Georg Stenger, Universität Würzburg

Between Rationality and Experience
Religion as a Paradigmatic Gateway of Western/Eastern Transitions?

It seems as if there is a peculiar ambivalence inherent in the notably worldwide resurgence of religions which is also reflected in the expression “post-secular societies”. On the one hand, over the course of the Enlightenment one hoped to account for religion as a religion of reason which, at the same time, was an attempt to face the multiplicity of religions and their different appearances and standards with a universally valid imperative of tolerance. On the other hand, due to critical reasoning one became aware of the differences in religious experiential content which either formulated a concept of God and therefore an understanding of a set of beliefs combined with a demarcation between immanence and transcendence, or which are determined as the pre-predicated and pre-theoretical origins of philosophical thought which need to be asserted explicitly. These problems are proliferating as these ascriptions are clearly due to the Occidental Christian connection which therefore finds itself interculturally faced with putting its sole universal validity into question with regard to other religions and concepts of God.

In three steps I would like to propose methods of “Between Rationality and Experience” whereas the “between” alters the reference point of rationality and experience as well as their content of both significance and meaning. 1) First, I will look into methods with Kant, Schelling and Kierkegaard which increasingly reveal both the individual as well as the existential dimension of religious experience beyond the imperative presupposition of the Divine as the “Supreme Good”. If these paradigmatic conceptions remain bound to a Christian basic structure, I would 2) secondly like to point out - after having methodologically conducted a phenomenological affirmation - why his critique of philosophy of subject and consciousness resp. ontology is at the same time connected to “Ethics as a first Philosophy” in reference to Levinas’ Jewish-rooted concept of “Otherness of the Other”. 3) In conclusion, through means of Daoist and (Zen)Buddhist conceptions, I will attempt to show how philosophical thought itself is already implied in religiously motivated basic experiences, which does on no account apply only to these cultures but which results in different ways of mindsets regarding basic structures.

A mutually prolific dialog between the different cultures and their mindsets on par with each other depends on our ability to become aware of the respective and mutually illustrative interstices between rationality and experience which would always imply the interstice between philosophy and religion as well.

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