Ian Hunter

Ian Hunter is an emeritus professor in the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Queensland. He is the author of several studies dealing with the relations between politics, law and religion. These include Rival Enlightenments (2001), The Secularisation of the Confessional State (2007), “Religious Freedom in Early Modern Germany” (South Atlantic Quarterly 2014), and “Giorgio Agamben’s Form of Life” (Politics, Religion & Ideology 2017).

Posts by Ian Hunter:

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Law and truth in the German religious constitution

Acta Pacis WestphalicæIt is a widely held view that the juridical and political management of religion should be grounded in fundamental normative truth. Catholic communitarian and natural law doctrines are among the more evidently sectarian variants of this view, teaching that society should be understood as an association governed by the natural law goods that it must realize as virtues, and that law and state should govern in accordance with the values embedded in community or society.

Less evidently sectarian are those variants teaching that law and politics should be grounded in the free choices of rational individuals, whether this be understood in terms of the Lockean state acting as a trustee for individual rights, Immanuel Kant’s conception of public law as the exercise of power required to realize the a priori principle of individual right, or the latter-day improvisations on Kant found in John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas. Catholic commentary has rightly pointed to the Protestant character of these individualist-rationalist doctrines, although without first removing the sectarian beam from its own eye.

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Monday, June 13th, 2016

Secularization histories as cultural-political programs

In a The Immanent Frame post on buffered selves, Charles Taylor commented that “The process of disenchantment, involving a change in us, can be seen as a loss of a certain sensibility that is really an impoverishment (as against simply the shedding of irrational feelings).” For Taylor, selves that have been sealed against currents of transcendence flowing through cosmos and community are symptoms of an epochal process of secularization that has rationalized or disenchanted both individuals and whole societies. While not being the only one on offer—Jürgen Habermas and Daniel Dennett provide rival Kantian and naturalist accounts—Taylor’s account of a “disembedding” of the transcendent brought about by a self-alienating religion is probably the dominant philosophical history of a “secular age.” Given that Taylor aligns secularization with “Reform Christianity” and dates it to the 1500s, however, what should we make of the fact that the term was not used to refer to an epochal process of rationalization until the early nineteenth century?

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Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

The return of sacred history

Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation is an expansively ambitious work. Indeed, its aim is to provide nothing less than an “explanation of why the Western world today is as it is.” In this regard it sits comfortably alongside Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, with whose neo-Thomist structure, content, and purpose it has much in common. Both writers mix their Thomism with Hegelianism, treating the secular world as the form in which man confronts his own alienated or sublimated religious impulse. Lying behind this philosophical-historical theory of secularization is a conception of the world as the space in which its transcendent creator manifests himself sacramentally

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