• Charles Taylor and the Religious Imaginary

      Kuipers, Ronald A.; Centre for Philosophy, Religion and Social Ethics, Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2015)
      The notion of a "social imaginary"—the way people come to understand their social surroundings by way of images, stories, and legends—plays a key role in Charles Taylor's thought, including his magnum opus, A Secular Age. In this intellectual tour de force, Taylor attempts to trace the historical development of Western secularism as we experience it today. In doing so, he challenges the "subtraction story" which he sees animating the social imaginary of today's typical secularist. According to this story, the emergence of secularism in the West follows a linear trajectory, along which humanity slowly sheds the irrational accretions of myth, religion, and the sacred, in order to uncover a rational core of free thought and autonomous science, which may now flourish without the constraints of heteronomous religious authority. In challenging this story, Taylor offers an intriguing new understanding of Western secularism, as well as tantalizing suggestions concerning the continued social relevance a religious imaginary might have in "a secular age." This seminar will be devoted to an in-depth study of this major work, which in its relatively brief life has already become a landmark text in both the philosophy of religion as well as secularization theory. Through this study, seminar participants will also consider what role Taylor's Roman Catholic religious commitment plays in his thought, as well as the role a religiously-informed "social imaginary" might play in a pluralized global society that is deeply impacted by, but also largely at odds with, the particular social imaginary of Western modernity.
    • Cross-Pressured Authenticity: Charles Taylor on the Contemporary Challenges to Religious Identity in a Secular Age

      Kuipers, Ronald A.; Institute for Christian Studies (Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy, 2016)
    • Democracy Without Secularism: A Pragmatist Critique of Habermas

      Kuipers, Ronald A.; van der Merwe, W. L.; Mullin, Daniel Michael; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2012-12)
      Jürgen Habermas has argued that democracy depends on all citizens recognizing the legitimacy of the law. Therefore, political argument must appeal only to public reason which is secular. Religious citizens must translate their reasons into a secular language accessible to the public. This dissertation argues that religious arguments are justified in public discourse if they refrain from dogmatism. Moreover, there is nothing inherent in secular reasons that make them publicly accessible or likely to generate consensus among members of a pluralistic society. If we treat religious arguments as simply arguments with controversial premises, it becomes less clear why religious arguments are singled out as particularly problematic for liberal democracies, since many secular political arguments share this feature. Granted, religious reasons are unlikely to secure consensus, but this does not count against them if consensus is not the goal of democratic discourse. This dissertation makes the case that Habermas, and other liberal theorists such as Rawls, have placed too much emphasis on consensus as the goal of democracy. Moreover, what they refer to is not practical consensus achieved pragmatically through compromise, but an idealized consensus that is the achievement of secular reason. This is problematic for two main reasons: there is no normative reason to think we ought to attain such consensus and such consensus is unlikely to be achieved in practice. Thus, there seems to be no normative force to the claim that religious citizens out to translate their arguments in secular language.
    • Liberating Emergence: Human Dependence and Autonomy in Emergentism, Hermeneutics, and Pragmatism

      Kuipers, Ronald A.; Johnson, Matthew E.; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2014-08)
      This thesis traces a thread that runs through emergentism in analytical philosophy and the thought of five philosophers: Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Charles Taylor, John Dewey, and Richard Rorty. I suggest that the insight that connects all of these thinkers is precisely the insight that undergirds a theory of “strong emergence,” which acknowledges that in certain systems, properties emerge that exert causal influence on the system out of which they emerged. Strong emergence offers a helpful “third way” to describe human personhood that is neither reductionistic nor dualistic and maintains that the human person is both dependent upon and (within certain limits) autonomous from the system out of which it emerges. I will suggest that the hermeneutic philosophy of Heidegger, Gadamer, and Taylor clarifies the historical cultural conditions out of which the human person emerges as a critical and creative agent in a way that similarly maintains a balance between the dependence and autonomy of the human person. Dewey and Rorty, on the other hand, provide accounts of human situatedness but emphasize the creative freedom that emerges out of this situatedness, characterizing humans as artists or poets who can engage with their situatedness in novel ways. For both Dewey and Rorty, our ability to shape the future and to shape ourselves is built into our experience in the world. I will conclude that each of these five thinkers develop accounts of human personhood that resonate with strong emergence, describing how human persons are able to emerge out of their embeddedness in the world, upon which they remain ever dependent, as creative innovators.
    • The Spiritual Meaning of Technological Evolution to Life

      Kirby, Joseph Morrill; Institute for Christian Studies (Cosmos Publishing Cooperative, 2013)
      There are two senses by which technology can be seen as a new layer of living complexity: first, while biological systems can only appropriate 24 of the 91 natural elements into their metabolic processes, technological systems can imbue complex form into all 91 elements; second, this added capacity gives life the potential to expand across its current limit – the atmosphere of the Earth – in the same way as it expanded from the oceans to the land some five hundred million years ago. This essay explores what such an understanding of life and technology might mean to us, humanity, in the context of our current ecological and social catastrophe.
    • Turning Memory into Prophecy: Roberto Unger and Paul Ricoeur on the Human Condition Between Past and Future

      Kuipers, Ronald A.; Institute for Christian Studies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)