Jürgen Habermas on Secular Foundations of Political Legitimation
Berkley Centre for Religion, Peace & World Affairs
At the 2011 Berkley Centre for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Professor Habermas presented a philosophical paper titled “Myth and Ritual”. In the question period that followed, Professor Habermas’ highlighted what he believed was really at the issue in interpreting the very foundations itself of contemporary political legitimation in terms that were secular.
While seeing himself as a defender of the “Enlightenment heritage” of the West, Professor Habermas argued that the issue ultimately relies on a “basic interpretation”, albeit a controversial one, of the recent historical “trends” that were “forming challenges” in the present situations. The question was whether one could see in modernity the sufficient sources from which it could itself regenerate its “imbalanced social situations”. The issue was really whether modernity could “reproduce itself out of its own sources”, out of “subjectivity”, “subjective freedom”, “ethical freedom” and out of its “self-consciousness, reflective approach to all of our traditions and universalist moralities”.
For Professor Habermas, there are reasons to “insist” on “secular moral sources” for “justifying the principles” of legitimation of our “constitutions” and our “polities”. Indeed, not all “morality” has “religious sources”. Moreover, principles of “popular sovereignty” and “human rights” have become now “secular” and “independent of theology”.