Kuipers, Ronald A.. “Reconciling a Shattered Modernity: Habermas on the Enduring Relevance of the Judeo-Christian Ethical Tradition,” in Lieven Boeve, et. al., eds., Faith in the Enlightenment? The Critique of Enlightenment Revisited. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 2006: 123-42.
Jürgen Habermas readily owns the evidence his work portrays of an ongoing engagement with explicitly Judeo-Christian theological themes and religious sources of meaning. This engagement, evident throughout most of his career, may at first come as a surprise to those who think of him primarily as a staunch defender of the Enlightenment’s confidence in the liberating power of rational argument, as well as the historical processes of secularization that have tended to flow from that confidence. What may seem even more surprising to those who think of him in this way is the fact that his engagement with religion is not only or even predominantly critical in nature (although it definitely includes strong elements of that). In contrast, this engagement often reveals a willingness on Habermas’ part to treat his religious interlocutors on an equal footing, as dialogue partners from whom he might have something to learn. Their attendance to religious sources of meaning, he thinks, has proven capable of providing unique insights from which secular children of the Enlightenment like himself can still derive benefit. In this essay, I explore the respect Habermas’ shows for the ethical impulse he finds beating within differing manifestations of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition.