From ‘Sacred’ to ‘Secular’?
: The Hermeneutical Future of Religion in the Thought of Gianni Vattimo and Charles Taylor

  • Rogi Thomas

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis entitled “From ‘Sacred’ to ‘Secular’? The Hermeneutical Future of Religion in the Thought of Gianni Vattimo and Charles Taylor” aims at a deconstructive analysis of religion and secularism in order to explore both its postmodern and post-secular implications. It suggests that Vattimo and Taylor’s philosophies of religion and secularism exemplify the key features of a defining feature of the post-modern world. Their discussion of ‘an emergent religious and cultural sensibility’ implies a post-modern, post secular and hermeneutical re-affirmation of religion. Vattimo’s philosophy is presented as emerging from its own axiom of “weak thought” which is itself a secularising principle. By way of contrast, Taylor’s reflection on the foundation of secularity is delivered in four segments: 1) an historical approach to his concept of secularism, 2) his attempt at overcoming epistemology and its implications for understanding secularism, 3) a re-appraisal of his philosophical sources of secularity, and 4) the development of the concept of secularity commensurable with embracing a non-religious notion of religion.

    The thesis entails a comparative and dialogical exchange between Vattimo and Taylor concerning their understanding of a post-secular engagement with religion. The thesis proposes that their dialogical engagement with secularism and religion articulates: 1) a process of hermeneutical reflexive re-evaluation, 2) a way of re-evaluating transcendentalism, and 3) a re-worked non-metaphysical notion of transcendence. In addition, this thesis suggests that their dialectical discourse on religion exploits the inexhaustible nature of religion, and its capacity to be more than itself. I shall argue that the philosophical outcome of their hermeneutical deconstruction of both religion and modern secularism (the two are intimately allied) will be presented as: 1) the development of a non-religious conception of religion, 2) a retrieved religion of beingfor-the-other, 3) the precedence of charity over truth, and 4) an understanding of the transition from sacred to secular as a hermeneutical process of both ‘an exodus’ and ‘a transition’. This thesis offers a hermeneutical deconstruction of the‘return of religion’. In so doing, it both engages and unfolds aspects of an ongoing philosophical and hermeneutical tradition. Although located primarily in the continental tradition of thought, the thesis is also concerned with responding to articulations of secular and religious dichotomies in other traditions in order to invigorate the re-thinking of religion and problems of secularity across a wide variety of philosophical horizons.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorNicholas Davey (Supervisor) & Ashley Woodward (Supervisor)

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