Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Habermas and Schelling

"For the Kant of the Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787) nature is largely seen in the ‘formal’ sense: nature is that which is subject to necessary laws. These laws are accessible to us, Kant argues, because cognition depends on the subject bringing necessary forms of thought, the categories, to bear on what it perceives. The problem this leads to is how the subject could fit into a nature conceived of in deterministic terms, given that the subject's ability to know is dependent upon its ‘spontaneous’ self-caused ability to judge in terms of the categories. Kant's response to this dilemma is to split the ‘sensuous’ realm of nature as law-bound appearance from the ‘intelligible’ realm of the subject's cognitive and ethical self-determination. However, if the subject is part of nature there would seem to be no way of explaining how a nature which we can only know as deterministic can give rise to a subject which seems to transcend determinism in its knowing and in its ethical doings. Kant himself sought to bridge the realms of necessity and spontaneity in the Critique of Judgement (1790), by suggesting that nature itself could be seen in more than formal terms: it also produces self-determining organisms and can give rise to disinterested aesthetic pleasure in the subject that contemplates its forms. The essential problems remained, however, that 1) Kant gave no account of the genesis of the subject that transcends its status as a piece of determined nature, and 2) such an account would have to be able to bridge the divide between nature and freedom."

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling

Compare with Habermas' Ontological conception of Freedom: Some preliminary Reflections

"In the fullest statement of his identity philosophy, the unpublished 'Würzburg System'of 1804, Schelling equates natura naturans with the infinite self-affirmation of a pantheistically interpreted God, while natura naturata is understood as the world of dependent - and thus transient - things. The characterisation of natura naturans as the spontaneous creative principle of the natural world has the consequences that even the most elementary forms of the material world conceal a core of self-relatedness, without which the emergence of organic life, and ultimately the conscious life of humanity, would remain inexplicable . . . Habermas would presumably reject such assertions as extravagant speculation, yet . . . even he must admit that, in the final analysis, we cannot rest content with understanding nature in terms of physicalistic world-view inspired by the natural sciences. If this is indeed the case, then the question is raised of whether it might not be legitimate at least to speculate about an alternative image of nature to that which predominates in our technological society, and about what its ethical consequences might be"

The Limits of Disenchantment Essays on Contemporary European Philosophy p. 161

Having Dews' above comments in mind let us consider Maeve Cooke's consideration of Habermas' thesis about "Weak naturalism". Cooke says that there are three possible ways in which to consider Habermas' "hypothesis":

"One possibility is that it should be understood as an empirically based, essentially fallible hypothesis about the natural history of human spices, and the socio-cultural forms that have emerged in connection with this; on such an interpretation, Habermas' meta-theoretical assumption would amount to a weak transcendental argument about a conformity between a mind-independent world and the structures of the human mind. A second possibility is that it is strong transcendental argument: the assumption in question would be seen as a metaphysically based, apriori assumption about the structure or shape of the world that reflects an apriori truth about the structures of the human mind-one that could not be disproved by empirical findings of any kind. A third possibility - not one mentioned explicitly by Habermas - is that it is a 'moderate' transcendental argument: the assumption about the structure of shape of the world that reflects a similar kind of assumption about the structures of human mind, whose claim to truth has to be subjected to critical scrutiny in essentially open-ended intersubjective process of rational evaluation; whereas empirical findings are always relevant in such argumentative processes, they lack the power to refute conclusively the metaphysically based claims under discussion"

Socio-Cultural Learning as a 'Transcendental Fact': Habermas's Postmetaphysical Perspective

[my comments to follow]

