Saturday, February 23, 2008

Consolations apropos secular citizens' disquieting additional obligation

[Religion in the public sphere: Inclusion and accountability in the public sphere
posted by
Cristina Lafont SSRC Home SSRC Blogs Blog Home
In his essay “Religion in the Public Sphere,” Habermas joins the debate between liberals and critics of liberalism on the proper role of religion in the public sphere.... According to Habermas, allowing religious reasons in public deliberation only makes sense if all citizens take those reasons seriously and do not deny their possible truth from the outset. It follows that secular citizens should not make public use of their sincere beliefs if they happen to be of a secularist type that contradicts the possible truth of religious claims. However, if disallowing democratic citizens to publicly adopt their own cognitive stance is unacceptable, it seems that this would be so whether those citizens happen to take a religious or secularist stance. This problem is aggravated by what is likely to strike secular citizens as a disquieting additional obligation, namely, the obligation to open their minds to the possible truth of religious reasons as a precondition for finding out whether they can be translated into secular ones. Beyond its doubtful feasibility, this obligation seems to deprive secular citizens of the very same right to publicly adopt their own cognitive stance that the proposal aims to grant to religious citizens. But is it possible to organize public deliberation in such a way that the right of democratic citizens to adopt their own cognitive stances is recognized without giving up on the democratic obligation to secure that only public reasons count in support of coercive policies with which all citizens must comply?
[Stay tuned for the next installment] This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2008 at 7:04 am and is filed under
Religion in the public sphere. 7:04 PM ]

[Religion in the public sphere: Religious citizens & public reasons posted by Cristina Lafont Since religious citizens, as much as any other citizens, are only obligated to address counterarguments based on reasons generally acceptable to everyone, they are perfectly capable of understanding them without being cognitively dishonest. But since the challenge is driven by those who offer the counterarguments, religious citizens do not have to artificially generate a foreign or insincere way of thinking in support of the policies they favor. This task is fulfilled by those who oppose such policies on the basis of their sincere beliefs. All that religious (as well as nonreligious) citizens have to do is to come up with convincing reasons to show why these counterarguments are wrong, if they think they are. Only the outcome of such a debate would allow citizens to know what their considered political convictions should be. Democratic citizens cannot determine in advance of actual public deliberation the reasons upon which their political decisions ought to be based. In order to be legitimate, their decisions ought to be based on those reasons that have survived the scrutiny of political deliberation in the public sphere. SSRC Home SSRC Blogs Blog Home This entry was posted on Friday, February 8th, 2008 at 5:40 am and is filed under Religion in the public sphere. Michael Perry: February 8th, 2008 at 12:35 pm ... Christopher Eberle, Religious Conviction in Liberal Politics (Cambridge University Press 2002). To engage these issues without first engaging Eberle’s book is, well, misguided.]

Imposing additional obligation "to open their minds to the possible truth of religious reasons" upon the secular citizens, as Professor Lafont captures it, appears to be definitely unjustified. But the intractable problem arises out of

  1. an artificial (as though, racial) dichotomy erected between religious citizens and secular citizens, and
  2. supposing that they posses (as though, genetically) different orders of cognitive stance.

The democratic domain is a consistently fermenting zone, where either the conspiracy of silence operates, or opinions are espoused/jettisoned as per convenience. The so-called secular cognitive stance is an arrogant and dishonest handle of hegemony in disregard of deeper sensitivities divined. [TNM]

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