In the past ten to fifteen years, discussions around the contested role of religion in the political public sphere have often centered on Jürgen Habermas and Charles Taylor, for many obvious and legitimate reasons. Not only are the two thinkers some of the most well-established in their fields, but they also share a deep appreciation of one another. Habermas’s reflections have perhaps drawn the bulk of attention and pushback, as religion had previously gone nearly unmentioned in his good half-century of academic work. Taylor also rarely discussed religion explicitly in his early career, but his more recent reflections seem to flow more naturally from his oeuvre, and come as less of a surprise to his readers.
In 2015, Taylor and Habermas were honored together in their shared reception of the Kluge Prize. While the two share significant overlap in their general push for a more accommodating role of religion in secular society, it is still worth taking a closer look at their divergences, particularly with regard to their views of language. Taylor has just released the first installment of what is to be a two-volume series entitled “The Language Animal.” We haven’t heard much from Habermas in recent years, but much of the secondary literature still focuses on his notion of the “post-secular,” mentioned in his 2001 speech in Frankfurt, as well as his 2005 volume Between Naturalism and Religion. His 2012 essay collection, Postmetaphysical Thinking II, has received less attention but shows a slight shift in emphasis. In what follows, I seek to provide an overview of Habermas’s and Taylor’s respective notions of “translation” and “articulacy,” and to accentuate their differences in order to consider where this discourse may go from here.