Thursday, December 09, 2004

Quine and Habermas

I am planning to write a section on Quine and Habermas in my thesis. I have been thinking about it for some time now and have been reading a lot of Quine (a lot relative to my own standards!). Habermas has not written much on Quine however in his book Truth and Justification he has some discussion of Quine. He brings in Quine as a paradigm case of 'strong' naturalism in order to differentiate his own ‘weak naturalism’ from it [on the other hand he brings in Heidegger as a paradigm case of what I would call 'strong' idealism and again in order to differentiate his own version of anti-naturalism (i.e. why his naturalism is ‘weak’)from it].

Today I am going to put couple of quotes from Quine with brief comments just in order to show the direction of my thinking at this moment:

Qunie describes naturalism in these words:

...naturalism: abandonment of the goal of a first philosophy . . .
The naturalistic philosopher begins his reasoning within the inherited world theory as a going concern. He tentatively believes all of it, but believes also that some unidentified portions are wrong. He tries to improve, clarify, and understand the system from within. He is the busy sailor adrift on Neurath's boat.

Theories and Things p. 72

I will try to note as much similarities between Habermas and Quine as I can think of (or make up) as their differences are already very well known and somewhat overstated.

1) Habermas agrees with Quine on the need for the abandonment of first philosophy and as in Quine, in Habermas as well, it is the logical conclusion of a thoroughgoing naturalism.

2) Habermas would also agree with Quine that we must start with the given (although they would certainly disagree on the nature of this given). Furthermore Habermas shares Quine's 'tentative' (hypothetical) and fallibilistic attitude towards truth claims or theory construction.

3) Habermas would also agree with Quine that we do not have any Archimedean point available to us and we develop our theory or raise validity claims from "within" - the example of sailor and boat is also appropriate to describe Habermas' stance in this regard.

Having noted above points let us quote Quine a bit more:

[Naturalism] sees natural science as an inquiry into reality, fallible and corrigible but not answerable to any suprascientific tribunal, and not in need of any justification beyond observation and the hypothetico-deductive method.

Theories and Things p. 72

This clearly shows what separates Habermas from Quine is the latter's scientism. Importantly Quine contrasts his naturalism to 'suprascientific tribunal' while Habermas would contrast it with 'supernatural tribunal' which implies that for Habermas suprascientific is not supranatural.

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