To be asked to contribute a commentary on Professor Robert Bellah’s magnum opus is a great honor and a privilege that, in the virtual company of intellectuals of the highest caliber, manages to concentrate the mind and at the same time to fill you with despair; not least because Religion in Human Evolution stands as a measure of the distance that lies between routine, or ordinary, intellectual activity, and genuine, indeed extraordinary, intellectual achievement.
Posts Tagged ‘teleology’
Sharing Jonathan Sheehan’s aversion to discourse that perpetuates the “ideological conflict” between secular and religious teleology, Vincent Pecora, in “A brief note on teleology,” offers two major observations in connection with the “post secularization” discussion. In particular, Pecora argues that our “perennial dissatisfactions with civilization”—and especially with purely economic answers to the question of “what ends we mean”—inevitably keeps teleology rooted in the debate. To conclude, Pecora cautions that attaching any notion of “secularism fulfilled” to prevailing ideologies would simply (and more aptly) indicate “hubris fulfilled.”
I think Jonathan Sheehan points to something quite useful in his last post: the need for a discourse that does not immediately slide into the “ideological” conflict of religious versus secular teleology. I think many in the religious studies and sociology of religion fields have tried to find such a discourse for decades now. It is just that their disciplinary efforts have become far more visible to the rest of us recently. Still, Justin Reynolds raises a point that is indeed important in the entirety of the “post-secularization” discussion, as it is now being called. However we contextualize this discussion—I tend to see it as accelerating rapidly after the end of the cold war—it is clear that much of it has circled around the question of teleology. For a variety of reasons, two of the foundational questions of religion and philosophy, and certainly not only in the West, have reemerged to trouble the standard thesis among Western intellectuals that predicted inevitable and irreversible secularization and modernization: What is the aim, the end, the purpose of human life? and, Can different societies reasonably embrace quite different answers to this question?