Religion and the Demise of Liberal Rationalism: The Foundational Crisis of the Separation of Church and State

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Overview

At the same time that dissatisfaction with the shape of church/state relations is on the rise, liberalism is witnessing ever-spreading postmodern skepticism regarding the theoretical soundness of its core principles. What do these two trends have to do with one another? Potentially a great deal, according to J. Judd Owen, who contends that the liberal posture to religion cannot be divorced from, but rather lies as the deepest level of, the serious questions confronting liberalism’s original rationalist basis.

Through a careful critique of Richard Rorty, John Rawls, and Stanley Fish, Owen argues that today’s “post-rational” liberalisms can only evade or obscure, but cannot resolve, liberalism’s perennial difficulty with religion. Yet by politically fostering an indifference to the question of religious truth, liberal rationalism itself shares blame for its present crisis. Antifoundationalism is thus not a radical alternative to liberal rationalism, but its unintended byproduct. Presenting an original map of the current landscape of political thought, Owen’s provocative book cuts across political science, philosophy, religion, and constitutional theory.

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What People Are Saying


A remarkably well-written discussion of two figures who are central to much contemporary debate, Richard Rorty and Stanley Fish, and of the implications of their views for the role of religion in our political order. This is one of the best analyses of their work. As a result of reading this book, I surely have to reconsider some of my own positions.
—(Sanford Levinson, Centennial Chair in Law and Professor of Government, University of Texas, and author of Constitutional Faith)
Publisher
Does the success of liberalism – the great political philosophy of toleration, equal freedom, and moral and religious pluralism – rest on conformity to a faith that is unjustified and unjustifiable? This deeply learned and thoughtful book forces liberals and their critics to face difficult and enduring foundational questions. Those concerned with justice and public justification in conditions of deep moral and religious diversity need to confront this book.
— (Stephen J. Macedo, Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, and author of Diversity and Distrust: Civic Education in a Multicultural Democracy)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226641928
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


J. Judd Owen is an assistant professor of political science at Emory University.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 If Liberalism Is a Faith, What Becomes of the Separation of Church and State? 1
2 Pragmatism, Liberalism, and the Quarrel between Science and Religion 15
3 Rorty's Repudiation of Epistemology 40
4 Rortian Irony and the "De-divinization" of Liberalism 67
5 Religion and Rawls's Freestanding Liberalism 97
6 Stanely Fish and the Demise of the Separation of Church and State 129
7 Fish, Locke, and Religious Neutrality 151
8 Reason, Indifference, and the Aim of Religious Freedom 165
App A Reply to Stanley Fish 173
Notes 181
Bibliography 199
Index 207
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Recipe

At the same time that dissatisfaction with the shape of church/state relations is on the rise, liberalism is witnessing ever-spreading postmodern skepticism regarding the theoretical soundness of its core principles. What doe these two tends have to do with each other? Potentially a great deal, according to J. Judd Owen, who contends that the liberal posture to religion cannot be divorced from, but rather lies at the deepest level of, the serious questions confronting liberalism's original rationalist basis.

Through a careful critique of Richard Rorty, John Rawls, and Stanely Fish, Owen argues that today's "post-rational" liberalisms can only evade or obscure, but cannot resolve, liberalism's perennial difficult with religion. Yet by politically fostering an indifference to question of religious truth, liberal rationalsim itself shares balme for its present crisis. Antifoundationalism is thus not a radical alternative to liberal rationalism, but its unintended byproduct.

Presenting an original map of the current landscape of political thought, Owen's provocative book cuts across politcal science, philosophy, religion, and constitutional theory.
Read More Show Less

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