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Full Access Religion’s Political Role in Rawlsian Key

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Religion’s Political Role in Rawlsian Key

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AbstractIn Political Liberalism, expanded edition, Rawls repeatedly wants religions to accept liberal democracy for intrinsic reasons from their own religious premises, not as a modus vivendi. This article is to be considered an exploration in that field. In the first part the narrative of the St. Paul’s speech before the Areopagus in Athens by Luke is hermeneutically analyzed, as it tries to find common ground with Hellenistic philosophy and to do so by using deliberative rhetoric. In the second part these two characteristics of the Lukean story are considered the building blocks for the intrinsic acceptance of liberal democracy, albeit not in a substantive, but a formal key. The common ground Luke explored then was religious in nature, whereas in our days, at least in North-Western Europe, religion belongs to a cognitive minority. Moreover philosophy does not provide a common ground either, as there is a pluralism of competing schools nowadays. But intercontextual hermeneutics metaphorically permits to draw the following quadratic equation: as Lukean Paul related the Christian message to his philosophical context in order to find common ground, so we are to relate it to our context, the common ground of which is not philosophical, but political, which refers to the context of public reason. This article argues for accepting Rawls’ concept of using a bilingual language game for religion to present its religious convictions into the public debate and in due course translate them in terms of public reason. Such a translation requires a deliberative argumentation, that corresponds to the rules of logics and epistemology in practical reason.

Affiliations: 1: Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen Postbus 9103, 6500 HD Nijmegen, the Netherlands, Email:


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