Wednesday, December 21, 2005

analytic-Continental division

"I agree that there is no fruitful analytic-Continental division in terms of substantive doctrines distinctively characteristic of the two sides. But it seems to me that we can still draw a significant distinction between analytic and Continental philosophy in terms of their conceptions of experience and reason as standards of evaluation. Typically, analytic philosophy reads experience in terms of common-sense intuitions (often along with their developments and transformations in science) and understands reason in terms of formal logic. Continental philosophy, by contrast, typically sees experience as penetrating beyond the veneer of common-sense and science, and regards reason as more a matter of intellectual imagination than deductive rigor. In these terms, Continental philosophy still exists as a significant challenge to the increasing hegemony of analytic thought . . . ."

Read full article


There is an informed discussion on the above here

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Critiques of Secular Reason in Adorno and Levinas

"Extended it is, for at 760 pages this is a huge study of its own. Its subtitle – Critiques of Secular Reason in Adorno and Levinas – should be taken in its Kantian meaning: what de Vries is after is how Adorno and Levinas (with Habermas and Derrida, each in their own way, functioning as backdrops to the discussion), in the context of the all-too-familiar man-made disasters of the twentieth century, negotiate and articulate a certain theological impulse, a metaphysical desire, without making ontological or onto-theological commitments. The critique is particularly Kantian in that, rather than rejecting this impulse outright, they seek to acknowledge, explore and analyse it with a view to uncovering a dimension that on a legitimate, although not ‘traditional’ or indeed even fully conceptual, basis can be accepted by philosophy.

In some respects, the fact that this book was written in the 1980s can be felt rather strongly, and de Vries would perhaps have written it differently today. It is, for example, caught up in the then virulent debates around discourse ethics, and de Vries spends more time than I imagine he would have today worrying about Habermas’s attributions, in the notoriously im­patient Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (1985), of ‘performative self-contradictions’ to thinkers as distinguished and different from each other as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Adorno, Derrida and Foucault. Habermas’s more direct engagement with religion was in his debate with Joseph Ratzinger (now Bene­dictus XI), which took place more than a decade after the writing of this book and is therefore not discussed (See Haber­mas’s ‘Stellungnahme’ to the issue of ‘Vorpolitische moralische Grundlagen eines freiheitlichen Staates’ in Zur Debatte: Themen der Katholischen Akademie in Bayern 34, 2004; and Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity, ed. Eduardo Mendieta, 2002). However, the more general deficits that de Vries locates in Habermas’s work, and which he discusses in a long warm-up to the analysis of Adorno, are still relevant and important. According to de Vries, Habermas fails to explain adequately how rationality, as embodied in our claims to unconditional validity, can be represented in principles, rules or norms. Indeed, Habermas himself admits that secular moralities stand in need of semantic resources drawn from extra-reflective or extra-philosophical registers – yet these are resources that cannot be accounted for within his own system."

full review here

Rethinking "Liberal Eugenics": Reflections and Questions on Habermas on Bioethics


In the new "liberal eugenics," children could be genetically improved as long as the enhancements let children choose from among a wide range of ways to live their lives. The German political philosopher Jürgen Habermas has opened a debate with the proponents of this view. Habermas suggests that a person could not really regard her life as her own if she lived with a body that somebody else had, without asking her opinion, "enhanced" for her.

full article (subscription required)

Religion in der Moderne

Zur Auseinandersetzung von Jürgen Habermas mit naturalistischen Weltbildern der Wissenschaft und religiِsen Orthodoxien

Von Hans Joas

Wie kaum ein anderer der groكen systematischen Denker unserer Zeit hat Jürgen Habermas seit Jahrzehnten auch stets zu brennenden Zeitfragen Stellung genommen und sich in seiner philosophischen Arbeit von aktuellen Konstellationen inspirieren lassen. Von einem Nachlassen seiner enormen zeitdiagnostischen Krنfte kann weiterhin keine Rede sein. Mit seinem neuen Aufsatzband legt der Philosoph nun eine Sammlung von Arbeiten aus den Jahren 2001 bis 2004 vor, die zwar etwas heterogen geraten ist, aber gerade auch deshalb Anknüpfungspunkte für vielerlei Interessen bietet. Einige Kapitel werden vornehmlich diejenigen interessieren, die sich mit den Finessen der inneren Architektonik von Habermas' Gedankengebنude auseinander setzen. Die meisten Teile des Buches aber sind von allgemeinerem Interesse, und am Beginn des Bandes steht ein anrührender autobiografischer Text, dessen Ausstrahlung sich wohl niemand entziehen kann.

full article

Habermas kann nicht anders

Gerhard Beckmann setzt sich mit dem populärsten deutschen Gegenwartsphilosophen auseinander, der nun die "postsäkulare Gesellschaft" verkündet
von Gerhard Beckmann

Bis vor vier Jahren war Religion für Jürgen Habermas Privatsache. Religiöse Motive für das öffentliche Handeln galten ihm als inakzeptabel: Im gesellschaftlichen und politischen Raum könne nur eine universale, für alle nachvollziehbare Moral verpflichtend sein; eine Moral, wie sie sich nur in einem vorbehaltlos freien, rational und pragmatisch geführten Verständigungsprozeß herausbilden könne. Das Modell solch einer rigoros "normativen" säkularen Ordnung entwarf Habermas in seinem philosophischen Hauptwerk "Die Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns".

full article

link courtesy of excellent Habermas Forum

Habermas vs the Pope

"On 19th January last year, two old men came to the Catholic Academy of Bavaria to debate the imposing-looking topic: "Pre-political moral foundations of the liberal state." Both are German; both grew up under the third reich; both went on to achieve distinction in their respective fields. But here the resemblance ends. Jürgen Habermas is a leftist philosopher and advocate of "democratically enlightened common sense." His championship of untrammelled debate as the foundation of political legitimacy has inspired radicals across the world. His antagonist, Cardinal Ratzinger, came to prominence as an enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy throughout the Catholic church. He is now Pope Benedict XVI.

Here, then, were the makings of an epic duel, worthy to stand alongside Luther's famous confrontation with Zwingli or Heidegger's 1929 dispute with Cassirer at Davos. But the duel never took place. The transcript of the debate instead reveals the strange spectacle of philosopher and cardinal bending over backwards to accommodate each other. Habermas treats religious communities with great respect, claiming that they have "preserved intact something which has elsewhere been lost." And Ratzinger grants a central role to the "divine light of reason" in controlling the "pathologies of religion.""

Read full article

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Habermasian Moment

"Jürgen Habermas has arguably been the most influential German philosopher since Heidegger. Despite Habermas' reputation as a "democratic" opponent of "authoritarianism" and champion of "domination-free discourse," Paul Gottfried argues, in "The Habermasian Moment," that a disturbing strain of dogmatism and intolerance can be found in Habermas's work. In particular, Gottfried marshals evidence to show that Habermas is quick to brand those who disagree with him as fascist sympathizers, and that his commitment to free speech is unreliable. Gottfried's discussion locates Habermas' reputation within a broader German cultural context in which authoritarian tendencies are highlighted when they occur on the right but too often downplayed when they occur on the left."

from here

Full article here

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On Law and Disagreement. Some Comments on "Interpretative Pluralism"

Jürgen Habermas

Abstract. This paper focuses on the question: Do persisting disagreements in constitutional interpretation affect the legitimacy of "the democratic system as a whole"? According to both Michelman and Waldron, the epistemic indeterminacy of interpretation—that is, the fact that principles do not possess stable meanings beyond, and independent of, their application to concrete cases—puts its finger on a point of the contractualist and prevailing political theory. But, if neither the legitimacy of any democratic order nor the standard of internal criticism can be founded on a broad background consensus on constitutional essentials, "what else makes a deliberative process of legislation and adjudication a generator of legitimacy so that citizens are induced to accept controversial results as 'worthy of respect'?" The route pursued goes beyond all views that require legitimacy to be based on sharing a set of "thick" ethical beliefs. In this perspective, the author argues that the performative meaning of constitution-making "provides a thin yet sufficiently strong base," which corresponds to the minimal requirements inherent in the very practice of framing a constitution.

