Volume 113, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0002-5275
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1244



With his monumental genealogy of Western philosophy Jürgen Habermas delivers an achievement that is worthy of great praise. In carefully constructed arguments he presents in detail the close connection between, and the mutual indebtedness of, religion and philosophy as they developed in the West for more than two millennia. With regard to the current state of affairs he acknowledges that we should continue to engage with subjects such as purpose, meaningfulness, and how to behave. He proposes that where religion is withdrawing, philosophy should take its place. In spite of its great merits, there are some fundamental shortcomings in the overall image Habermas wishes to convey. By suggesting that Western religion and philosophy have been the major driving forces not only of cognitive but also of ethical progress, he underestimates the moral value of pre-Socratic and other holistic world views that radically differ from the idiosyncratic Western one. For example, he perceives Homer’s mythological thinking as nothing but a primitive state of mind against which the ethical and intellectual progress of later developments could come to the fore. This paper proposes that we should give much more weight to the difference between the ‘cognitive’ and the ‘ethical’ than Habermas does. In principle, as a form of argumentative reasoning, philosophy belongs to the (cognitive) domain of truth. As such, it is not a suitable successor to religion. On the other hand, provided they operate primarily within their own domain – which is the domain of meaningfulness –, religion (in whatever form), literature and the arts, ancient myth, friendship, love, and humour may still be best equipped to sharpen our sense of justice and help us deal with feelings of moral disorientation and fragmentation.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Adams, D.(1979)The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. London: Pan Books.
  2. Armstrong, K.(2005)A Short History of Myth. Edinburgh / London / New York / Melbourne: Canongate.
  3. Armstrong, K.(2006)The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions. New York / Toronto: Random House.
  4. Drewermann, E.(1991)Der tödliche Fortschritt. Von der Zerstörung der Erde und des Menschen im Erbe des Christentums. Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder-Verlag.
  5. Habermas, J.(1997)Israel oder Athen: Wem gehört die anamnetische Vernunft? In J.Habermas (red.) Vom sinnlichen Eindruck zum symbolischen Ausdruck. Philosophische Essays. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, pp. 98-111.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Habermas, J. (2019a) Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie. Deel 1: Die okzidentale Konstellation von Glauben und Wissen. Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag.
  7. Habermas, J. (2019b) Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie. Deel 2: Vernünftige Freiheit. Spuren des Diskurses über Glauben und Wissen. Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag.
  8. Jaspers, K.(1949)Vom Ursprung und Ziel der Geschichte. Zürich: Artemis Verlag.
  9. Kardaun, M.(2000)Platonic Art Theory: A Reconsideration. In M.Kardaun & J.Spruyt (red.) The Winged Chariot: Collected Essays on Plato & Platonism in Honour of L. M. de Rijk (= Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, vol. 100). Leiden, etc.: Brill, pp. 135-164.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Kardaun, M.(2011)Fighting the Angel: Biblical and Mythical Encounters with Demons and Deities. Roskilde: EyeCorner Press.
  11. Kardaun, M.(2014)The Philosopher and the Beast: Plato’s Fear of Tragedy. In PsyArt18, pp. 148-163.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Nietzsche, F.W.(1889)Götzen-Dämmerung oder Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophirt. Leipzig: Naumann.
  13. Nietzsche, F.W.(1895)Der Antichrist. Fluch auf das Christenthum. Leipzig: Naumann.
  14. Provan, Iain(2013)Convenient myths: the axial age, dark green religion, and the world that never was. Waco (Texas): Baylor University Press.
  15. Rijk, L.M. de(2008)Religie, normen, waarden. Een kritische blik op een maatschappelijk debat. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker.
  16. Rijk, L.M. de(2010)Geloven en weten. Pleidooi voor een sober atheïsme. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker.
  17. Schaik, C. van & K.Michel(2016)The Good Book of Human Nature: An Evolutionary Reading of the Bible. New York City, NY: Basic Books.
  18. Van der Post, L. (1986 [1958]) The Lost World of the Kalahari. New York: Morrow.
  19. Waal, F. de(2014)The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism among the Primates. New York City, NY / London: Norton.
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error