19 May 2005

Not Ancient Philosophy, in Vancouver

I write this from Vancouver, British Columbia--cold, blustery and overcast Vancouver--where I am participating the next two days in a conference at Simon Fraser University (downtown campus) on "Citizenship and the Common Good: Secularism or Inclusive Society". It's not ancient philosophy.

I'm giving the keynote address this evening on the theme, "Religion in a Liberal Democracy: Foundation or Threat?" (That's what I've working on the past couple of days, hence the sparseness of posts.)

The very interesting purpose of the conference is to consider two questions:

(1) Is there a viable, fuller conception of 'secularity' according to which a religious view can also be a secular view? (The standard view is illustrated perhaps by the French constitution, which identifies France as a republique laique--usually rendered 'secular'--precisely to exclude government endorsement of any sort of religious outlook. But Canadian jurisprudence, in contrast, in affirming the 'secular' character of government, is concerned more with whether a view endorsed by the government is 'sectarian' or 'partisan'--which potentially allows a view to be both religious and secular.)

(2) Is it always (or ever) possible, in matters of justice or fundamental fairness, to find a position or policy which is 'neutral' as regards competing religious and philosophical views?

The two questions are related, because in matters in which a neutral policy is a will o' the wisp, then presumably it would be desirable to have recourse to a fuller, and therefore more inclusive, notion of the secular.

In my talk, I consider these questions first in relation to the arguments of Joseph Weiler (NYU, law) that the European Constitution should have included in its preamble an invocatio Dei, and then through an examination of John Rawls' notion of 'public reason'.

And that's why I can't be in Dartmouth today to hear the paper of my friend, Anthony Price.


Anonymous said...

The many sides of Michael Pakaluk! It isn't ancient philosophy, that's true. But am I the only one who suspects that plenty of ancient philosophers take interest in these sorts of issues?

It's almost wrong of you to tempt your readers with such things.

What's your argument to be, anyway?

Michael Pakaluk said...

I'll send you the paper, if you write to me. But otherwise I want to avoid what might be called the 'Leiterization' of this blog! (I'm striving for that neutrality which in my paper I argue is not possible.)