Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Ecotheology 9.2 August 2004

Deconstructing Autonomy: Towards a New Identity

John Reader
Issued Date: 22 Feb 2007


The aim of the article is to argue that a version of Habermas’s concept of
communicative reason, expanded using the work of the postmodern
philosophers Derrida, Levinas and Irigaray, is a requirement for theology
as it responds to environmental concerns. In particular the notion of human
autonomy as presupposed by Habermas can be deconstructed in order to
establish that humans also operate at a pre-autonomous level and with the
messianic promise of a post-autonomous level through the search for an
open identity. This forms part of a wider argument which identifies four
locations where there is the possibility of a renewed relationship between
the Enlightenment concept of reason as reconfigured by Habermas and the
‘others’ of reason, including faith. Key ideas are Derrida’s concept of the
messianic and deconstruction as a means of acknowledging the hidden
‘other’, Levinas’s tension between the Saying and the Said, and Irigaray’s
demand for a new ontology. Each of these points theology towards a
critique of autonomy and the search for a yet-to-be-glimpsed new relationship
with non-human nature.

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DOI: 10.1558/ecot.


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