Taken together, these two scholars muddied the sterile terrain of the public sphere, invoking the power of the senses as critical to the public use of reason. Indeed, the senses become central to the practice of reason itself, marking reason no longer as merely abstract, linguistic, or philosophical, but also particular, embodied, and historicized. In their terms, reason itself is already suspect, always marked by bodies and by history.
This re-valuation of reason constituted perhaps one of the most significant points of tension between the two panels. Habermas may have sounded it best when he described off the cuff West’s lecture as more than mere talk, as performance. Because in doing so, he (unwittingly?) reproduced that funny distinction between saying and doing—between his own articulation of secular reason and West’s practice of prophetic politics—leaving us to question: what, then, were the performative politics of his own use of reason in the public sphere?
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