Link to the article (subscription required)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Review of The Cambridge Companion to Critical Theory

Reviewed by James Gordon Finlayson, University of Sussex

"No doubt Habermas's theory of meaning as validity is the most controversial component of his theory, so White's criticism targets right general area. But even the idea, which seems to underlie the objection, that Habermas's social, moral and political theory are grounded on his pragmatic theory of meaning and theory of communicative action, and that therefore the former stand and fall with the latter, is erroneous. In fact Habermas's various research programmes, though interrelated, are relatively self-standing, and offer at best mutual collateral support. Failure in one programme would require revisions in another; it might weaken the overall structure, but not undermine it. Though conventional labels never quite seem to fit Habermas's philosophy, its kinship is with coherentism and pragmatism not foundationalism.

The theme of pragmatism provides an interesting undercurrent to several essays in the volume. While White aims to cure Habermas theory of its 'foundationalism' with a dose of pragmatism, Baynes, by means of a comparison with Robert Brandom, attempts to show how Habermas's Kantianism is already tempered by pragmatism. Whereas White repudiates Habermas's central thesis that Verständigung is the telos of speech as a 'strong ontological claim about the essence or telos of language'. (p. 318) Baynes shows, by contrast, and in my view correctly, that it is not an ontological but a pragmatic claim about the social function of speech. Validity-claims to truth and rightness are pragmatic presuppositions of agency. Habermas's 'claim concerning both the existence and presuppositions of communicative action is essentially a claim about what it means to be located in . . . the space of reasons' (p. 199). This links back to a point that Chambers makes. For Habermas, to be citizen a in a modern liberal democratic state means to give and take reasons, a practice one can only undertake as a participant in a community of other reason givers: the modern politikon zoon is very much still the zoon logon echon, but in a community held together by multiple discourses – moral, ethical, legal, and pragmatic (instrumental), by a market economy and the rule of law.

Though the quality of the essays varies, none are bland. Even the less convincing ones are inherently interesting. And though the collection falls miles short of being the 'overview of the entire history of critical theory' advertised on the back cover, the essays provide shafts of genuine illumination. Rush's opening chapter is well put-together and nicely written, if a little schematic. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for his introduction and the paragraph on the frontispiece, which, though brief, is replete with wild assertions and historical inaccuracies. Is Frankfurt School critical theory really still 'centrally important for philosophy'? Is it still a 'vital philosophical and political perspective', and not rather a tradition that has petered out? Honneth concludes his reflections on its intellectual legacy, much as Habermas did in the 1970's, with the claim that none of the 'core content' of critical theory 'can still be maintained today in the theoretical form in which the members of the Frankfurt School originally developed it .' (p. 357) Whilst these philosophical points are arguable, Rush's historical claim that critical theory 'remained central to European philosophical social and political thought throughout the Cold War period' is simply false. Even in Germany the first generation of Frankfurt School theorists operated on the margins of the academic establishment and were mostly ignored by it. Adorno never received a formal offer of a post at a German university, and only obtained a full professorship in Frankfurt in 1957 by dint of some (much resented) political maneuvering by Horkheimer. Habermas recalls that when he was at the Institute in the 1950's there wasn't such a thing as a Frankfurt School or a Critical Theory; these labels emerged retrospectively as the early work Horkheimer and Adorno became more widely known and appreciated and an understanding of their ideas gradually crystallised in the light of interpretation and criticism."

full here

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Holberg Prize Award Ceremony 2005, November 30

Speech of Thanks by Jürgen Habermas

Minister Djupedal, Your Excellences, Representatives from the Ludvig Holberg Memorial Fund, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Not that I would not have any experience with the rare situation of being awarded with a prominent academic price. But the rank, the ambition and the excellence of this award is truly embarrassing for anybody who is very well of the fact that is only one among many candidates of at least equal standing. I gratefully accept this distinction also as an expression of recognition of a whole generation of German philosophers who, after the end of World War II, entered the university and faced the challenge to renew the reputation and strength of a tradition the moral backbone of which hat been broken during the recent past. Of great support was the unbiased reception we enjoyed from colleagues in countries like Norway – including those who would have had good reasons for stronger reservations. I have still vivid memories of my first encounters with Knut Erik Tranøy and his younger colleagues, when Hans Skervheim invited me, in the early 70ies, to come to Bergen .

There are further reasons, why I am happy to enjoy the privilege of this occasion. It is a pleasure to serve the purpose of the Holberg Prize by helping to pull the paled face of the humanities out of the shadow of those more fortunate disciplines that are used to attract more public attention and more financial support for their more visible and robust achievements. I appreciate the decision of the Norwegian government to give, with this foundation, for the right purpose the right sign at the right moment. Moreover, it could have hardly chosen a more convenient patron for this institution than the unconventional founding father of modern Norwegian scholarship, Ludvig Holberg – an outstanding figure of the European enlightenment.

Far from the awkward role of a dignified and somewhat pompous professor, Holberg was a witty person and polemical writer, gifted with a broad range of talents, widely traveled, well versed in many languages and the ways of the world, a public figure, involved in quite a few controversies and, as the author of so many theater plays, well known to larger audiences in various countries. You imagine my increasing pleasure while reading the autobiographical letters – the epistolae ad virum perillustrem, which were, by the way, immediately translated from Latin into German, only two years after its original publication. I cannot but mentioning one episode that aroused my enthusiasm about Holberg in his role as a philosopher and let me discovered a brother in the spirit of post-metaphysical thought.

Describing the course of his life until the age of 33 years, Holberg in those letters continues to sing the melody of graceful laments about his desperate financial situation and his delicate physical constitution. But finally, the Danish King liberates him from this deplorable state by an appointment to the position of a veritable professor of metaphysics. Holberg comments the happy turn in his life with self-irony: “I received the office to teach metaphysics although that was against my inclination. This is why those people, who knew me better, predicted the decline of this splendid discipline. And they were not mistaken. I honestly confess that metaphysics was never in greater danger as under my tutelage.” Referring to his inaugural lecture, Holberg adds that all true admirers of metaphysics could not listen to him without anger since they must have had the impression of attending not an eulogy but “a funeral address on the occasion of the death of metaphysics”. This very phrase was unheard of in those days. That happened in 1717, seven years before Kant – the “Zermalmer” or great destroyer of metaphysics, as he was called – was even borne. The intrepid Holberg, I guess, was an early forerunner of this first post-metaphysical thinker when he pronounced the death of the kind of rationalist metaphysics that remained the academic philosophy for almost the whole of that century.

