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Taking Religion Seriously? Habermas on Religious Translation and Cooperative Learning in Post-secular Society

  • GIORGI ARESHIDZE (a1)
Abstract

This article evaluates Jürgen Habermas's attempt to reopen political liberalism to religion. In trying to “take religion seriously,” Habermas goes further than John Rawls and other liberal theorists by affirming that religious traditions articulate truths on which democratic societies continue to depend for their civic and moral health. “Post-secular” societies, in his view, should learn from religion by translating its “moral intuitions” into universal secular language. Although Habermas in this way appears friendlier to religion than Rawls, unlike Rawls he also calls for the “modernization of religious consciousness.” This theological transformation not only reveals the foundationalist presuppositions of liberalism, but also points to a highly attenuated conception of learning from religion. Taking religion seriously will require us to be open to its insights not only when they agree with, but especially when they challenge, our secular presuppositions. This dimension of religion is at risk of getting “lost in translation” in the Habermasian paradigm.

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Corresponding author
Giorgi Areshidze is Associate Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College. He is the author of Democratic Religion from Locke to Obama: Faith and the Civic Life of Democracy (University Press of Kansas, 2016). Mailing Address: 850 Columbia Avenue, Claremont, CA 91711. (giorgi.areshidze@gmail.com; gareshidze@cmc.edu)
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The author would like to thank the following individuals for their comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this article, as well as for help with developing the ideas that this article investigates: Tom and Lorraine Pangle, Devin Stauffer, Jeff Tulis, Christopher Nadon, Mark Blitz, Justin Dyer, Ariel Helfer, Tim Burns, as well as the anonymous reviewers and the two editors (Steven Forde and Leigh Jenco) at American Political Science Review. For special assistance, the author would also like to thank Irakly Areshidze, Kosta Psaltis, and Maddy Stein.

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