Secular Critique and Secular Brooding

Colin Jager in The Immanent Frame:

What’s so bad about heteronomous thinking, anyway?  Stathis Gourgouris has used the term in several posts here on The Immanent Frame.  He says that Charles Taylor’s book A Secular Age is an example of heteronomous thinking, and he also thinks that Saba Mahmood’s post on secularism and critique exemplifies it. Though Gourgouris doesn’t define “heteronomous thinking,” he seems to mean something like “thinking that depends at some crucial point on something outside itself.” He thinks this kind of thinking is pretty bad—though it’s less clear exactly why he thinks so.

It could be that heteronomous thinking is bad because it leads to unpleasant things. This would be a kind of consequentialist argument and would therefore live or die on the empirical evidence. This is Christopher Hitchens territory. Rightly recognizing that this is not where he wants to go, Gourgouris opts for the other kind of answer, which is to insist that heteronomous thinking is problematic in itself–-a kind of formal argument. But at some point any argument along these lines will beg the question, for it will need to assert that thinking for oneself is a good in itself. And that assertion can’t in turn be justified without appealing—heteronomously, if you will—to some scheme of values outside the mode of thinking in question.

At stake here is a certain kind of intellectual posture.