February 7, 2023

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Benedict XVI and Habermas talk about politics and religion – 01/02/2023 – João Pereira Coutinho

died Joseph Ratzinger, one of the greatest intellectuals of our time. He was also Pope, but I leave those matters to the Vatican experts and theologians.

I already enjoyed reading Ratzinger Benedict 16 There are I discovered him in the early years of the 21st century when I read a conversation I had with him Jurgen HabermasIn 2004, at the Catholic Academy of Bavaria.

The problem in contemporary political thought was simply this: What are the ethical foundations of the liberal, secular state?

Is it the product of a democratic process that guarantees its ethical assumptions without requiring religion?

Or are they prior to this process?

In even simpler terms: what should be the anchor of legislative action and principle?

Jürgen Habermas, a love child of the Continental (and Kantian) Enlightenment, offered the classic answer: the democratic constitutional state needs no religious or metaphysical justification. It creates an autonomous justification, its own rationality, which all rational citizens will accept without effort.

Of course: Habermas does not deny that in the course of history, many theological concepts have been “translated” into secular language. In affirming that all human beings have equal and complete dignity, we fundamentally secularize the old biblical concept that man is made in the image and likeness of God.

But Habermas is more interested in the separation than the continuity between religion and politics, accepting that the two must always interact in a pluralistic context. I correct: In a paternalistic approach, the author hopes that non-believers will help believers translate their faith into “police” language.

Habermas’s argument is elegant but insufficient. He seems to be suffering from the old affliction of wanting to have his cake and eat it too.

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On the one hand, the German philosopher wants to defend the ethical ideas he has given us. JerusalemUntil they were purged from that Jurassic footprint.

On the other hand, he never questions whether it is possible to preserve these principles—for example, the essential dignity of human beings—by pulling them out of the fertile soil that allowed them to flourish.

Worse: he places a naturalistic attachment to such values ​​in reason (and democratic reason) which seems, to me at least, unwise. You need to back off Germany In 1933, did your comrades vote as they did?

Perhaps it is—and Ratzinger, another German, begins there in his response to Habermas. If law is born only of the will of the majority, it is necessary to first question what the intention of the majority is. We may have unpleasant surprises.

This is why Ratzinger argues that the ethical foundations of law cannot be a product of law. If so, the “so-called”Human rights“Only depends on the will of the legislator.

Regardless of the goodness of those who rule, there are values ​​that spring from the common nature of human beings. Christianity’s main political contribution was to provide Caesar with a rational interpretation of these natural values, which were both the possibility and the limitation of political action.

To pretend who is right in this dialogue is to start on the wrong side. In philosophy, answers don’t matter; are questions.

The question faced by Habermas and Ratzinger continues to burn in contemporary societies.
Just look at Brazil.

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What kind of relationship should politics and religion have? some? Nothing?

And between believers and unbelievers? Will there still be a common space where the two can meet?

This is Ratzinger’s proposition: faith and reason are the basis of a moral society.

Religion needs reason to control its metastases, which was especially relevant when the dialogue between the two thinkers took place three years later. September 11.

But rationality has its excesses, especially in the scientific context. Doubts about this lunar side should have a look Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Hopefully that Kiev not in this list).

Without declarations of “the milk of human tenderness,” we would be mere cannon fodder.


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