The sympathy I have with the creativity and spontaneity of this independent and fearless mind is the same feeling which is aroused again and again by the civil mentality I encounter when I come to this country and meet my distinguished Norwegian colleagues. In this respect the lasting influence of Holberg has obviously shaped the spirit of the academic community in his homeland until to-day. I am grateful for what I benefited from rich intellectual contacts with a whole generation of students and academic grandchildren of Arne Næss, and from the vivid debates between those parties who leaned more to Wittgensteinian arguments on one side, or more to those of my friend Karl-Otto Apel on the other. My thanks for the jury’s decision is equally an expression of my gratitude for what I learned from these exchanges.

Jürgen Habermas

from here

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Habermas’s Moral Cognitivism and the Frege-Geach Challenge

James Gordon Finlayson's above tilted article has been published by European Journal of Philosophy in its recent issue.

Its an interesting and thought provoking article (though in my opinion Finlayson gets Habermas wrong particularly on his theory of meaning). I might post some thoughts on the article in the future posts.

Gordon has kindly made available a shorter version of the article for students; it can be accessed from here

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

JOBS: La Trobe

Associate Lecturer/Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Philosophy
School of Communication, Arts & Critical Enquiry
La Trobe University
Bundoora Campus (Melbourne) Australia 3086

Closing date: 23rd December 2005

Applications are invited from suitably qualified candidates in all areas of
Philosophy for two full-time, continuing positions (though it is likely that
one of the appointments will be offered to a specialist in ethics). The appointments may be made at any of levels A, B or C in light of qualifications and previous experience. Remuneration package of:

Level A - $47,981 to $65,114 per annum;
Level B - $68,543 to $81,395 per annum;
Level C - $83,963 to $96,816 per annum, which includes 17% employer superannuation.

The Program in Philosophy at La Trobe has a distinguished history and expects the new appointees to make distinguished contributions not only to the Program but to the discipline as well. Information about the Program can be found at here or by contacting the
Coordinator of the Program, Robert Young (via email at or phone on 61 3 9479 2424).

There are six other universities located in Melbourne, several of whom offer Philosophy, so there is a significant concentration of members of the profession. The University occupies a fine campus in Melbourne and offers an excellent work environment.

Applicants must obtain details of how to apply by visiting our website
,email, or telephone (03) 9479 1365, quoting position number 50016139. La Trobe University is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Update: Deadline extended, new Deadline: 13.01.2006

Habermas on Analytic and continental divide

There is yet another 'debate' about continental analytic divide here. This reminded me of Habermas' lecture on the topic where he analyses parallels and contrasts between the analytic and hermeneutic interpretation of the so called linguistic turn. The whole lecture is worth reading. It is now included as the first chapter of Habermas' Truth and Justification. Habermas on the whole thinks that the so called divide between analytic and continental philosophy is obsolete (underestimation to say the least!). However Habermas thinks that the divide has relevance in one crucial aspect. It is worth quoting Habermas on this point:

“I have yet to mention the most salient and striking difference between the hermeneutic and the analytic tradition. Since analytic philosophy of language more or less confines itself to issue it has inherited from the epistemological tradition, it lacks a certain sensibility for as well as the tools for dealing with the looser and larger issues of a diagnostics of an era. Since Hegel, the philosophical discourse of modernity has, therefore, been the domain of so-called continental philosophy. In this regard, the opposition between analytic and continental currents, which has otherwise become obsolete, still somewhat makes sense. Even Wittgenstein’s reflections on technology, his skepticism about progress, his loathing of sociology, the contrast of “culture” and “civilizaiton,” . . . still are of a rather private and ornamental nature and, in any case, do not affect the structure of his inimitable philosophical work.

For Heidegger, in contrast, cultural criticism is a pervasive feature of his entire philosophy. The author of Being and Time already brings together Aristotle and Kierkegaard, pre-Kantian metaphysics and post-Kantian ethics in grand posture of a critic of his time.” (TJ: 77-78).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Modernization, Rights, and Democratic Society: The Limits of Habermas’s Democratic Theory

by Jeff Noonan
Abstract "Jürgen Habermas’s discourse-theoretic reconstruction of the normative foundations of democracy assumes the formal separation of democratic political practice from the economic system. Democratic autonomy presupposes a vital public sphere protected by a complex schedule of individual rights. These rights are supposed to secure the formal and material conditions for democratic freedom. However, because Habermas argues that the economy must be left to function according to endogenous market dynamics, he accepts as a condition of democracy (the formal separation of spheres) a social structure that is in fact anti-democratic. The value of self-determination that Habermas’s theory of democracy presupposes is contradicted by the actual operations of capitalist markets. Further democratic development demands that the steering mechanisms of the capitalist market be challenged by self-organizing civic movements."

from here

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Habermas and Al Gore

Aporia has following to share with us. Thanks Aporia for this.

Hey Ali,

Check it out. Al Gore (of all people) positively cited Jurgen Habermas in a recent speech:

"It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no 'meritocracy of ideas' on television. To the extent that there is a 'marketplace' of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.

"The German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describes what has happened as 'the refeudalization of the public sphere.' That may sound like gobbledygook, but it's a phrase that packs a lot of meaning. The feudal system which thrived before the printing press democratized knowledge and made the idea of America thinkable, was a system in which wealth and power were intimately intertwined, and where knowledge played no mediating role whatsoever. The great mass of the people were ignorant. And their powerlessness was born of their ignorance."

full here

I had always hated Al Gore...until just now.

-- Aporia

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Philosophical Discourse of Modernity

There is some useful discussion on Gary's site about Habermas' twelve lectures on the philosophical discourse of Modernity.

Habermas and Popper

A new book on the Philosophy of Karl Popper which has been dubbed by a reviewer as "one of the best introductory accounts of Popper's philosophy" obviously contains some discussion of Habermas and Frankfurt School and its relation to the work of Popper. Here is the relevant passage from the review I mentioned above.

"There is a brief discussion of Popper's role in the "positivist dispute" and his interaction with other philosophers such as Horkheimer and Habermas. Part III considers Popper's metaphysical views concerning natural necessity, determinism, indeterminism, propensity, mind-body interaction, the doctrine of Worlds 1, 2 and 3, evolution, and the self.

The book does not get mired in the controversies between Popper and his contemporaries, from some of the logical positivists to his erstwhile colleagues or pupils. Nor does it cover some of the later Popper, especially those writings which have appeared posthumously in English but which were sometimes available earlier in German. For example, it does not delve into Popper's later work on the Presocratics. Keuth maintains that while Popper has many considerable achievements to his credit there are also some failures, especially in his late work. He makes a useful comparison with Kant whose claims about "transcendental knowledge" were known to be untenable even before Kant wrote on them. But just as Kant was an important influence in the Enlightenment, so Popper's critical rationalism is part of the twentieth-century continuation of that tradition. For German speaking Europeans, given their philosophical and political history since the time of Kant, the role of philosophers like Popper in the general intellectual culture is very important, a fact not often appreciated by those outside Germany and Austria.


