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Fr. 353

June 25, 2013

“On ne peut pas être croyant comme avant.”

The believer cannot be as she was before. What might the speaker mean by this, and why might this be the case? It cannot be though to consist in that tolerance of others is now required, a claim which might still prove too strong and demanding a priori. Rather, it would seem to consist in that the frame of societal debate has significantly altered. Believes may still believe what they wish, make those beliefs publicly known and lead the life of a “true” believe, yet they must also take note and make sense of those who are not, cannot or will not be believers of their kind. For this, a measure of externality or distance is required, an externality that was not previously required by or thinkable within this societal scheme. Insofar as the believer must frame her arguments for  and against a position in terms of the conceptual resources of her audience (as they likewise do for her), a certain amount of separation from and critical reflection on her beliefs is required, which would naturally lead to an endless inflection and nuance of those same beliefs. This would then be the weak, structural or formalist version of the thesis that the believer cannot be as she was before: a position rather close to that of Stout.

On the contrary, the strong would hold that the she must become a new kind of believer, perhaps even one who is required by the public nature of discussion to set aside, effectively or otherwise, those beliefs that characterize her position within the discourse to a greater or lesser extent. This is a position closer in the end to Habermas than Stout.

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