Does Secularization Lead to Moral Decline?

Oct 13, 2009
Classics 110
1010 E 59th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Hans JoasUniversity of Chicago

The broad public debates on religion and ethics frequently suffer from empirical deficiencies. All sides tend to argue in a way one might call an “a priori” mode of argumentation. In contrast, this lecture offers some empirically grounded reflections. First, Hans Joas asks whether the morality of secularized societies could be a mere remnant or reverberation of religious traditions. Secondly, he briefly investigates with regard to tribal societies whether religion should be considered to be constitutive for morality at all. Thirdly, he uses an example from Christian missionary work to look at the interaction of new religion and traditional morality. And lastly he brings together these reflections by claiming that normative regulations have a double origin and he will mark the precise point where he sees a present danger of moral regression caused by secularization.

Hans Joas is Visiting Professor of Sociology and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and the Ernst Troeltsch Professor for the Sociology of Religion at the Humboldt University of Berlin. From 2011 until 2014 he was a Permanent Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS); from 2002 until 2011 he was the Director of the Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies at the University of Erfurt. Joas's books include The Timeliness of George Herbert Mead, Do We Need Religion? On the Experience of Self-Transcendence, The Creativity of Action, and Faith as an Option: Possible Futures for Christianity.