non-religious citizens, it must belong to the collective self-understanding of all citizens that deliberatively formed democratic legitimation is nourished also by religious voices and confrontations stimulated by religion.

On translating religious concepts into secular thinking
(*) The long process of translating essential, religious contents into the language of philosophy began in late antiquity; we only need to think of concepts like person and individuality, freedom and justice, solidarity and community, emancipation, history, and crisis. We cannot know whether this process of appropriating semantic potentials from a discourse that in its core remains inaccessible has exhausted itself, or if it can be continued. The conceptual labor of religious writers and authors such as the young Bloch, Benjamin, Levinas, or Derrida speaks in favor of the continuing productivity of such a philosophical effort. And this suggests a change of attitude in favor of a dialogical relationship, open to learning, with all religious traditions, and a reflection on the position of postmetaphysical thinking between the sciences and religion.

(*) […..] we should not blur the difference that exists between faith and knowledge in the mode of taking-to-be-true. Even if thinking about the postsecular situation should result in an altered attitude toward religion, this revisionism may not change the fact that postmetaphysical thinking is a secular thinking that insists on distinguishing faith and knowledge as two essentially different modes of taking-to-be-true.

On the multicultural world society
(*) Today we find ourselves in the transition to a multicultural world society and are wrestling with its future political constitution. The outcome is entirely open-ended. To me, global modernity looks like an open arena in which participants, from the viewpoints of different paths of cultural development, struggle [streiten] over the normative structuring of social infrastructures that are more or less shared. It is an open question whether we will succeed in overcoming the atavistic condition of the social-Darwinist “catch as catch can,” still dominant today in international relations, to the point at which capitalism, globally unleashed and run wild, can be tamed and channeled in socially acceptable ways.

(*) [..…] intercultural discourses about the foundations of a more just international order can no longer be conducted one-sidedly, from the perspective of “first-borns.” These discourses must become habitual [sich eins-pielen] under the symmetrical conditions of mutual perspective-taking if the global players are to finally bring their social-Darwinist power games under control. The West is one participant among others, and all participants must be willing to be enlightened by others about their respective blind spots. If we were to learn one lesson from the financial crisis, it is that it is high time for the multicultural world society to develop a political constitution.

Eduardo Mendieta is Associate Professor at Stony Brook University, New York. In 2002, he edited Jürgen Habermas's "Religion and Rationality. Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity" (MIT Press & Polity Press, 2002). It includes Mendieta's famous interview with Habermas: "A Conversation About God and the World" from 1999.

No comments: