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Democracy with Religious Freedom: Habermas’s Revision of Rawls and Their Common Problem


May 27, 2016
1:15 pm - 3:00 pm
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Encina Hall West, Room 400
Political Theory Workshop with Franklin I. Gamwell (University of Chicago). Co-sponsored by the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, the Department of Religious Studies, and the Patrick Suppes Center for History and Philosophy of Science as part of the “Science, Religion, and Democracy” series.  Open to Stanford University affiliates.
Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls both affirm modern constitutional liberalism as democracy with religious freedom. Without addressing the difference between his postmetaphysical account and Rawls’s political liberalism, Habermas formulates a friendly amendment to Rawls’s proposal: the supposed demand of public reason expressed in Rawls’s proviso on political advocacy should be replaced with an “institutional translation proviso,” such that only secular reasons count in “formal proceedings within political bodies.” This essay argues: (1) Habermas’s amendment does not result in a coherent theory of democracy with religious freedom; (2) notwithstanding the difference between Habermas’s postmetaphysical account and Rawls’s political liberalism, the two thinkers share a common problem, namely, the assumption or implication that religious convictions cannot be the object of public reason; and (3) a better solution consists in the recognition that religious convictions or comprehensive doctrines answer a rational question, so that democracy is properly constituted as politics by the way of full and free discourse or by the way of reason.

To request the pre-distributed paper, please contact Brenna Boerman

Franklin I. Gamwell is the Shailer Mathews Distinguished Service Professor of Religious Ethics, the Philosophy of Religions, and Theology in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. He studies ethical and political theory in relation to Christian theology and to the philosophy of religions. His work is centered particularly on twentieth-century thinkers. His books include The Divine Good: Modern Moral Theory and the Necessity of GodThe Meaning of Religious Freedom: Modern Politics and the Democratic ResolutionDemocracy on Purpose: Justice and the Reality of GodPolitics as a Christian Vocation: Faith and Democracy Today; and Existence and the Good: Metaphysical Necessity in Morals and Politics.  His numerous articles and essays have appeared in the Journal of Law and Religion, the Journal of Religion, Process Studies, and The Christian Century, among other places.  Prof. Gamwell took his B.A from Yale, his B.D. from Union Theological Seminary, and his M.A. and Ph.D from the University of Chicago.  He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Political Theory Workshop offers faculty and other scholars an opportunity to present in progress, or recently completed, work to a diverse audience from political science, philosophy, law, and other social sciences and humanities.  Workshop papers come from all areas of political theory, including normative and positive theory, legal theory, and the history of political thought.  Papers are circulated ten days before the seminar. Participants are expected to read the paper before the workshop.  Each session begins with comments and questions on the paper by a discussant, a brief response from the author, followed by a general discussion. All members of the university community are welcome to attend the workshop. Join the Political Theory Workshop mailing list.