The Holberg Prize Laureate 2005, Professor Jürgen Habermas
In this rare video, Professor Jürgen Habermas speaks about the philosophical role of religious traditions in secular modernity and the prestigious awarding of the 2005 Holbergprisens (The Holberg Prize). In the interview, Professor Habermas argues that modern society depends on not only the perpetuation of new technologies but also on the critique and the subjective reinterpretation of its built-in religious and moral traditions that give secular society its meaningful political and social orientations.
“Society is not only depending on technologies and the knowledge which feeds into new technologies but society is indeed depending on a proper continuation, reconstruction and criticism of its own traditions because these traditions are the ones that give us a certain orientation of how to understand men in society, men in the world.”
It is in this context that he further speaks on how the theme of deliberative democracy, and in particular that of communicative rationality, have since in his earliest beginnings to current interests in legal philosophy and international law continued to play a central role in his approach to thinking about modernity.
“I was always convinced that there is a cognitive dimension in this democratic procedure. This is why I am the first and one the most vigilant defenders of deliberative democracy. And deliberative democracy obviously leads to the second major issue of my work: communicative rationality. I was always convinced that there is in everyday communicative life, everyday communication also a kind of push to give reasons, to be more or less reasonable, to give answers to the questions why did you say that, why did you do that. And so that was the motivation to pursue a bit further the issue of the kind of reason that are built-into our everyday language.”
This approach, for which he was awarded the prestigious Holbergprisens (The Holberg Prize), explored the secularization of religious traditions in the public sphere of a properly secular modern political society. There he had argued that as citizens our attention must turn from “normative” to “epistemological arguments”, in particular toward those epistemic informed positions and practices that get at the secular deliberative processes required for “mutual respect and cooperation from citizens of different faith and background” in properly secularized terms of the modern political society. He states that the “assumption” of the “liberal conception of democratic citizenship” was that “a common human reason [was] the epistemic base for the justification of a secular state which no longer [depended] on religious legitimation”. Secularized political societies require a political language in the legitimation of its institutional structures so that they remain equally accessible to all of its citizens, while also trying not to cut itself off from “key resources for the creation of meaning and identity”. He thus argued that the full and equal participation of citizens along with the “epistemic dimension of deliberation” proper to a diverse society required a “shared practice” of translating “religious resources” into political terms, taking the intellectual traditions of modernity itself as resources to some of its key problems. It has to be a shared practice to ensure the autonomous participation and “grounds the presumption of rationally acceptable outcomes” for religious and non-religious identities– particularly practices grounded “under certain cognitive presuppositions” that include (1) a framework that incorporate diversity of religious perspectives other than one’s own, (2) the independence of secular from the sacred, and (3) a framework for the priority of secular reasons over religious ones.