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Social Research Assignment Response Paper on Religion Public, Reason and Liberalism


Your social research assignment task is to prepare a response paper on religion, public reason and liberalism.


It has been identified herein social research assignment that in pluralistic societies; the importance of religion has increased day by day. On the other side, political liberalism endorsed by Jürgen Habermas is much closer to John Rawls. In addition to this, Public Reasons need strong political and moral rules that regulate our common life. The present response paper focuses on evaluating arguments made in the papers associated with key themes religion, public reason, and liberalism. The paper includes information related to the mentioned themes, along with noted arguments and debates. It contains discussion regarding the views of other critics such as James W. Boettcher and Melissa Yates related to these themes. It has been identified that religious traditions have gained lots of political importance. From 1989 to 90, there has been a strong change in the meaning of religion in this aspect. Variants of religious fundamentalism in the old decade were strongly associated with the political aspect. Currently, variants of religious fundamentalism are strongly found in the Middle East but also in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. It has been noted that these areas often witnessed national and ethnic conflicts that gave rise to political disruptions and confrontations. For years, the confrontations also have been decentralised as terrorism (Habermas, 2006). Habermas further noted that the concept of "multiple modernities" is a "clash of civilisations". It has been further denoted that political agenda mixed up religious and cultural matters giving rise to conflicts. It is nothing other than domination over minorities, which heavily affects the cultural aspects of people and, thus, their social life.

On the other hand, Rawls (1997) mentioned that religion is beyond the effects of political upheavals. Political decisions are made separating the morals associated with religion and faith. In a pluralistic society, religious decisions have no concern with the political agendas and legislative decisions (Yates, 2007).

The thoughts provoked in public are also facts to note to identify the involvement of public reasoning in the political background. In this essay, The Idea of Public Reason Revisited, Rawls (1997) stated that public reason is a concept belonging to a constitutional democratic society. In such societies, the public can differentiate between the political and regional factors and make decisions. They understand political relationships and the fact that they require providing reasons to convince one another to avoid conflict. Including religion in this scenario has been considered moral value and separated from political decisions, which are called secular reasons. In other words, Rawls stated that both religious and non-religious public could be a part of political decision-making. However, in the views of Habermas, it is challenging for people to separate their thought processes and carry out secular decisions without compromising their faith. Thus, he proposed the idea that non-religious people are required to understand the views of religious people and ‘translate’ their thoughts into “neutral” language to promote cooperation (Boettcher, 2009). The views of both philosophers hold a strong argument regarding the actual actions appropriate for public reason.

Liberalism is the concept where people respect the views of others and promotes individual rights, democracy, civil liberties and free enterprise. As per the ideas of Rawls (1997), political liberalism focuses on the recognition of reasonable pluralism and the institutionalisation of the conception of justice. Thus, it can state that reciprocate laws, and public policies should be neutral to make them acceptable for all. It is well known to the citizens that the political leaders or the governments are protecting them, but they can also be the main threat to liberty. In such a scenario, as religious matters are involved in political agendas, people must carry out discourse that can ensure equality and respect of each other’s views and conduct their ‘duty of civility’ (Rawls, 1997).

According to Boettcher (2009), these views are conflicting for a religious person as they find it challenging to consider the views of a non-religious person. In this situation, both Rawls and Habermas claimed that they must note the communication process. However, it has also been established that even though reasonable pluralism applies to the concept of justice for the greater good, several reasonable people can reject liberal conceptions. Regarding this condition, Habermas argued that religious people are self-modernised and can deal with such situations.

As hinted previously, the thoughts of Rawls and Habermas are distinctive in political philosophy. The philosophers provided their views about religion, liberalism, and the public sphere, further critiqued and justified Yates, 2007). It has been noted that in the case of public relations, Habermas established the fact that discourse ethics needs to be universal other than given cultural norms. Thus, he mentioned that it is essential for people to have a secular language to understand each other’s views. This philosopher distinguished religious and non-religious people and stated that religious people can self-modernise, conflicting their views. He previously stated that religious people find it difficult to separate their thoughts to provide decisions without betraying their faith in religion. Yates mentions this factor in her report where she stated that Habermas has failed to explain the issue clearly due to his duality in the thought (Yates, 2007).

On the other hand, Rawls argued that people have two separate entities in which they provide their decisions as reasonable citizens while excluding their regional thoughts. The ‘public’ in his Political Liberalism states the government agencies and other political functions, while 'non-public represents non-governmental functions (Rawls, 1997). The non-public reason is people's unofficial or private interactions that they have to separate while making decisions in a political public sphere. Boettcher supported this idea while opposing Habermas’ ‘institutional translation proviso’, where he stated that only political officials are required to justify their political decisions. Boettcher argued that this is challenging to be done, as it will again involve religion in making decisions (Boettcher, 2009).

In terms of religious thoughts, Rawls mentioned that people could make suitable decisions based on accepting a particular doctrine while reaching a reasonable agreement in place of political compromise (Boettcher, 2009). He assumes the fact that all citizens are committed to different doctrines. However, it has been noted that a person's religious views can differ from others, and they cannot expect them to understand their views on certain matters. It can only accept their views on constitutional grounds (Yates, 2007). Thus, it clears the fact that in the views of Rawls, religious and constitutional matters can be separated by people on their own while making justifiable decisions.