Most of this review has focused on Keuth's account of Popper's philosophy of science. Whatever shortcomings Popper's view may have, it, or a revised version of it, has been influential in providing a critique of theories of society. This critique Popper began in his The Poverty of Historicism and his The Open Society and its Enemies. Popper claims that many historicists such as Marx and Marxists, and also many sociologists of knowledge, have a faulty understanding of the nature of science and its methods. Once they have a richer account of those methods, the bottom falls out of many of their arguments about the separate nature of the social sciences. This, amongst others, is a theme that appears in Part II of Keuth's book; it can be extended to objections concerning an alleged misplaced scientism advocated in the writings of members of the Frankfurt School, such as Horkheimer and Habermas. Keuth's book is not only a useful account of Popper's views on science, along with promising revisions of these views; it is also a useful prophylactic when applied to some sciences, especially the social sciences. Keuth's treatment of these issues in Part II, and the metaphysical issues in Part III not mentioned here, continue the standard found in Part I. Taken together they provide a fully rounded and fair assessment of Popper's philosophy and its continuing interest."

from here

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Jürgen Habermas and Post-Secular Societies

"Among 19th-century thinkers it was an uncontestable commonplace that religion's cultural centrality was a thing of the past. For Georg Hegel, following in the footsteps of the Enlightenment, religion had been surpassed by reason's superior conceptual precision. In The Essence of Christianity (1841), Ludwig Feuerbach depicted the relationship between man and divinity as a zero-sum game. In his view, the stress on godliness merely detracted from the sublimity of human ends. In one of his youthful writings, Karl Marx, Feuerbach's most influential disciple, famously dismissed religion as "the opium of the people." Its abolition, Marx believed, was a sine qua non for human betterment. Friedrich Nietzsche got to the heart of the matter by having his literary alter ego, the brooding prophet Zarathustra, brusquely declaim, "God is dead," thereby pithily summarizing what many educated Europeans were thinking but few had the courage actually to say. And who can forget Nietzsche's searing characterization of Christianity as a "slave morality," a plebeian belief system appropriate for timorous conformists but unsuited to the creation of a future race of domineering Übermenschen? True to character, the only representatives of Christianity Nietzsche saw fit to praise were those who could revel in a good auto-da-fé -- Inquisition stalwarts like Ignatius Loyola."

For full article go here

from here

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Habermas’ critique of Quine and Heidegger

Habermas and Quine

(Rough outline of a presentation)

1) Similarities between Quine and Habermas: Naturalism, Respect for Science and Scientific Method, Abandonment of first Philosophy.

2) Normally the discourse about differences is focused on the problem of naturalism (and as a corollary on Quine’s alleged scientism and reductionism. Habermas has himself discussed Quine at length in his recent writings (TJ) in order to differentiate between his own ‘weak’ naturalism and Quine’s strong naturalism. So the focus on the problem of naturalism is only ‘natural’.

3) My strategy in the following is slightly different. I do not contest the above strategy but find it useful to focus on the theme of empiricism rather than that of naturalism. In my view it is the empiricism of Quine and not naturalism per se that is the key for understanding Habermas’ objection against Quine and in turn differentiating Habermas’ naturalism from Quinean naturalism as well as for understanding Habermas’ argument and strategy concerning the possibility of ‘transcendence from within.’

4) The key to empiricism (which Habermas pejoratively calls transcendenceless empiricism) is that it solely relies on Observation (or an externalist perspective) as the model for knowledge and understanding ourselves and the world around us. It seeks to understand the objective world, lifeworld, language and ourselves on the sole model of Observation.

5) Since the model for scientific enquiry is Observation it follows from the above that according to this notion of knowledge science and particularly physics (the most successful of all sciences) would be considered the model for all knowledge and understanding.

6) Reducing all knowledge to observation results in an impoverished understanding of the world and our relation to it.

7) The reason for the above is that for Habermas our intuitive knowledge (implicit knowledge) on which all explicit knowledge is based (Habermas is pragmatist in this sense) is accessible only in the performative mode of a subject capable of speech and action (from an internalist perspective) and recedes itself as soon as we adopt the perspective of an observer (internal perspective of participants and external perspective of an observer). In this way we deprive ourselves of the intuitive (implicit) knowledge on which all explicit knowledge is ultimately based.

8) Language and lifeworld and our relation with world as a whole cannot be understood on the model of observation. It requires adopting an attitude of participants in lifeworld practices.

9) The above leads Quine being unable to make distinction between world and innerworldly that is important for adequate understanding of our relation with the world. The distinction is a Kantian distinction and Habermas has preserved it in two ways. First, as distinction between three formal worlds (and what occurs within these worlds) and lifeworld, posited as conditions of the possibility of communicative action. Distinction is alternatively preserved as adopting Heidegger’s distinction between linguistic world disclosure and innerworldly.

10) Quine cannot maintain the distinction between worldly and innerworldly because it requires and depends on adopting an internal perspective of participants in communicative action.

11) Quine has conception of lifeworld and his holism can be seen to maintain the distinction between world and innerworldly and Quine also emphasises the social nature of language (language as social art). This is true but Quine ‘neutralises’ all this by trying to understand all these phenomena in terms of observation or from a ruthlessly externalist perspective.

12) Centrality of Observation sentences in Quine.

13) Cogency of this interpretation: The same critique applies to Davidson. Davidson does not share Quine’s strong naturalism and scientism but he shares Quine’s reduction of all knowledge/understanding to the model of Observation (and external perspective). Habermas’ objection to Davidson is the same as his objection to Quine.

Habermas and Heidegger

1) Similarities between Heidegger and Habermas huge. Habermas’ conception of language, lifeworld and his distinction between implicit and explicit knowledge and his basing the latter on the former is all based on Heidegger.

2) Habermas’ critique of Heidegger is normally based on the fact that Heidegger thinks that meaning determine the reference (Lafont and others). This critique is based on the assumption that Heidegger bestows too much power to the linguistic disclosure so much so that innerworldly is overwhelmed.

3) Heidegger as against Quine does not give observation and external perspective its due. As a corollary he does not give the empirical knowledge its due.

4) Empirical knowledge has power to revise the linguistic knowledge and worldviews.

5) Habermas’ distinction between direct and indirect revision through empirical knowledge. Innerworldly empirical knowledge is directly affected by experiences. Linguistic knowledge is affected (itself an empirical question) by experiences only indirectly through affecting the coherence of linguistic knowledge.

6) Test of the innerworldly knowledge experience, test of linguistic knowledge as well as worldviews is their coherence. However empirical knowledge also can lead (indirectly) to the revision of linguistic knowledge.

7) Empirical Knowledge as the triggerer of the revision linguistic knowledge and knowledge of worldviews.

8) Main objection against Heidegger is that he ignores the two way relation (even if it is an asymmetrical relation) between linguistic knowledge and empirical knowledge.

Relevant Quotes (with occasional comments)

1) ”...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).

“All species competences of subjects capable of speech and action are accessible to a rational reconstruction if, namely, we recur to the practical knowledge to which we intuitively lay claim in tried-and-true productive accomplishments. In this respect philosophical work is continuous with scientific work. Besides posing questions directed towards what is universal, philosophy has no advantage over the sciences, and it certainly does not possess the infallibility of a privileged access to truth.” (PMT; 14, emphasis added).

2) “Strong naturalism, whose paradigmatic representative has been W. V. O. Quine allies itself with a scientific understanding of our cognitive abilities. All cognition is ultimately to be reducible to empirical process. The transcendental architectonic drops out, as does the difference between the conditions of how the world is constituted (or of world disclosure), which calls for conceptual analysis, on the one hand, and states of affairs and events in the world, which can be explained causally, on the other. If we repudiate the transcendental difference between the world and innerworldly . . . the methodological dualism of an interpretive reconstruction of our lifeworld, on the one hand, and the explanation of processes in the objective world, on the other, dissipates, so does the paradoxical task of somehow reconciling the “internal perspective” of transcendentally conceived practices of the lifeworld with the “external perspective” of their causal genesis.” (TJ: 23).

