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Ratzinger – Habermas Debate February 1, 2011

Posted by cantueso in law, philosophy.
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SUMMARY

The Cardinal and Jürgen Habermas address a basic issue of modern existence:
Some notions of right and wrong used to be considered obvious and basic, but are no longer considered so basic at all.
You can see this most clearly in public controversies touching on abortion, euthanasia, marriage.
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>>> >>> Versión en español >>>>http://cantueso.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/debate-ratzinger-habermas/
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Habermas believes that Reason could overcome the divide at least locally and figure out laws that might become acceptable to all.
The Cardinal does not agree.

Habermas admits that religious communities have had to make unilateral concessions in silently accepting the contradiction between their way of seeing things and the official secular talk of the Establishment.

Habermas also recognizes that there is a tendency for some wholesale anti-religion people to deny that our modern cultural achievements owe very much to our religious past.

Both the Cardinal and Habermas agree that Reason’s great success has been in the investigation of matter, but not in the way we see each other and ourselves.

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Versión en español >>>>http://cantueso.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/debate-ratzinger-habermas/

As it turns out, in the famous debate, Habermas and the Cardinal do not debate at all. Instead, each reads his text.

And seen from a distance, it seems that Habermas and Ratzinger say more or less the same, though one is known as an atheist and the other one has since become Pope.
:-)

1 Ratzinger: The Crisis of the Law

2 Habermas: Faith and Knowledge

3 Habermas: Moral Foundation of the State

4 Ratzinger: Moral Foundation of the State

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1

Ratzinger : THE CRISIS OF THE LAW

For Jews, everything hinges on The Law.
For Christians, everything hinges on Faith.

If faith is more important than the Law, is the Law not most sacred?

And the Cardinal says that the Torah [= God's law as written down by Moses] appears in Saint Paul’s writings with problematic accents.

Luther went one step further teaching that the Gospel and the Law were counterposed.

According to the Cardinal, many of the problems of contemporary law have to be traced back to that counterposition.
Hence:

A] If metaphysics, according to popular opinion, has reached a dead end and if the Law is no longer essentially sacred, laws will at any moment be what is requested by the most relevant political force.
It would follow that law is whatever succeeds in imposing itself as law – for instance fascism.

B] Consensus might be based on a utopic projection, and the simple image of a future new world might be used to formulate new laws – for instance marxism.
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The complete text is in Spanish at
http://www.mercaba.org/ARTICULOS/D/debate_Habermas_Ratzinger.htm
It is maybe online only in Spanish, but not in English, as explained in a footnote.
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2

Habermas: FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE

Photo under CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JuergenHabermas.jpg

Habermas writes about tensions existing between religion and the sciences as seen from an atheist point of view.

He says that the sciences are not very influential in what is said and thought when we are off-duty.
Our everyday language is of pre-scientific origin and keeps drawing substance from religious traditions

>>>>>> “That God made man in his own image[....], — that isn’t something that you have to believe in order to see what is meant.”

(chapeau!)

In other words, according to Habermas, religious tradition is still present in our language, in the laws, and in our way of understanding others.

Habermas asks: Can the law work in a 100% secular environment, without support from notions of religious origin?
He reasons that a difference has to be made.

– On the one hand, a citizen may be expected to accept laws even without any religious or metaphysical justification.

– On the other hand, when he acts as a legislator, that citizen has to look beyond his own interests, and will he do that in the absence of some deeper commitment of religious or philosophical nature?

Next Habermas says there is a basic imbalance or dissimmetry in the way things are expected to work:
Religious communities have to adapt themselves unconditionally to requirements where the official secularism  does not offer anything in return.

He distinguishes between the secular State that guarantees religious freedom and the postsecular democratic State that is under an obligation to guarantee free public expression and juridical articulation for all, including religious communities.

Those guarantees are not yet sufficiently developed.

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FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE : It is a speech that Habermas gave to thank for a reward received from the German book dealers’ stock exchange association.

The complete text is freely available
— in German at http://www.glasnost.de/docs01/011014habermas.html

— in English at http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0111/msg00100.html

— in Spanish at http://www.mercaba.org/ARTICULOS/D/debate_Habermas_Ratzinger.htm

Below are quotes in German from Habermas : GLAUBEN UND WISSEN

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3

Habermas: THE MORAL FOUNDATION OF THE STATE

Paraphrase:

“In order to examine the relationship between reason and the Revelation you might begin with a recurrent figure of thought: when our reason reflects on its constitution, it finds out that it has its roots in something else.”

[ ?? I must try and find the sentence above in the original German to see what exactly he said. Remember that this is the translation of a translation..

Added in Summer 2013 --

Here  is the German original of the sentence paraphrased above:

Exkurs.
Anknüpfungspunkt für den philosophischen Diskurs über Vernunft und Offenbarung ist eine immer wiederkehrende Denkfigur: Die auf ihren tiefsten Grund reflektierende Vernunft entdeckt ihren Ursprung aus einem Anderen;
und dessen schicksalhafte Macht muss sie anerkennen, wenn sie nicht in der Sackgasse hybrider Selbstbemächtigung ihre vernünftige Orientierung verlieren soll.

