On and off again I refer to the little book published that consists of the debate between Jurgen Habermas (eminent German philosopher) and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict). The title of this book is Dialectics of Secularization. Mr Habermas opens, sets the stage and gives a brief argument (streching 30 pages of a small format book) … and Cardinal Ratzinger replies in like length. This book is published by Ignatius Press (2006) and is quite inexpensive (and available on Amazon). It was, of course, originally published in German.

The Question:

Does the free, secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee? This question expresses a doubt about whetherthe democratic constitutional state can renew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence; it also expresses the assumption that such a state is depenedent on the ethical traditions of a local nature.

Mr Habermas takes the affirmative, and of course Mr Ratzinger the negative.

In this opening piece, as I intend as time (and interest?) permits in following essays to explore the arguments as presented.

Mr Habermas begins by clarifying the statement by suggesting five thesis which he will defend. That is, he makes five specific points which in five short chapters he attempts to defend. Those statements which he will defend specifically are:

1. If “law” is a stratighforward matter of de facto legislation — and nothing else — is it still possible to provide a secular justification of political rule, that is, a justification which is nonreligious or post-metaphysical.

2. Even if such a legitimization can be conceded or found, when we consider human motivations (and flaws) whether a society with a plurality of world views can acheive normative stabilization.

3. It may even be possible to neutralize this doubt (that is to satisify point 2), it still remains an open question whether liberal societal structures are dependent on the solidarity of their citizens and if this solidarity goes “off the rails” whether such local structures can be formed.

4. Instead he redirects this point to suggest that cultural and societal secularization is (or should be seen as) a double learning processes that compels both the traditions of Enlightenment and the religious doctrines to reflect on their own respective limits.

5. Finally (and this was debate was post 9/11), with regard to postsecular societies, he considers (or asks) what cognitive attitudes and normative expectations the liberal state must require of its citizens (theist and atheists alike) and for them to both put into practice in their dealings with each other.

So, that is the structure of the Habermas remarks. Next point one from above and Mr Habermas’ points with respect to that statement will be examined.

Filed under: BooksEthics & MoralityGovernmentMark O.Religion

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