3) “The naturalism of . . . theory of language, from Morris to Quine, is not derived from the procedure of linguistic analysis but from the presuppositions of an empiricist ontology. This route is by no means prescribed by the conversion of the philosophy of consciousness into linguistic analysis . . . .” (PMT; 21)

With empiricism comes the “objectivistic self understanding of the human being,” and this leads straight to scientism:

“. . . abstract attempts to establish an objectivistic self understanding of the human being with one blow, as it were, thrive upon the scientistic background assumption that the natural sciences (with modern physics as their core) do in general furnish the model and the ultimate authority for all knowledge that is still acceptable.” (PMT; 21, emphasis added.)

4) “The point of [Quine’s] theoretical strategy is to pave the way for a strictly naturalistic understanding of one’s own linguistic behaviour from within the participant perspective. Yet the very alienating scientization of intuitive knowledge that accounts for the success of this strategy simultaneously gives rise to the Achilles’ heel of strong naturalism. Subjects who are capable of speech and action and engaged in communicative practices cannot but orient their thinking and doing by norms and be affected by reasons. They cannot recognize themselves in Quinean objectifying descriptions. Strong naturalism runs aground on the cognitive dissonance between the self-understanding of competent speakers, which is easy to corroborate, and a counterintuitive, ruthlessly revisionist self-description. The latter, by denying speaker intuitions, robs philosophy of language of its only reliable evidential base.” (TJ; 24).

The self understanding of the actors belongs to their lifeworld. It is based on the intuitive (implicit) knowledge that cannot be captured by the help of observation. Hence by levelling the distinction between observation and understanding Quine levels the distinction between objective world and lifeworld. Thus naturalism of the Quinean sort robs itself not only of the fountain of certain knowledge but also the fountain of continuous problematisation:

“Subjects capable of speech and action find themselves in lifeworld contexts; they communicate about and intervene in the objective world. If we shift from the perspective of a participant in the practices of our lifeworld to the point of view of an observer focusing on something in the objective world, the very normativity that is characteristic of all mental activity escapes us. The special kind of intentionality of referring, or assuming an attitude, to objects and facts remain present to us only as long as we maintain a certain distance from the objective world from within the intersubjective horizon of shared practices. Other beings lack this kind of distance. By switching to the observer’s perspective, the semantic dimension is closed off to us and we no longer have access to the intuitive knowledge of rational beings who have been socialized in grammatical language and normative forms of life. The inescapability of the lifeworld manifests itself in the self-referential character of ordinary language, which we cannot get around by appeal to a hierarchy of metalanguages or by strict objectification.” (TJ: 218-219.)

4) The above might seem at odd with Quine’s holism. If Quine is a holist then he should have some distinction between object as it is and object as it appears to us within our current field of vision given our background knowledge, socialisation etc. However Quine’s holism is no such holism as it keeps intact the empiricist architectonic in the last analysis:

“It is no shock to the preconception of old Vienna to say that epistemology has become semantics. For epistemology remains cantered as always on evidence, and meaning remains cantered as always on verification; and evidence is verification.” (Epistemology Naturalized,” 89)

It is no shock that epistemology has become semantics because semantics itself is based on the notion of causal relation with the world. No wonder Quine considers observation sentences as the heart of language and semantics. It is also no wonder that he clearly states that his notion of the indeterminacy of translation has “little bearing on observation sentences.” (Epistemology Naturalized,” 89).
Now observation sentences are understood by Quine in the typical empiricist manner even if he exorcises inwardness and subjectivism of the old classical empiricism. He defines observation sentences as following:

“. . . an observation sentence is one which all speakers of the language give the same verdict when given the same concurrent situation. To put the point negatively, an observation sentence is one that is not sensitive to differences in past experience within the speech community.

This formation accords perfectly with the traditional role of the observation sentence as the court of appeal of scientific theories. For by our definition the observation sentences are the sentences on which all members of the community will agree under uniform stimulation.”(“Epistemology Naturalized,” 86-87).

Giving centrality to observation sentences in this way leads to several results some of which are relevant to our discussion here:

• Observation remains the corner stone of both epistemology and semantics as does the causal relation between the observers and world.

• Even though Quine retains an element of collateral information in defining observation sentences this collateral information does not provide any disclosing ground for the object being observed and hence for any distinction between worldly and innerworldly. There is no notion of preunderstanding which affects the object being perceived in any drastic way.
• Finally the background information itself is understood on the basis of the same observation model which provides the basis for understanding observation sentences.

The above understanding of observation sentences results in levelling the distinction between observation and understanding, observer’s perspective and participants’ perspective, and results in the lost of the normative conception of rationality:

“ . . . the naturalist continuation of the empiricist tradition comes at a price. It requires an objectivist assimilation of our normative practices to observable events in the world . . . this approach gives rise to the problem of translating the intuitive knowledge of subjects capable of speech and action into an idiom that is continuous with the theoretical idiom of the monological empirical sciences.” [rf.]

5) Commenting on Davidson’s model of language Habermas asserts that, “Davidson objectifies the phenomena that has to be explained, namely what it means to understand linguistic expression.” Habermas goes on to add that:

“By relieving the philosopher of language of his role as a reader or hearer trying to understand what an author or speaker says, he makes significant methodological decision that alters the role of the philosopher of language. Instead, he assigns the interpreter the role of a theoretician proceeding empirically. Such an interpreter observes the behaviour of a foreign culture and – unlike Wittgenstein’s ethnographer – looks for a monological explanation of the as yet unintelligible linguistic behaviour of the natives. Thus the communicative behaviour of subjects capable of speech and action is entirely objectified; it becomes observable with no internal link to the subject. Corresponding to this vigorous assimilation of intelligible symbolic expressions to the category of observable natural phenomenon, is the assimilation of understanding meaning [Sinnverstehen] to explanations for which an empirical theory is required.” (TJ: 112-113, italics added.).
“It is important to note that the methodological principle of charity requires an interpreter to attribute “rationality” as a behavioural disposition to a foreign speaker from an observer’s perspective. This attribution must not be confused with the performative presupposition of rationality undertaken by interlocutors. In the one case, the concept of rationality is employed descriptively, and in the other normatively. In both cases we are dealing with a fallible presupposition.”( TJ: 114, italics in the original.)

Habermas recognises Davidson’s efforts to go beyond “monistic point of view of a scientistic naturalism.”( TJ; 116). He also recognises that Davidson “emphasises the social core of the normativity of mind.” (TJ; 119). However, according to Habermas, Davdson’s ‘heroic’ efforts to defend the normativity of mind and demarcate nature from reason come to naught. Thus Habermas claims that Rorty “is able to raise strong objection against” Davidson’s strategy because of “Davidson’s own strategy of deactivating the rational potential inherent in linguistic communication.” (TJ; 116, Quine and Davidson dodge the question of where intentionality come from? TJ: 116, The world is only causally connected to language TJ: 117).