According to Habermas, the State cannot impose a secularist interpretation of the world.
Hence a noteworthy effort is required of the citizen who doesn't have "an ear for religious matters”*** :
That citizen is obliged to critically examine the relationship between faith and knowledge from his own point of view.

"In a really liberal political culture you might even expect a secular citizen to help translate religious language into the language of public discourse in matters that may be relevant to all."

*** (maybe he means  “Ears of your heart” quoted by JPII in paragraph 54 of his “Splendour of the Truth” with reference to Saint Paul's letter [Rom 2.14-16] who however only mentions “eyes of your heart” in Ephesians 1:18.
According to Google, the striking little metaphor of “the ears of your heart” is not Paul’s invention but Saint Benedict’s in “Listen carefully [Ausculta]. . . . and incline the ears of your heart.”

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4

Ratzinger: THE MORAL FOUNDATION OF THE STATE:

The Cardinal speaks about the modern world.
Technology brings people of different origin nearer to each other, and “in the encounter some certainties broke up that had until then been considered basic.”

If these certainties no longer exist, what is the law based on? — How is it made? — If by a majority, can’t it go wrong?

The Cardinal mentions Hans Küng’s project of a universal ethos which was critically reviewed by Spaeman:

Quote Spaeman “Google Books”:


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Next, the Cardinal speaks about fanatical minorities that are partly encouraged by some religious traditions.
“Terrorist behaviour is partly seen as a defense of religious tradition against Western impiety and atheism.”

Therefore (the Cardinal asks ) would it be better to abolish religion and put it all under the guidance of reason?
And he answers (not surpisingly :-) that this would not solve our main problem, technology’s power of destruction, which is precisely a creature of reason.

He goes on to say that the Catholic Church has spent centuries developing the figure of “natural law” but “unfortunately this tool is no longer sharp.”

Natural law is based on a concept of nature “that went under with the victory of the theory of evolution.
“…. At least this is what we are being told by the scientists, and what seems to us at present almost incontrovertible. “

So, the last remaining element of natural law is the notion of “human rights”, a right which is supposedly all based on reason.
The problem is that both Christianity and modern rationality see themselves as universally valid.
This view has been giving rise to tensions all over the world.

“And what follows from all of this?”
“Well, what has to be inferred in the first place is that the two great cultures (he means Christianity and rationalism) of the West are not universal.”

“It is a fact, however, that our secular way of thinking cannot be considered compelling and obvious in every regard .”

“In other words, there is no formula of ethics or religion that all could agree on and that would then sustain all of human existence.”

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Footnote
I have found the complete texts online only on the Spanish site referenced above.

The owner of the site is an elderly priest who certainly would not understand that, even if there is no lucre, there might be a copyright issue, and nobody would have told him, whereas in the English speaking world they would most punctually have told each other.

The debate took place in 2004 at the Katholischen Akademie in Bayern.  — The transcripts are at http://akopol.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/habermas-ratzinger.pdf
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As most readers might know, The Cardinal has since become The Pope, but he is being quoted as cardinal because in that rank he carries a lesser burden of accountability.

The Cardinal invariably comes through as a top class thinker. The best collection of his writings is at
http://tinyurl.com/24g8o2 = the former Ratzinger fan page that started out some years before he became pope. Below is a small PDF of the site with all the links:


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Town square of Traunstein, the Ratzingers’ village. R’s father was a member of the rural police and the family had to move several times.

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Added spring 2013

Benedict has retired.

It has been a surprise  to see how his announcement  was being examined with much more interest than any of his other decisions. Suddenly everybody  felt he had to defend the  Catholic tradition  and all became more popish than the Pope. The objections to his decision were carefully — c r a f t e d  — in metaphorical terms reminding the Pope most earnestly that marriage is “until death do us part” and that “you cannot leave the cross”.
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For a moment I thought that perhaps the Cardinals, who did not lend him much support when he was up there, felt free to ask him to stay a little longer.

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muro de lamentaciones ratzinger.

For insider information on the Vatican see http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/?sp=y .

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Comments»

1. Moniker32 - February 16, 2013

This Habermas writes from a Protestant background where the concept of “conscience” is much more developed than in the Catholic world. This explains why Benedict would have had his doubts, and I think he was right.

Can’t remember who that famous British Catholic was who wrote a letter that is always quoted in this context.

cantueso - May 2, 2013

You mean Cardinal Newman’s letter to the Duke of Norfolk

http://www.newmanreader.org/works/anglicans/volume2/gladstone/
You may be right on the absence of the conscience idea in Catholic countries. The priority here is on public cohesion and loyalty.

2. Lifestyle diets - August 28, 2013

Also, envision yourself and belongings in your new home, year in and year out, my mama and lifestyle mother-in-law insisted on
doing the holiday cooking.


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