Monday, November 29, 2004

Naturalism and Anti-naturalism in Habermas's Philosophy

Naturalism and Anti-naturalism in Habermas's Philosophy
Peter Dews
Habermas's philosophical work has been shaped, all the way through, by the motif of the "desublimation of reason", a motif which derives from the Young Hegelians and from Marx. The suggestion is that the metaphysical tradition of Western thought has hypostatised an unchanging, ideal realm to which thought and action must conform, thereby inhibiting the possibility of human beings taking their destiny into their own hands. Since it is suspicious of the ideal, the project of the desublimation of reason involves an emphasis on our status as natural beings, and an attempt to provide a naturalistic genetic account of phenomena such as meaning, truth, and moral normativity.
Clearly, there are parallels between this notion of desublimation and a dominant strain within analytical philosophy in the twentieth century. Analytical philosophers, too, have been suspicious of the ambitions of traditional metaphysics and have - for the most part - sought to provide local explanations within the framework of a naturalistic world-view. It might be argued that these parallels are deceptive, since the pressure towards naturalism in analytical philosophy largely stems from the successes of the natural sciences. By contrast, in the case of continental philosophy naturalism has never been without powerful opposition, and is usually part of a specific political or moral project, one which is often suspicious of the epistemological hegemony of the natural sciences. It is arguable, nevertheless, that the predominant naturalism of the analytical tradition has helped to make some aspects of analytical philosophy congenial and useful for Habermas's enterprise.
Recently, however, Dieter Henrich has claimed that the naturalistic strain in Habermas's thought cannot be easily reconciled with his borrowings from the traditions of phenomenology and transcendental philosophy. Habermas claims that one of the tasks of contemporary philosophy is a hermeneutical exploration - from 'within', as it were - of the structures of meaning which constitute the lifeworld. But such a conception of shared meanings as constituting the 'condition of possibility' of experience, is hardly compatible with the efforts to achieve a naturalistic reduction of phenomena of meaning and consciousness which characterise analytical philosophy. On Henrich's view, analytical naturalism has at least the merit of presenting a coherent 'anti-metaphysics', whereas Habermas seems to be pulled in two directions at once.
Habermas has replied to this criticism, of course. He contends that we are not in fact faced with such a stark choice. Many of the most influential twentieth century philosophers have operated in an intermediate domain, developing concepts of language, or of the body, which bridge the gap between the naturalistic and the transcendental standpoints. It is Henrich who is trapped in an antiquated dualism. My paper will evaluate the arguments on each side of this debate. My suggestion will be that the conflict between naturalism and anti-naturalism cannot be overcome as easily as Habermas supposes. If this is the case, then there will also be consequences for our understanding of the relation between analytical and continental philosophy.

Naturalism and Anti-naturalism in Habermas's Philosophy

"[Even after the detranscendentalisation of the knowing and acting subject] the problem of naturalism does not simply vanish into thin air. It merely arises in another way for those theories that do indeed being with questions posed transcendentally, yet do not get stuck cutting the intelligible off from the phenomenal once for all. These theories must find answer to the question of how Kant can be reconciled with Darwin. It seems to me that it has been clear since Marx that the normative content of modernity can be taken up and preserved even and especially under materialistic premises. "Nature in itself" does not coincide with objectivated nature. What Marx has in mind is the emergence in natural history of the sociocultural form of life Homo sapiens, which goes beyond physcially objectified natura naturata
to conceptually include, as it were, a piece of natura naturans
. A naturalism of this sort need not be accompanied by an objectivistic self description of culture, society, and the individual."

Postmetaphysical Thinking Philosophical Essays p. 20


Related post 1: Habermas' naturalism/anti-naturalism

Related post 2: Habermas and Idealism

Related post 3: Habermas and Naturalism

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Habermas' naturalism/anti-naturalism

The issue of naturalism/anti-naturalism of Habermas can be dealt with from three different angles. In what follows I shall briefly explain these three different approaches and their interrelation:

a)Initially the issue of naturalism/anti-naturalism was raised by environmentalists within Critical theory tradition (mainly by followers of Marcuse such as Hans Joans and minor figures such as Joel Whitebook. In English speaking world Peter Dews has consistently followed this line of argument). Here the debate focused on the concept of “nature” in Habermas. The critique/questioning concentrated on Habermas’ presumed privileging of human beings over nature. Thus the object of questioning in this line of critique has been Habermas’ alleged “anthropocentricism” and his “humanism”. This kind of thinking focuses on Habermas’ early take on Schelling and urges him to expand his conception of “nature” in such a way that it can be rendered sensitive to new environmental ethos.

