Friday, February 23, 2007

Notes on Habermas and Fundamentalism

These are some notes (with occasional comments) I took while reading "The Divided West." Eventually I will like to write a short paper on the theme. Comments or any suggestions welcome.

Difference between Orthodoxy and fundamentalism

•Orthodoxy becomes fundamentalism when: a) it ignores the epistemic conditions of a pluralistic society. b) It claims universal validity for its doctrine at the point of violence c) and it tries to impose its political ambitions on others (even at the point of having to recourse to violence).

•What are the epistemic conditions of a pluralistic society? Myth of pluralism?

•Habermas also evokes “the fact of complexity.” Habermas uses this principle in various contexts without really justifying it.

•Exclusive claim to truth: something shared by fundamentalist and orthodox believers (but see the related note above).

Origins of the idea of “tolerance.”

•Realisation of the existence of other religions.

• The scientific revolution weakened religious claims and their viability. Religions became less confident.

•According to Habermas in Europe the above two lead to the emergence of the idea and practice of “tolerance,” and separation of Church and State.

•Does Habermas really believe that people in medieval ages didn’t really know about “other” religions and denominations? Related question, does he really believe that medieval societies were monolithic societies?

•What does scientific revolution entails? Does it really weaken religious claims?

The Example of Iran

•Iran, according to Habermas, refuses to accept the separation of State and Church and hence can be legitimately dubbed as a fundamentalist regime.

• The Islamic movements that want to re-establish theocracy are also termed as fundamentalist, because they want to impose their political ideals on others.

•Habermas calls such fundamentalism, “obdurate fanaticism.” (The Divided West, p. 11).


•Habermas ventures few remarks as to the causes of fundamentalism.

•Repression of Cognitive dissonances. Fundamentalist do not take into account (repress) the fact of pluralism and scientific revolution.

•The medieval religious views were based on epistemological innocence. [Were they?].

•The reasons for the lost of this epistemological innocence are two: a) Cognitive conditions of Scientific Knowledge. b) Conditions of religious pluralism, what Rawls calls “the fact of pluralism.”

Habermas’ position

•Strict universalism, which Habermas construes as “equal respect” for all, be they Hindus, or Muslims or Christians. Equal respect in this context presumably means equal moral worth.

•What does strict universalism means? All inclsivity – non one is excluded based on their faith or other particularistic traits. [But a believer is?].

•What is “strict” about this universalism? And what is universal about this universalism?

Possible Critique

• “Religion” what does it mean? Habermas uses the term “religion” in generic and undifferentiated sense.

•Myth of pluralism.

•Habermas’ genealogy of the emergence of toleration is a Rawlsian one and does not take into account alternative readings of history (for example this one).

•What are the epistemic conditions of science and what do they entail?

•Do the so called Muslim fundamentalists want to impose Islam on others?

• Separation of Church and State. Ignores the fact that the separation was in a sense already present in the early Christianity but not in the early Islam.

•“Tolerance” what is it? How much we tolerate?
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