Rogi Thomas

Research Student - From ‘Sacred’ to ‘Secular’: Exodus or Transition? The Hermeneutical Future of Religion in the Postmodern World according to Gianni Vattimo and Charles Taylor.



Rogi is a PhD student in Philosophy.

Research Topic

From ‘Sacred’ to ‘Secular’: Exodus or Transition? The Hermeneutical Future of Religion in the Postmodern World according to Gianni Vattimo and Charles Taylor.


Professor Nicholas Davey & Dr Todd Mei



Rogi's research topic for his PhD thesis is 'From ‘Sacred’ to ‘Secular’: Exodus or Transition? The Hermeneutical Future of Religion in the Postmodern World according to Gianni Vattimo and Charles Taylor.'


The Project aims at a deconstructive analysis of religion and secularism with its postmodern and post-secular implications. It brings out Gianni Vattimo’s and Charles Taylor’s philosophy of religion and secularism as a defining feature of the postmodern world. Vattimo’s theory of secularization opens a postmodern philosophic-religious prospect for a philosophical inquiry appropriate to a post-onto-theological journey through the philosophical and not the metaphysical possibility of secularism and thus religious experience. His hermeneutical philosophy of ‘weak thought’ interprets a transition, weakening, overcoming, and a new beginning. “The end of metaphysics” in Heidegger and “the death of God” in Nietzsche form the background against which Vattimo makes his postmodern interpretation of secularization and the return of religion plausible: i.e., the story of the incarnation of the Son of God is represented thorough the complete emptying of God the Father. In this radical account of the Christian God’s self-weakening and self-exhaustion, Vattimo sees a parallel and a template for the “weakening of Being” culminating in the modern history of philosophy.

Taylor in his essay “Why We Need a Radical Redefinition of Secularism” states, “we have a wrong model, which has a continuing hold on our minds. We think that secularism (or laicite) has to do with the relation of the state and religion; where as in fact it has to do with the response of the democratic state to diversity.” This statement of Taylor reveals the gradual transition and evolution of his outlook towards secularism. Improving upon the three principal definitions of secularism explained in A Secular Age, Taylor undergoes a transition in his understanding of the state-religion relationship. He strongly advances the view that there is a need for a radical redefinition of secularism which until now we have misunderstood.

Close analytical approaches of these philosophical views suggest that the postmodern secular and post-onto-theological God is no longer a God of the motionless and metaphysical authoritarian foundation of history. It is because the truth (the objective) of such a God is no longer among the goals of knowledge. In place for the search for truth one seeks solidarity, charity, and irony (Vattimo) and liberty, equality, and fraternity (Taylor). Hermeneutics (and thus interpretation) has taken the place of onto-theology and dogmatism. For the post-secular religion, the prominence of hermeneutics in contemporary culture indicates that the road to salvation does not pass through description and knowledge but through interpretation and edification. Thus truth is conceived in contemporary culture not as objectivity but as charity. Charity is the result of the dissolution of the metaphysical concept of truth. Therefore, Democracy, Hermeneutics and Christianity, from a post-metaphysical point of view, are not methods of discovering truth, but they deliberately bracket all questions regarding truth. The revival of religion defined by the hermeneutic language of charity is solely linked to individual capacities. This religion, grounded exclusively on private motivation, is destined to realize the promise of the gospel that from now on God regards one not as servant but as friend. “The Age of Interpretation” or “the [Post] Secular Age” starts by showing how hermeneutics has changed the reality of things; how modern social imaginaries and the transcendence of language and culture evolved as religious experience and how secularization became the adaptation of these social imaginaries and hermeneutical philosophy.

Thus, it can be argued that the ultimate goal of philosophical investigation after the end of metaphysics is no longer contact with something existing independently from oneself, but rather Bildung, the unending formation of oneself. This renovation of philosophy, through overcoming metaphysics (Vattimo) and overcoming epistemology (Taylor) has a linguistic outcome in the idea that the linguistic a priori is the form in which experience is structured. This is confirmed by the recovery of the link between the development of hermeneutics and the emancipation from dogma. This paves way for a new religious experience or “return to Christ’s teaching” based on hermeneutics and interpretation rather than on dogmas and metaphysical (sacred) violence. Specifically, it means that the secularization process stands in relation to an interpretation of history and of religious experience unburdened by dogmatic weights and metaphysical glitter.