b)While the first line of critique questions Habermas’ alleged anti-naturalism the second kind of critique questions his alleged naturalism. The second line of critique focuses on the ‘mind’ ‘body’ problem. Habermas’ so-called weak naturalism has been the object of speculations in this context. Habermas’ critique of ‘subject’ and his proposal for the detranscendnetalisation of the subject have been interpreted as drift towards ‘naturalism’. Dieter Henrich is a key figure in this debate. His allies in English speaking world in this context are Peter Dews (somewhat surprisingly given his position in a) and Dieter Freundlieb among others.

c)There is a third consideration which has been absent from the discussion to this day. The position can be best understood as classifying naturalism into ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ naturalism.Soft naturalism can be understood in contrast with supernaturalism, while hard naturalism should be understood as a position within ‘soft naturalism’ which tries to explain all natural phenomena including human mind and subjectivity in physicalistic terms. Thus there can be a a naturalist position in the first sense (soft naturalism) which is not necessarily naturalist in the second sense (hard naturalism) [I have taken the distinction between 'soft' and 'hard' naturalism from Frederick A. Olafson's excellent short study Naturalism and the Human Condition: Against Scientism

As a thinker of the stature of master thinkers Habermas focuses mainly on the question of ‘soft naturalism’ and its compatibility with certain idealist/anti naturalist assumptions about subject and reason.

If we approach the issue from third angle, the first two approaches can be reformulated in a way in which they do not necessarily remain exclusive approaches. It may be the case that Habermas is anti-naturalist and naturalist at the same time and this would require a total reconfiguration of debates in a and b.

"P.Dews correctly characterizes my account of the consistency of an uncommon combination as follows: "It is the combination of the anti-idealism with anti-scientism and a propensity toward naturalism which makes for the distinctiveness of Habermas' work. It marks him out as belonging to a sub-tradition which ultimately derives from the world of Hegel's left-wing followers during the 1830s and 40s""

Truth and Justification p. 296 n. 37

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Henrich after Habermas

On the Incompleteness of George Herbert Mead's Theory of the Social Self as an Account of Intersubjectivity: Re-reading Henrich after Habermas

New Habermas related titles

Two of the following are from Australian authors and are good:

Critical Theory After Habermas Encounters and Departures Edited by Dieter Freundlieb, Wayne Hudson and John Rundell

Mostly consists of already published papers in Critical Horizon but some have been revised for this edition with a noteworthy introduction.

Dieter Henrich and Contemporary Philosophy
The Return to Subjectivity Dieter Freundlieb

First book legnth lucid introduction to Henrich in English but half of it is really about Habermas Henrich debate. Shows the importance of Habermas for the contemporary philosophy.

Habermas, Nietzsche, and Critical Theory

Contains important article by Max Pensky and Habermas' "Nietzsche and Habermas's discourse of modernity -- Postscript from 1968 : on Nietzsche's theory of knowledge"

New Schelling

Contains an article by Habermas.

Friday, November 19, 2004

New search resource: Google Scholar

I just had a go at it, and it is amazing, much powerful than Philosopher index for example!

Google scholar

As Gary says it is destined to become a major academic resource.

Good thing for the final stages of my Ph.D:)

And now this as well, thanks to Thivai Abhor for the link.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Habermas and Blogs

Some thoughts on Habermas' theory of communicative action and its application to the phenomenon of blogging Blogs and Habermas Referrs to Understanding Weblogs: A communicative perspective and emergent democracy.

I have also come across a Habermasian blog today Discourse.net

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

One of the most interesting recent pieces on Habermas' changing views on justification and its need Farewell to Justification by Farid Abdel Nour

Farewell to Justification
Habermas, Human Rights, and Universalist Morality
Farid Abdel-Nour
Department of Political Science, San Diego State University, CA, USA

In his recent work, Jürgen Habermas signals the abandonment of his earlier claims to justify human rights and universalist morality. This paper explains the above shift, arguing that it is the inescapable result of his attempts in recent years to accommodate pluralism. The paper demonstrates how Habermas’s universal pragmatic justification of modern normative standards was inextricably tied to his consensus theory of validity. He was compelled by the structure of that argument to count on the current or future availability of a unified framework within which all can potentially articulate their needs and interests. With his abandonment of the justification Habermas has rid discourse theory of this controversial assumption. In weakening its defense of human rights and universalist morality against the charge of ethnocentrism, he has strengthened his theory’s foothold in the lived pluralist world.

