Guest lecture "secularization" by Ugo Perone

On March 14 2018, Ugo Perone, holder of the Guardini-professorship for philosophy of religion and Catholic worldview at Humboldt university, Berlin and student of the Italian philosopher Luigi Pareyson, gave a guest lecture on invitation of the department for fundamental theology. Topic of his lecture was the question of secularization, and his aim was to show that there is a productive interdependency between secularization and religion. Methodologically, he started with analyzing the issue and emphasizing the essential aspects, which were interpreted profoundly afterwards.

In that course, Perone distinguished four aspects of secularization. Secularization can be understood as a category of hermeneutics in order to regard phenomena in their cultural context. Especially the Christian claim to a system of all-encompassing values and meaning within a culture is reflected critically. A second aspect of secularization is the question of continuity and discontinuity concerning its relation to religion. Inhowfar can religious aspects be found within secular sphere? Are there ruptures, not necessarily  concerning the contents of a culture, but also their interpretation? Furthermore, secularization is tightly linked to modernity and the development of our modern European societies. Following Perone, modernity is marked by a strucutural unease that has to do with the constant demand to distance oneself from traditions and to renew and reinterpret the present. And a forth and last aspect concerns the role of politics in modern society. Politics replaced religions as a fundament for values and meaning, and at present, a critical point is reached, for politics fails to fulfill this demand.

Perone came to the conclusion that secularization can be seen as a formal category that reinterprets and renews cultural phenomena. That makes it necessary to find an answer to the unease that comes with this processes: Religion and Secularization must not be seen as share opposites. The potential for religiosity and belief are not lost, but the claim to provide all-encompassing meaning cannot be fulfilled any longer. When religion gives up this claim, it can find a new form and a new self-perception. Questions that may come into focus in that course concern intersubjectivity, awareness and respect concerning differences and ruptures. That can be found paradigmatically in the paradoxon of the Christian concept of incarnated truth. Every society, Perone concluded, needs differences and bridges, and answers to these needs are intrinsically religious.

Daniel Johannes Huter