Haberams and Heidegger

“Philosophical hermeneutics fails to appreciate the cognitive function of language in its own right and the specific significance of the propositional structure of declarative sentences. As a result, Heidegger rules out any interaction between linguistic knowledge [Sprachwissen] and empirical knowledge [Weltwissen]. He does not even consider the possibility that what words in a language mean, on the one hand, and the results of learning process within the world, on the other, can mutually affect one another, because he gives unlimited primacy to the semantics of linguistic worldviews over the pragmatics of communication. In contrast to Humboldt, he transfers the locus of control from the achievements of the participants in discourse to the higher-order events of linguistic world disclosure. Speakers are prisoners in the house of their language, and it is language that speaks through their mouths.”(TJ: 66).

“For Heidegger, the fact that a predicate fits an object, as well as the truth of the corresponding predicative sentence, is a derivative phenomenon that depends on an “enabling of truth” in the sense of prior world-disclosure as a linguistic “happening of truth.” With this later notion however, the the universalist meaning of truth is relinquished. An ontological “truth” that changes with the mode of world disclosure no longer appears in the singular of “the one and indivisible truth.” Rather, the “undisclosedness” of particular types of objects is determined by a transcendental “event” of linguistic world disclosure, which in itself is neither true nor false, but rather just “happens.”” (TJ: 67).

“This primacy of the “hermeneutic as” over the “predicative as” marks the crucial difference from a truth-conditional semantics. The latter also, to be sure, holds that the meaning of linguistic expressions determines the truth conditions of the semantics they form. But this is not tantamount to claiming that it is irrevocably predetermined on the semantic level which properties might in the long run be ascribed to which categories of objects. As long as we separate the predication of properties from the reference of objects, and as long as we are able to recognize objects as the same under different descriptions, there is the possibility of learning – of increasing our knowledge of the world in such a way that it may lead to revision of our linguistic knowledge.” (TJ: 66).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A new book on Habermas

The Philosophy of Habermas

Andrew Edgar


This comprehensive introduction to the thought of Jurgen Habermas covers the full range of his ideas from his early work on student politics, the public sphere and the development of Marxist theory to his current work on communicative action, ethics and law. Andrew Edgar examines Habermas's key texts in chronological order and charts and assesses the continuities and discontinuities in his thought, both in terms of subject matter and methodology. The unfulfilled potential, or unresolved challenges remaining from earlier projects are identified and the author highlights those points in Habermas's career where clear choices of direction have been made and their implications evaluated. Each chapter focuses on one or more key texts and can therefore be read as a self-standing essay on that key reading and the point that it represents in Habermas's development. However, material in each chapter also serves to identify the links between Habermas's texts and to give shape to Habermas's broader project. Some of the themes that are examined are Habermas's early reshaping of Marxist theory and practice, his characterization of critical theory, his conception of universal pragmatics, his theories of communicative action and discourse ethics, his accounts of the rationalization and colonisation of the lifeworld and his defence of the project of modernity. Edgar engages with Habermas's critics throughout and contrasts his views with the ideas of contemporaries such as Adorno, Gadamer, Foucault, Rawls, Luhmann and Rorty to give a clear sense of Habermas's place and importance in contemporary philosophy and social theory.

Andrew Edgar is Lecturer in Philosophy at Cardiff University."

publisher link
amazon link

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A new book by Habermas

Zwischen Naturalismus und Religion

"The book brings together nine recent essays and two new contributions:

Einleitung (new)

I. Die intersubjektive Verfassung des normengeleiteten Geistes

1. Öffentlicher Raum und politische Öffentlichkeit. Lebengeschichtliche Wurzeln von zwei Gedankenmotiven (2004)

2. Kommunikatives Handeln und detranszendentalisierte Vernunft (2001)

3. Zur Architektonik der Diskursdifferenzierung. Kleine Replik auf eine grosse Auseinandersetzung (2003)

II. Religiöser Pluralismus und staatsbürgerliche Solidarität

4. Vorpolitische Grundlagen des demokratischen Rechtsstaates? (2004)

5. Religion in der Öffentlichkeit. Kognitive Voraussetzungen für den ”öffentlichen Vernunftgebrach” religiöser under säkularer Bürger (new)

III. Naturalismus und Religion

6. Freiheit und Determinismus (2004)

7. ”Ich selber bin ja ein Stück Natur” – Adorno über die Naturverflochtenheit der Vernunft (2005)

8. Die Grenzen zwischen Glauben und Wissen. Zur Wirkungsgeschichte und aktuellen Beteudung von Kants Religionsphilosophie (2004)

IV. Toleranz

9. Religiöse Toleranz als Schrittmacher kultureller Rechte (2004)

10. Kulturelle Gleichbehandlung – und die Grenzen des Postmodernen Liberalismus? (2003)

11. Eine politische Verfassung für die pluralistische Weltgesellschaft? (new)"

from here

Reviews: here

The Prospect/FP Top 100 Public Intellectuals

"Who are the world's leading public intellectuals? FP and Britain’s Prospect magazine would like to know who you think makes the cut. We’ve selected our top 100, and want you to vote for your top five. If you don’t see a name that you think deserves top honors, include them as a write-in candidate. Voting closes October 10, and the results will be posted the following month."

Habermas is among topc 100 nominated by FP and Britain’s Prospect.

Vote here

link courtesy of Habermas Forum

Reclaiming the idealist heritage of critical theory

Title: Reclaiming the idealist heritage of critical theory

Abstract: Despite his overtures to analytical tradition Habermas remains philosophically steeped in the tradition of German idealism particularly Kantian and Hegelian versions of it. However the exact nature of Habermas’ relation with idealism still needs to be explored. In this paper I shall start doing exactly this by considering Habermas’ relation with Kant.

It is true that Habermas rejects certain basic assumptions of the idealist tradition emanating from Kant. He wants to detranscendentalise Kant’s conception of transcendental subjectivity and his notion of noumenal realm. However detranscendentalisation should not be seen as a rejection of Kant’s notion of transcendental subjectivity and noumenal as such. Habermas wants to salvage the transcending powers of reason and essence of Kant’s noumenal realm even after a thoroughgoing detranscendentalisation. Habermas terms his strategy to achieve just this ‘transcendence from within and into this world.’ Transcendence from within combines a rejection of the idealist positing of otherworldly realms with a reassertion of the idealist insight about the transcending powers of reason.

In this paper I shall not argue the case for reclaiming the idealist heritage of critical theory in any direct and grand fashion. I shall rather focus on an issue that is concrete, specific and limited in scope. I shall argue my case by proving the existence of two typically Kantian (and idealist) motives in Habermas’ work:

a) Habermas’ reassertion of Kant’s belief that rational causality is totally different from natural causality.

b) Habermas’ reassertion of Kant’s belief that in order to prove rational causality one needs to show the possibility of transcending innerworldly realm.

I shall argue however that Habermas defends the above Kantian themes without presupposing Kant’s otherworldly realm. This differentiates as well as relates Habermas’ work with that of Kant. I hope this will provide a model for considering the question of the relationship between crucial theory and idealism in general in a more balanced way which pays equal attention to the differences as well as similarities, ruptures as well as continuities.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Presentation of Jürgen Habermas

Presentation of Jürgen Habermas
By Kaarlo Tuori

Jürgen Habermas (b. 1929) belongs to those contemporary Master Thinkers who cannot be unequivocally located within the customary division of academic disciplines. His works cover a broad field of human and social sciences: philosophy, ethics, social theory and sociology, political theory, law and legal theory. In addition, he has actively participated in German and, especially since the 1990s, European debates on issues which he himself defines as ethico-political.

