Monday, December 06, 2004

Habermas’ weak naturalism

Habermas’ weak naturalism:

. . . “our” learning processes, that are possible within the framework of sociocultural forms of life, are in a sense simply the continuation of prior “evolutionary learning process” that in turn gave rise to our forms of life. For then the structures that form the transcendental conditions of possibility of our kinds of learning process themselves turn out to be the result of less complex, natural learning processes – and thereby themselves acquire a cognitive content. The “continuation” of learning process at a higher level, however must be understood in the sense of a “weak” naturalism that makes no reductionistic claims. A “strongly” naturalistic explanatory strategy aims to replace the conceptual analysis of practices of the lifeworld with a scientific neurological or biogenetic explanation of the achievements of the human brain. In contrast, weak naturalism contents itself with the basic background assumption with the basic background assumption that the biological endowment and the cultural way of life of Homo sapiens have a “natural” origin and can in principle be explained in terms of evolutionary theory.

Truth and Justification pp. 27-28

Few off the cuff remarks (need to edit and revise them later)

1)Habermas introduces his meta-theoretical assumption of ‘weak naturalism’ in the context of his attempt to preserve the distinction between “world” and “innerworldly” even after “detranscendentalisation” (i.e. thoroughgoing naturalism in the sense of soft naturalism).

2)The distinction between world and innerworldly requires some sort of distinction corresponding to Kant’s distinction between “transcendental” and “empirical”. However Habermas wants to do this without reverting back to Kant’s distinction between “pure intelligible” world and “empirical world”. Kant’s realm of pure intelligence has been detranscendentalised that is brought back to “this world”.

3)So Habermas aims at a thoroughgoing detranscendentalisation without however surrendering the Kantian distinction between “transcendental” and “empirical” which now takes the form of distinction between worldly and innerworldly.

4)At this point Habermas suggest that in order to preserve the Kantian distinction we do not need to abandon naturalism, what we need to get rid of is rather a representational model of knowledge.

5)It is here that Habermas introduces his “weak naturalism” as a meta-theoretical assumption.

6)The meta-theoretical assumption is not about the purported “conformity between mind-independent world and the structure of mind.” The problem of the conformity of the structure of mind with reality belongs to the representational model of knowledge and becomes irrelevant after a thoroughgoing detranscendentalisation.

7)What Habermas needs to assume is rather a general notion that both “world” and “mind” are natural (in the sense of soft naturalism).

8)However after above assumption he needs to show that mind’s spontaneity can be explained in naturalistic terms, that is without referring back to the Kantian distinction between intelligible and phenomenal world.

9)If he can show the above it will strengthen his initial assumption in turn.

10)Thus on the one hand (nature and culture) are continuous in the sense that both are to be ultimately explained in natural terms (in the sense of soft naturalism), however we also need to explain discontinuity between them, however without going back to the Kantian dichotomy. Habermas believes that in order to do that he only needs to make one assumption and that is his assumption of weak naturalism.

continued from here

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