Habermas, Religion and the Ethics of Citizenship

Philosophy and Social Criticism 35 (1-2):215-238 (2009)


A recent essay by Jürgen Habermas revisits political liberalism and takes up the question of the extent to which democratic citizens and officials should rely on their religious convictions in publicly deliberating about and deciding political issues. With his institutional translation proviso, a proposed alternative to Rawls' idea of public reason, Habermas hopes to dodge familiar (and often overstated) criticisms that liberal requirements of citizenship are unfair or disproportionately burdensome to religious believers. I argue that, due in part to its sharp contrast between the obligations attributed to political officials and those attributed to ordinary citizens, Habermas' position is beset by additional, quite considerable difficulties. I conclude that Habermas' account of religion in the public sphere does not present a genuine alternative to the leading liberal theory of citizenship and public reasoning.

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James Boettcher
Saint Joseph's University of Pennsylvania

References found in this work

Religion in the Public Sphere.Jurgen Habermas - 2006 - European Journal of Philosophy 14 (1):1–25.

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