Thursday, May 28, 2009

Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays

Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays

Jürgen Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays, Ciaran Cronin (trans.), Polity Press, 2008, 361pp., $26.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780745638256.

Reviewed by Jeffrey Flynn, Fordham University

Habermas's central aim in this collection of essays is to articulate the appropriate relation between "postmetaphysical thinking" and science and religion. He takes up issues related to both the philosophical and the public use of reason, and makes interesting proposals regarding their interrelation. Habermas is clearly worried about the spread of naturalistic worldviews ("scientism") and religious fundamentalism, but he dismisses neither naturalism nor religion. Rather, he defends what he calls "soft naturalism," which embraces a non-reductionist account of human language and thought in which normativity and intersubjectivity are central. Regarding religion, Habermas maintains that philosophy has long been enriched by secular "translations" of religious ideas. Moreover, he views at least "modernized" religions as allies in the public sphere in combating the effects of uncontrolled capitalist modernization and the spread of reductionistic thinking.

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