“Jurgen Habermas and the Social Significance of Religion,” Peter Gordon (Amabel B. James Professor, Harvard University)
Wednesday, February 1, 5 p.m.
Supported by the Boston University Center for the Humanities and cosponsored by Boston University’s Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies.
Respondent: Hugh Baxter (Department of Philosophy and School of Law, Boston University)
Moderator: Michael Zank (Acting Director, Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, Boston University)
Jurgen Habermas is indisputably the most consequential social theorist of postwar Germany. Trained in the traditions of Western Marxism and post-Kantian German Idealism, he is known chiefly for his tireless work in theorizing the philosophical foundations for rational discourse in modern democratic society. In his most recent writings, to the surprise of many observers, he has begun to appreciate the considerable contribution of religious discourse, and he has developed the rudiments of a theory according to which religious participants in modern democratic polities should be permitted to participate in public debate, provided they engage in the cooperative effort of “translating” their religious insights into terms that are intelligible to any and all participants in the public sphere. This theory has developed against the background of serious legal and political controversies in Germany, controversies that concern both the historical legacy of Christianity and the new presence of Islam. Professor Gordon will address the political context of Habermas’s theory, and he will explore the ways that Habermas’s theory both engages but also modifies major theories of secularization that have played a prominent role in postwar German social thought.
Peter E. Gordon is the Amabel B. James Professor of History at Harvard University, and specializes in modern European intellectual history from the late-eighteenth to the late-twentieth century.
This event is free and open to the public.