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"In the fullest statement of his identity philosophy, the unpublished 'Würzburg System'of 1804, Schelling equates natura naturans with the infinite self-affirmation of a pantheistically interpreted God, while natura naturata is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]

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