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A Kantian Approach to Current Tensions between Modern Law and Religious Commitments

Final Report Summary - LAW AND RELIGION (A Kantian Approach to Current Tensions between Modern Law and Religious Commitments)

*Summary description of the project objectives

The general objectives of the project are to:
(1) create long-term research collaboration between Kocaeli University, the researcher’s home university in Turkey, and Keele University in UK, the host university in this project;

(2) enable the prospective fellow to master the Kantian philosophical methodology Baiasu has been working up for several years;

(3) improve the experience and international research network of the prospective fellow.

The research objectives of the project are to:
(1) develop a much needed theoretical framework accounting for the nature of law and its relation to moral commitments in a way that cogently reconciles universalistic orientation (characterizing adherence to human rights) with sensitivity to the fact of pluralism characterizing contemporary world;

(2) generate practical suggestions and policy-recommendations by applying this improved framework to the contemporary instances exhibiting intricate forms of tension/conflict between law and religious commitments, with which Europe and Turkey are currently faced.

*Work carried out to achieve the project’s objectives
The project is a multidisciplinary collaboration between Dr Mehmet Demiray (the MC fellow), a post-doctoral researcher in the field of political and legal theory, from Kocaeli University in Turkey; Professor Sorin Baiasu (the team leader), scholar in the field of Kantian practical philosophy and author of this report, from Keele University in the UK; and Professor Brian Doherty (the research advisor), a well-established scholar in the field of political sociology, from Keele University.

The research has dealt with the problematic relations between modern law and religious commitments, as they have been arising in contemporary European societies and Turkey, for instance, the French ban on face-veils or the new Turkish law on education envisioning courses on the Koran and the life of Mohammed the prophet in public schools.

The work performed since the beginning of the project included research on topics relevant for the theme of the project, training activities for the MC fellow, activities of dissemination and continuation of research for the fellow’s post-return. The main results of the work performed are present in the next section of this summary.

*The main results
The main results of the work undertaken as part of this project can be organised under several headings and are fully described in the final periodic report, of which this summary is a part:

I. Training
A. Training: Courses, Summer Schools and Reading Groups
The MC Fellow attended several events which were designed to develop his knowledge and abilities in a number of specific directions: to increase his knowledge of the Kantian critical methodology developed by the Team Leader, to familiarise him with the research and teaching context of a British University with a view to further cooperation between Keele and Kocaeli Universities, to enable him to communicate and disseminate the results of the research both in expert articles and in teaching and other outreach activities. The approach was progressive, increasing the involvement and activities expected from the fellow as the project unfolded.

B. Training: Managing Activities
These activities helped the MC fellow to develop the skills needed for the organisation of international conferences and other events, which usually contribute to the development of a research network. Again, the training has been progressive, from giving the MC fellow some tasks at the beginning of the project, to entrusting him with the main role of organiser of a big conference towards the end of the MC project.

C. Training: Editorial Activities
These activities were mainly oriented towards familiarising the MC fellow with the reviewing processes related to the editing of special issues of journals, as well as with editorial processes relating to the running of a journal.

D. Training: Grant Application Activities
With the a view to successfully completing some of the tasks associated with the MC fellowship, but also to enable continuing cooperation between the MC Fellow, the Team Leader and their institution, some training was provided through grant applications.

II. Dissemination
A. Dissemination: Publications
Three published texts related to the first part of the project (concerning the normativity of legal standards and the advantages of a Kantian approach to law); three texts which are in the process of being published related to the second part of the project (concerning the development of an approach to concrete cases of conflicting norms and its application to such cases).

B. Dissemination: Conference Participation
9 presentations made by the MC fellow to conferences in the UK (Keele University, Essex University Glasgow University and University of Sussex) in Europe (University of Vienna) and America (University of Montreal).

*Conclusions and their potential impact and use, as well as any socio-economic impact of the project
We are organising a conference, where we plan to present the results of the project (a theoretical framework accounting for the nature of law and its relation to moral commitments, as well as an approach to forms of tension/conflict between law and religious commitments) and where non-academic practitioners (politicians, representatives of NGO’s, lawyers and journalists) will be invited to participated and comment on these results. Some of these results are the background for a new project currently run by the Team Leader and the MC Fellow with the help of a British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship on the topic: “Dealing Ethically with Conflicts between Deep Commitments: A Dual critical-Hermeneutic Account”. This is a project which no longer focuses on law, but on ethical resolution of conflicts, but is designed to complement well the research and results of the MC fellowship and, as mentioned above, to enable continuation of cooperation between Keele and Kocaeli Universities, including the creation of an MA course on topics related to the MC fellowship.

We expect that the project will gradually produce visible social impact; yet, as with most projects that aim to develop a theoretical framework and policy suggestions, more work of dissemination is needed beyond the academic sphere and work targeted to areas where research results could best make a difference. The MC Fellowship enabled the cooperation between Keele University and Kocaeli University, and led to some concrete steps towards continuing joint projects and work with potential social impact. For instance, our next step is the creation of a Centre for Justice and Critical Ethics at Kocaeli, which will include an advisory board of academic and non-academic practitioners. With the help, among others, of the theoretical framework developed by the MC project, the advisory board will be able to examine concrete cases of conflict between law and moral commitments and to issue policy advice, as well as to suggest suitable approaches. Policy makers and civil society more generally will be able to benefit from such advice and from the work of the Centre, both of which would be underpinned in part by the results of the MC project.