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Ms Marthe Kerkwijk

Research Student

Department: Philosophy

Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action and religious plurality in contemporary Europe

Habermas can bee seen as one of the major thinkers in contemporary political thought in Europe. His Theory of Communicative Action (1981) provides a complex and elegant account on how rational agents in a society should coordinate action: by means of communicative rationality, a practice of free argumentation and reason-giving with the aim of reaching mutual understanding and consensus.

This theory has influenced Habermas' later work on religion in the public sphere and deliberative democracy. But European society has changed since 1981. What the appropriate place of religion in the public sphere should be is by no means clear, and particularly Islam forms a controversial example. Misunderstandings and misinterpretations seem often to interfere with reasonable decision making on topics related to religion in the public sphere.

But can Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action really help us to understand these phenomena, or does his focus on reason exclude important religious phenomena with political relevance that may have a meaning that cannot be fully grasped in rational terms?