Habermas is the leading second-generation representative of the Frankfurt school of critical theory. His background in critical theory accounts for one of the main uniting themes in his voluminous oeuvre : the elaboration, justification and application of a critical yardstick for assessing modern society. The perspective of critical theory has also provided direction for his more philosophically-oriented work, which follows the programme of reconstructing rationally the presuppositions of human communication and action and where the concept of rationality occupies a prominent position.

In his Habilitation thesis, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962; Eng. ed. 1989), Habermas criticised modern society for not keeping the promises it had raised with the ideas of the liberal or bourgeois public sphere and the Rechtsstaat . His analysis ended with the pessimistic conclusion that the ideas of the liberal public sphere, general law and the bourgeois Rechtsstaat had lost their social foundation.

Habermas’ ‘linguistic turn’, which can be dated to the late 1960s and early 1970s, led to the universalisation of the normative criterion, to its detachment from the structures of modern society. The ideal speech situation, which, according to Habermas, is anticipated in all human linguistic communication and which has an anthropological basis in the human communicative capacity, could easily be interpreted as a universally valid norm of social criticism, as well as a justification of and a model for a society based on freedom and equality.

However, Habermas soon rejected the idea that the ideal speech situation could be understood as defining the ultimate aim of social emancipation. He had learned from his discussion partner Niklas Luhmann that social evolution manifested a constant growth in the systemic complexity of society. Therefore the transparency which would be required by the ideal speech situation, interpreted as an all-embracing organisational principle for society, could not function as the critical yardstick of social theory.

In his The Theory of Communicative Action (1981; Eng. ed. 1984/89), Habermas introduced the social theoretical distinction between the life-world ( Lebenswelt ) and the System. He based this distinction on the differentiation of social action into communicative and strategic action, as well as on the corresponding differentiation of the social and the systemic integration of society. Habermas’ diagnosis of the problems plaguing contemporary society is known as the thesis of the colonisation of the life-world. The danger consists of systemic mechanisms invading the life-world, of money and administrative power replacing mutual solidarity and linguistically-mediated understanding as the integrative mechanisms of the life-world.

The Theory of Communicative Action could not give a convincing answer to the crucial question how the life-world could protect itself against the imperialism of the System, how the threat of the colonisation of the life-world could be warded off. Habermas did express his confidence in the resistance of the life-world structures, which were continuously reproduced by communicative action; to support his optimism, he appealed to, for example, the experience of the new social movements. However, it remained largely open as to how the potential implicit in the structures of the life-world could be channelled into a countervailing force to the System.

After The Theory of Communicative Action Habermas turned his attention to moral and legal theory. He made a major contribution to the theory of discourse ethics ( Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action , 1983, Eng. ed. 1990). He soon realized the need to complement the discussion of modern society’s moral structures with a legal-theoretical approach. In its legal-theoretical chapters, Between Facts and Norms (1992, Eng. ed. 1996) provides a discourse-theoretical account of modern law. It also proposes a solution to the problem The Theory of Communicative Action had left open. Now the law – democratic law-making procedures and the communicative power engendered through them - is assigned the task of disciplining the System. Between Facts and Norms in a way returns to the themes of Habermas’ Habilitation thesis. The democratic Rechtsstaat is there to contain the exercise of administrative power, and its basic principles, along with fundamental human-rights principles, also provide the critical social theory of modern society with normative yardsticks.

In political theory, Between Facts and Norms elaborated the notion of deliberative democracy. In his subsequent writings, Habermas’ focus has been on the trans-national level. He has made important contributions to the on-going discussion on the possibilities and forms of trans-national constitutionalism, democratic Rechtsstaat and deliberative democracy, while also continuing his more philosophical explorations. In addition to being an exceptionally versatile academic writer, he is also an outstanding example of a modern intellectual who is conscious of his specific responsibilities in the public discourses forming the core of deliberative democracy.

View interview with Jürgen Habermas

View interview with Jürgen Habermas (5 min.)

Holberg International Memorial Prize 2005 for Habermas

The Board of the Ludvig Holberg Memorial Fund
has decided to award
the Holberg International Memorial Prize 2005
Professor Jürgen Habermas

The Board of the Ludvig Holberg Memorial Fund award the prize on the basis of the recommendation of an academic committee composed of outstanding researchers from the above mentioned academic fields.

Citation of the Holberg Prize Academic Committee:

“Jürgen Habermas has developed path-breaking theories of discourse and communicative action and thereby provided new perspectives on law and democracy.

His research is thematically wide ranging and has had exceptional interdisciplinary impact. Habermas has significantly contributed to the understanding of rationality, ethics, legitimation, critical public discussion, modernity, the post-national society and European integration. His intellectual breakthrough was The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962; Eng. ed. 1989), which, by combining empirical and theoretical research from a number of disciplines, constituted an original contribution to democratic theory. In his opus magnum The Theory of Communicative Action (1981; Eng. ed. 1984/89) he provides a new foundation for critical social theory and discusses the possibility of public discourse among free and equal citizens. The discourse theory of law and deliberative democracy is outlined in Between Facts and Norms (1992; Eng. ed. 1996). His conception of democracy is further elaborated in articles addressing contemporary issues such as the multicultural society, nationalism and globalization (collected in The Inclusion of the Other (1996; Eng. ed. 1998) and The Postnational Constellation (1998; Eng. ed. 2001)). Lately, Habermas has among other things worked on foundational problems in ethics and philosophy.

Habermas has had extraordinary international influence in a great number of disciplines.”
thanks to Gary for the link.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Language, structure of communicative action and interruption of teleology

Habermas makes it clear that both communicative action and strategic action has “a teleological structure” (OPC: 203). It means both actors in the communicative actions and strategic actions have ‘intentions’ and ‘ends’.* However intentions of actors in communicative actions are supervened on the structures of communication as against strategic actions where intentions of actors are the determining factor. The teleological structure of action is interrupted in communicative action:

“. . . communicative and strategic action do not differ primarily in terms of the attitudes of the actors but rather with respect to structural characteristics . . . in communicative action, the structure of the use of language oriented toward reaching understanding is superimposed on the fundamental teleological structure of action and subjects the actors to precisely such constraints as compel them to adopt a pefromative attitude . . . .” (OPC: 204-205, emphasis added).

Thus in a sense it is right to say that in communicative action language suspends the teleological structure of action (even if only momentarily) and actors in fact dwell in language and its unique causality which is quite distinct from the causality of action:

“As long as language is used only as a medium for transmitting information, action coordination proceed through the mutual influence that actors exert on each other in a purposive-rational manner. On the other hand, as soon as the illocutionary forces of speech acts take on an action-coordinating role, language itself supplies the primary source of social interaction. Only in this case should one speak of “communicative action.” In such action, actors in the roles of speaker and hearer attempts to negotiate interpretations of the situation at hand to harmonize their respective plans with one another through the unrestrained pursuit of illocutionary goals. Naturally, the binding energies of language can be mobilized to coordinate action plans only if the participants suspend the objectivating attitude of an observer, along with the immediate orientation to personal success, in favor of the performaitve attitude of a speaker who wants to reach an understanding with a second person about something in the world.” (BFN: 18, emphasis in italics mine, in bold by Habermas).

