De ambiguïteit van ‘postseculiere’ en ‘postmetafysische’ verhalen | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 106, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0002-5275
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1244



Words are always important, all over the world. On October 15, 1989, Vaclav Havel underlined their utmost importance in his acceptance speech of the Peace Prize of the German Booksellers Association, entitled ‘A Word about Words’. But he gave us at once a warning: ‘The same word can be humble at one moment and arrogant the next. And a humble word can be transformed easily and imperceptibly into an arrogant one, whereas it is a difficult and protracted process to transform an arrogant word into one that is humble.’

In this essay, my intention is to focus on two words, ‘post-secular’ and ‘post-metaphysical’, as coined by Jürgen Habermas. I would like to raise the question whether they are still humble words or whether they are already surreptitiously transformed into arrogant ones. Undoubtedly, Habermas sees the words ‘post-secular’ and ‘post-metaphysical’ as intertwined and he originally framed them as humble expressions of a balanced position. But both words are poly-interpretable. They can be humble at one moment and arrogant the next. Since words are never innocent and their interpretation determines which view on the role of world-views, including religions, will prevail in contemporary society, a painstaking interpretation of both words is important.

Mainly inspired by Charles Taylor’s approach, I will trace the consequences of divergent interpretations of these two words as to the role of religious (part I) and metaphysical arguments or ‘deep commitments’ (part II) in the current debate on the place of religion in the public sphere. I will suggest that the controversy around the interpretation of both words is not only due to different epistemological premises, but to divergent political stances as well (part III). Finally, I will claim that achieving mutual respect and tolerance in this regard is less amenable to the neutrality of procedural rationality than to the imaginative force of subtle words (part IV).


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Habermas; Havel; metaphysical; Oz; post-metaphysical; post-secular; secular; Taylor
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