Concerning the views of Rawls regarding the decision-making of citizens is based on their political values instead of their moral ('non-public) values. Yates (2007) outlined that such matters lead to duality. First of all, despite them regarding one view, citizens are bound to have two justifications. On the other hand, regarding their duty of civility, they are bound to react based on requirements. In this case, views of Habermas come into being, as he argued that the separation of public and non-public views in a citizen is a challenging factor. In other words, it can be stated that Rawls supported exclusion of regional factors from making constitutional and legislative decisions (Boettcher, 2009). However, in Habermas, religious fractions of the population enable understanding social struggles and depletion of funds, which can help in liberal decision-making. Thus, the views of religious citizens are high enabled enablement. It can help in understanding the overall requirements of society while pursuing overall economic and social development through legal policies and laws.

Moreover, understanding views have been noted that accepting public reasoning that could violate religious convictions is wrong. However, Boettcher (2009) mentioned that despite several contradictions of Habermas, the views of Rawls have been dominant. It is the case because, in pluralism and multiculturalism, it cannot convey both ethical and moral discourse through neutral language. Such matters can leave them confused and troubled as they face an internal conflict between their separate viewpoints (Yates, 2007). These issues have not been addressed in religion in the Public Sphere, resulting in occurrences of contradictions.

A fact to consider in this light is that Habermas has faced Split-identity objection, as he also, like Rawls, contradicts his thoughts (Yates, 2007). The philosopher insisted that both religious and non-religious views of citizens are to be included in decision making. On the contrary, it has been denoted that all religious people require understanding the concept of secular language. It is only through secular reasoning that they are capable of joining secular people. Even though he encouraged secular people to take note of views of religious people, his encouragement to understand secular reasoning concretes the fact that only secular reasons can be transferred as laws and policies (Boettcher, 2009).

The viewpoints of both Habermas and Rawls are of constant debate. Their views regarding liberalism, public reasons, and religion are thoroughly acknowledged and studied for better understanding. In consideration of this analysis, it can state that both philosophers have their drawbacks. Both of them had duality that contradicted their viewpoints. However, the constant communication between the two philosophers enabled others to understand the concepts associated with the mentioned themes (Boettcher 2009). Boettcher further finds several areas where both philosophers have similar thoughts. However, he demonstrated the differences of the views of the two philosophers where he identified that Habermas focused on secular units, while Rawls acknowledged requirements of public reasons to all (Boettcher, 2009). Through the analysis, it has been clear that most critics follow the views of Rawls more than Habermas. The fact, that people should separate their 'public' and 'non-public thoughts, ensures the ability of citizens to follow ethics and come up with justifiable decisions. The exclusion of regional emotional or moral values allows people to judge better based on their 'duty of civility'. On the other hand, it is also evident that ignoring religious matters can lead to overlooking internal struggles and deprivation among citizens that are mostly managed by non-public institutions (Boettcher, 2009). Yates noted asymmetric citizenship, where the non-religious liberal comprehensive doctrines rarely face any constraint as religious non-liberal doctrines. None of the philosophers considered this factor, whereas, in its least plausible condition, political liberation supports atheism implicitly (Yates, 2007). In my opinion, people are required to consider both reasons and make sound decisions based on their understanding of the situation. One can consider both religious and public reasons to make final decisions. It can help in the development of effective laws and policies that covers both public and non-public requirements.

The study focused on the details of conflicts between Rawls and Habermas, the two well-known philosophers of the time, along with Yates and Boettcher. The paper includes contradictory thoughts of the philosophers as they converse regarding public reasons, religion, and liberalism. It has been identified that religion plays a significant role in the actions taken by people. It has recently taken a turn while terrorism and political decisions are made based on that. Rawls mentioned that people should only consider their public reasons and refrain from non-public or moral views. On the other hand, Habermas argued it is essential to consider both aspects for making sound legal decisions for the development of a society. In regards to these thoughts, both Yates and Boettcher supported some of the arguments of Rawls. Yates noted the differences by describing Habermas’ two specific objections, while Boettcher thoroughly analysed several themes while acknowledging Rawls’ and Habermas’ thoughts.

Even though Rawls views are dominant, I think it is essential to take note of both aspects and have reasonable conduct over the thoughts to make appropriate decisions. It cannot separate religion from a person's life; considerations that can improve society via moral values are also necessary and require careful thought for ultimate decisions. In consideration of the analysis of the thoughts of Rawls and Habermas, it can state that despite fruitful discussions, none of them can balance political and public spheres while maintaining equality and freedom among citizens.

Boettcher, J.W., 2009. Habermas, religion and the ethics of citizenship. Philosophy & social criticism, 35(1-2), pp.215-238.

Habermas, J., 2006. Religion in the public sphere. European journal of philosophy, 14(1), pp.1-25.

Rawls, J., 1997. The idea of public reason revisited. Social research assignment The University of Chicago Law Review, 64(3), pp.765-807.

Yates, M., 2007. Rawls and Habermas on religion in the public sphere. Philosophy & Social Criticism, 33(7), pp.880-891.


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