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Freedom and Reason. Habermas’ Critique of Kierkegaard

Date: 14.01.2021
Start Time: 18:00-20:00
Place: Microsoft Teams
Organiser: The research team of the project “Between Secularization and Reform,” principal investigator: Dr Anna Tomaszewska (

The research team of the project “Between Secularization and Reform. Religious Rationalism in the Late 17th Century and in the Enlightenment” organises the seventh seminar in the “Enlightenment and Religion” series. The seminar, to be held on 14 January 2021 from 18:00 to 20:00 CET (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.) on Microsoft Teams, will host Prof. Maeve Cooke (University College Dublin) who will deliver a lecture titled Freedom and Reason. Habermas’ Critique of Kierkegaard. All willing to join the meeting are kindly requested to sign up via the website of the project ( or by sending an expression of interest to the following address: More information about the project and the seminar is available on the website: The event is open to all interested participants.

In his recent two-volume book Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie, Habermas engages critically with Kierkegaard’s view of reason. Kierkegaard sees reason as operating within human history, while at the same time possessing a transcending power that intervenes into the historical process. This power enables human subjects to act autonomously, liberating them to a mode of freedom that consists in ‘being-able-to-be-oneself’. Habermas endorses Kierkegaard’s concern to maintain the transcending power of reason, as experienced by finite subjects within human history. However, he distances himself from his interpretation of existentially experienced truth as the authenticity of a life of religious faith lived in passionate devotion. Rejecting his interpretation of the transcending power of reason as the power of a personal God, Habermas offers a secular, linguistified reading of reason. On his secular reading, the ethical individual is offered not redemption but a postmetaphysical way out of its despairing isolation in self-referential inwardness. I reject both Habermas’ secular interpretation of the transcending power that liberates humans to be-able-to-be-themselves and Kierkegaard’s religious one. 

Maeve Cooke – professor of political philosophy at University College Dublin, specialised in the philosophy of Jürgen Habermas. She has also lectured at the University of California, Berkeley and Yale University. She has authored a number of articles, book chapters on political philosophy and the monographs titled Language and Reason: A Study of Habermas’s Pragmatics (1994) and Re-Presenting the Good Society (2006). Editor of a volume of essays by Jürgen Habermas On the Pragmatics of Communication (1998).