The Post-Secular Turn: Enlightenment, Tradition, Revolution


The aim of this essay is to give a general and accessible overview of the so called “post-secular” turn in the contemporary humanities. The main idea behind it is that it constitutes an answer to the crisis of the secular grand narratives of modernity: the Hegelian narrative of the immanent progress of the Spirit, as well as the enlightenmental narrative of universal emancipation. The post-secularist thinkers come in three variations which this essay names as Enlightenmental, Traditional, and Revolutionary. The first camp wishes to reconceptualize the place of religion in the seemingly secularized modern paradigm and see if revelation can cooperate with enlightenment, that is, if it can support the modern emancipatory values in the dangerous moment of their “crisis of legitimation.” The second one emphasizes the need to recover the institutional aspect of Christian theology which must be reinstated once again as the “queen of the sciences,” or as the true “invisible hand” operating behind social theories. And the third party, which simultaneously opposes both, enlightenment and tradition, revolves mostly around the “revolutionary figure” of Saint Paul and constitutes a radically leftist answer to the crisis of Marxism with its scientific insight into the objective laws of history.


post-secularism, enlightenment, tradition, revolution, Marranism, nihilism, naturalism, indifferentism

How to cite:

Bielik-Robson, Agata. “The Post-Secular Turn: Enlightenment, Tradition, Revolution.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 3, no. 3(9) (2019): 57-82. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2019.0031.


Agata Bielik-Robson
Theology & Religious Studies, University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, United Kingdon;
Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences
72 Nowy Świat Street, 00-330 Warsaw, Poland


Adorno, Theodor W. Aesthetic Theory. Translated by Robert Hullot-Kentor. London: Continuum, 1997.

Adorno, Theodor W. Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life. Translated by E.F.N. Jephcott.  London: Verso, 2005.

Adorno, Theodor W. Negative Dialectics. Translated by E.B. Ashton. London: Routledge, 1990.

Adorno, Theodor W, and Walter Benjamin. The Complete Correspondence, 1928-1940. Translated by Nicholas Walker. Edited by Henri Lonitz. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Agamben, Giorgio. Means Without End – Notes on Politics. Translated by Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Arendt, Hannah. Die verborgene Tradition. Acht Essays. Frankfurt am Main: Jüdischer Verlag, 1976.

Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Badiou, Alain. Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil. Translated by Peter Hallward. London: Verso, 2001.

Badiou, Alain. Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. Translated by Ray Brassier. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Badiou, Alain. The Century. Translated by Alberto Toscano. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007.

Bataille, Georges. “Hegel, Death and Sacrifice.” French Yale Studies, no. 78 (1990): 9-28. https://doi.org/10.2307/2930112.

Bielik-Robson, Agata. Jewish Cryptotheologies of Late Modernity: Philosophical Marranos. London: Routledge, 2014. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315774466.

Bloch, Ernst. The Spirit of Utopia. Translated by Anthony Nassar. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.

Blond, Phillip. “Theology before Philosophy.” Introduction to Post-Secular Philosophy: Between Philosophy and Theology, edited by Phillip Blond, 1-65. London: Routledge, 1998.

Cohen, Hermann. Religion of Reason: Out of the Sources of Judaism. Translated by Simon Kaplan. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1995.

Cunningham, Conor. Genealogy of Nihilism: Philosophies of Nothing and the Difference of Theology. London: Routledge, 2002.

Derrida, Jacques. Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money. Translated by Peggy Kamuf. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Freud, Sigmund. Moses and Monotheism. Translated by James Strachey. New York: Random House, 1955.

Habermas, Jürgen. Glauben und Wissen: Rede zum Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels 2001. Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2016. https://doi.org/10.5840/forphil200272.

Habermas, Jürgen. Legitimation Crisis. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1975.

Habermas, Jürgen. “Modernity versus Postmodernity.” New German Critique, no. 22 (Winter 1981): 3-14. https://doi.org/10.2307/487859.

Habermas, Jürgen. “Secularism’s Crisis of Faith: Notes on Post-Secular Society.” New Perspectives Quarterly 25, no. 4 (2008): 17-29. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5842.2008.01017.x.

Hoff, Johannes. The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013.

Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Translated by Edmund Jephcott. Edited by G. Schmid Noerr. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

Horkheimer, Max. “Die Sehnsucht nach dem ganz Anderen [Gespräch mit Helmut Gumnior 1970].” In Gesammelte Schriften in 19 Bände. Volume 7, 385-404.

Jonas, Hans. Mortality and Morality: A Search for the Good after Auschwitz. Translated by Lawrence Vogel. Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1996.

Kant, Immanuel. “Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” Translated by Thoms K. Abbott. In Basic Writings of Kant. Edited by Allen W. Wood. London: Penguin, Modern Library Classics, 2001.

Kierkegaard, Søren. The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin. Edited and translated by Reidar Thomte. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

Löwith, Karl. From Hegel to Nietzsche: Revolution in Nineteenth-Century Thought. New York: Columbia University Press, 1963.

Löwith, Karl. Meaning in History: The Theological Implications of the Philosophy of History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226162294.001.0001.

Milbank, John. Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470694121.

Moore, Diane. Overcoming Religious Illiteracy: A Multicultural Approach to Teaching About Religion in Secondary Schools. New York and London: Palgrave, 2007. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230607002.

Pabst, Adrian. Metaphysics: The Creation of Hierarchy. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012.

Scholem, Gershom. On Jews and Judaism in Crisis: Selected Essays. Edited by Werner Dannhauser. New York: Schocken Books, 1976.

Scholem, Gershom. The Messianic Idea in Judaism: And Other Essays on Jewish Spirituality. New York: Schocken Books, 1995.

Susman, Margarete. “Exodus from Philosophy.” In Franz Rosenzweig, The New Thinking. Translated by Alan Udof and Barbara Galli. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1999.

Taubes, Jacob. The Political Theology of Paul. Translated by Dana Holänder. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Vries, Hent de. Minimal Theology: Critiques of Secular Reason in Levinas and Adorno. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

Yovel, Yirmiyahu. Spinoza and Other Heretics: The Adventures of Immanence. Volume 2. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

Yovel, Yirmiyahu. Spinoza and Other Heretics: The Marrano of Reason. Volume 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

Žižek, Slavoj. Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism. London: Verso, 2014.

Žižek, Slavoj. Less than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. London: Verso, 2012.

Žižek, Slavoj. The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? London: Verso, 2000.

Žižek, Slavoj, and John Milbank. The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? Edited by Creston Davis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011.

Žižek, Slavoj. The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/5706.001.0001.

Open Access Statement:

This is an open access journal which means that all content is freely available without charge to the user or his/her institution. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author, as long as the author and original source are properly cited. This is in accordance with the BOAI definition of open access.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Submitting a text to Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture means that the author agrees with the general conditions of this license. The author does and will maintain copyrights and publishing rights for his/her article without any restrictions.