Key Words: argumentation • ethnocentrism • Habermas • human rights • justification • legitimacy • pluralism • rational consensus • Rehg

Habermas and Idealism

Habermas continues to cleave to key idealist premises and presuppositions even after the linguistic turn and detranscendentalisation. Habermas holds fast to the fundamental idealist premise that empirical order and rational order are mutually exclusive. Habermas’ claims about the detranscendentalisation of the subject and reason, and his claim that reason is a ‘thing of this world,’ does not in any way mean that he has given up the fundamental idealist belief mentioned above. Rather what he does, in his own words, is to bring down the idealisation “from transcendental heaven to the earth of the lifeworld. The theory of communicative action detranscendentalizes the noumenal realm only to have the idealizing force of context transcending anticipation settle in the . . . heart of ordinary, everyday communicative practice.” (Between Facts and Norms p. 19). Habermas does not aim to abolish the noumenal realm; so much as to bring it back to the earth.

Hence Habermas does not abolish the realm of pure intelligibility- the realm of reason devoid of any empirical impurities. He detranscendentalises it, i.e. brings it back to the earth. However by effecting this relocation he does not aim to merge the empirical and the rational order. This is what he means when he talks about the tension between facts and ideals. Habermas wants to preserve the transcending power of reason even in the face of detranscendentalisation. The problem for him now becomes how to show that the transcending power of reason emerges from within a world that is empirical and contingent. Habermas dubs his strategy ‘transcendence from within and into this world.’ Now he has to show not only how ideality and factuality coexist in this world without merging into each other, but also how ideality emerges from within the contingent world in the first place.

related posts 1: transcendence-from-within.html

related posts 2: Validity claims, Unconditionality, Universality and Modernism in Habermas: A reappraisal

Habermas and Naturalism

One of the key features/characteristics of Habermas’ long oeuvre is his constant attempt to go beyond empiricism and idealism/ naturalism and anti-naturalism. Empiricism and Idealism as well as naturalism and anti-naturalism are to be taken in the broad sense of the terms.

Habermas’ purpose has always been to combine the ‘empirical’ and ‘transcendental’ in his constant effort to go beyond transcendence-less empiricism and highflying idealism. The project is in fact a continuation of Kant who was on of the first in modern philosophy to combine rationalism and empiricism through his transcendental/empirical project (hence transcending empiricism rationalism dichotomy). However Habermas wants to do this without reproducing the two-world dichotomy Kant ended up with. Kant, as Habermas reads him, on the one hand posited a world of pure intelligibility (the realm of necessity, transcendence and unconditionality) and on the other hand he posited a phenomenal world (the realm of contingency, natural and conditional). Habermas’ overall position is naturalist (as against Kant for example) in the sense that he wants to preserve the Kantian distinction between ‘empirical’ and ‘transcendental’ however without reproducing the two world dichotomy. In other words, Habermas wants to incorporate the Kantian distinction in an overall naturalistic picture of the world (in the broad sense of the word natural).

Habermas’ another great model is Marx in this respect. Marx on the one hand rejects idealism fiercely and ferociously and puts forward a position that is thoroughly materialist and naturalist. However Marx retains certain anti-naturalist premises of idealism, such as his notion of human action as a truly creative force rather than an adaptive mechanism. However Marx wants to reformulate these anti-naturalist premises within an overall naturalist and materialist position. Thus Marx tries to overcome the naturalist anti naturalist dichotomy within an overall naturalist position, so he wants to arrive at an overall naturalist position however the one which is compatible with certain idealist insights about the necessity of explaining the spontaneity of human action and rationality in non reductionist terms. Habermas agree with Marx in this aim however he does not think that Marx ever achieved his goal.

related posts

Habermas’ Between Facts and Norms:Legitimizing Power?

Habermas’ Between Facts and Norms:Legitimizing Power? by Abdollah Payrow Shabani

Related post 1: Transcendence from within

Related post 2: Between Facts and Norms
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