The unique of causality of reason emerges from within only when actors are ‘delivered’ to language itself. Language interrupts the natural causality and makes possible the emergence of the causality of reason as long as we remain delivered to the language itself.

* “My critics have on occasion overlooked the fact that both models of action attribute to the actors a capacity for setting goals and goal-directed action, as an interest in executing their own plans of actions.” (OPC: 203, emphasis retained).

Friday, September 16, 2005

Critical Theory

I had not noticed the entry on Critical theory in Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy before. Thanks to Gary for the pointer. It should be a good read as James Bohman is a leading Habermas scholar in the English speaking philosophical world. His Ph.D. dissertation on Habermas was highly praised, among others by Habermas himself, at the time.

I am adding critical theory resources section on the sidebar.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Honneth interview

"Probably no election campaign in the last 20 years was as dominated – below the surface – by social questions as the one now coming to an end", says Axel Honneth, director of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, in an interview with Harry Nutt. "The problem is that none of the parties has a concept of social justice complex enough to bring equal opportunities, work-dependency, generational discrimination and ecological considerations together in a rational and comprehendable framework. Almost all the parties are still operating with one-dimensional concepts of justice that concentrate for example on performance, equal opportunities or need, instead of taking the step to a multi-dimensional concept that is indispensable for the future. Much more intellectual work remains to be done here, over and above what party theoreticians can point to today."

from here

Honneth interview here

Ein mehrdimensionaler Gerechtigkeitsbegriff ist unverzichtbar

Für den Philosophen Axel Honneth haben allein die Grünen die intellektuellen Ressourcen, um den gegenwärtigen Strukturwandel der Politik zu begreifen

The Future of Critical Theory: 2nd and slightly revised Call For Papers


The Future of Critical Theory
(A Postgraduate Conference)
17-18 November 2005
University of Melbourne

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:
John Rundell (Director of the Ashworth Program in Social Theory) Jean-Philippe Deranty (Macquarie University) Dieter Freundlieb (Griffith University)

The Ashworth Program in Social Theory and The Social Theory Postgraduate Association (University of Melbourne) are inaugurating an annual conference for Australian postgraduates researching in what may broadly be regarded as the tradition of "Critical Theory" For this to occur, we are organising a first conference on the theme of the "The Future of Critical Theory" which we hope will be the first in a series. The conference will be held on the 17th to 18th of November 2005. We are inviting papers from Melbourne and interstate based postgraduate students in any discipline and asking them to reflect on the state of Critical Theory: its past, its present and its future.

Possible topics for discussion include:
1. The "criticalness" of Critical Theory.
2. The legacy of the Frankfurt School (from Horkheimer, Adorno to Habermas and Honneth):
Generational interconnections, contemporary resonances.
3. Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity: what place does the 'subject' have in critical theory?
4. Developments in French critical theory -- Adumbrations of a French-German dialogue 5. Philosophy and Critical Theory 6. The politics and/or ethics of Critical Theory 7. The roots of Critical Theory: Marxism, Romanticism, Literature.
8. Dialogues with fields outside of Critical Theory that may be seen to provoke, supplement it or directly challenge it.
9. We also intend to devote sessions specific to these thinkers:
Niklas Luhmann, Axel Honneth, Theodor Adorno, Manfred Frank, Agnes Heller, Walter Benjamin, Alain Badiou and Cornelius Castoriadis.

Submission details:
Title and 250-300 word abstract for papers of 20 minutes reading time.
Submissions should also include the following information:
Speaker's Name, Phone Number, Postal address, Email address, University Affiliation.
Submissions can be sent by e-mail to by 30th September 2005.
For enquiries, email

Conference Web site: here

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

transcendence from within as proving causality of reason from within

The significance of the illocutionary component of speech acts for Habermas is not just that through them one can best elucidate the fact that utterances are “speech actions.” The significance of the performative component of speech acts is more central than this for Habermas. The significance of the illocutionary component for Habermas lies rather in the “peculiarly generative power of speech acts”:

“It is to this generative power that I trace the fact that a speech act can succeed or fail. . . . [] the generative power (of a speech act) consists in the fact that the speaker, in performing a speech act, can influence the hearer in such a way that the latter can take up an interpersonal relation with her.” (OPC: 56-57, emphasis added).

The word “influence” in the above quote is absolutely crucial for Habermas. Habermas takes “influence” here in non causal sense. Influence for him here is rational and not causal. A part of Habermas’ project of theory of communicative action, formal pragmatics and theory of meaning is to show that this causality of reason can be explained without any reference to Kant’s otherworldly realm of intelligibility.

The above difference between rational influence and causal influence is the basis for Habermas distinction between 'perlocutionary effects' and 'illocutionary success,' (which in turn is the basis for Habermas' crucial distinction between communicative action and strategic action).

"Perlocutionary effects, like the successful results of teleological actions generally, may be described as states in the world brought about through intervention in the world. By contrast, illocutionary successes are achieved at the level of interpersonal relations on which participants in communication to come to an understanding with one another about something in the world. In this sense, they are not innerworldly but extramundane. At most, successful illocutionary acts occur within the lifeworld to which the participants in communication belong and that forms the background for their processes of reaching understanding. They cannot be intended under the description of causally produced effects" (OPC: 127).

The fact that the above crucial distinction is related to Habermas' effort to prove the Kantian notion of causality of reason from within normally goes unnoticed in Habermas scholarship. Charles Nussbaum is the only Habermas scholar I know of who has paid some attention to this.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Language and transcendence from within

"As long as language is used only as a medium for transmitting information, action coordination proceed through the mutual influence that actors exert on each other in a purposive-rational manner. On the other hand, as soon as the illocutionary forces of speech acts take on an action-coordinating role, language itself supplies the primary source of social interaction. Only in this case should one speak of “communicative action.” In such action, actors in the roles of speaker and hearer attempts to negotiate interpretations of the situation at hand to harmonize their respective plans with one another through the unrestrained pursuit of illocutionary goals. Naturally, the binding energies of language can be mobilized to coordinate action plans only if the participants suspend the objectivating attitude of an observer, along with the immediate orientation to personal success, in favor of the performaitve attitude of a speaker who wants to reach an understanding with a second person about something in the world." (BFN: 18, emphasis in italics mine, in bold by Habermas).

The unique of causality of reason emerges from within only when we deliver ourselves to language itself. Language interrupts the natural causality and makes possible the emergence of the causality of reason as long as we remain delivered to the language itself.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Cambridge Companion to Peirce

"Almost all the papers in this fine collection will reward careful reading and clearly 'comprehensiveness' is not a reasonable demand to put on such a collection. Nevertheless, there does seem to be at least one obvious lacuna, which could have been easily addressed. In most general terms Peirce clearly thought of himself as rethinking the Kantian project of exploring the conditions of possibility of science, and in virtue of this has played an important role in contemporary German philosophy. The work of Jürgen Habermas and Karl-Otto Apel are primary cases in point, and through them other young German philosophers have become interested in Peirce's version of pragmatism. It would have been good if something that provided a window into this problematic had been included."

full here

Rethinking Critical Theory

International Journal of Philosophical Studies has published an special issue on critical theory and its future. Here is the details of contributions with their abstracts:

Suffering Injustice: Misrecognition as Moral Injury in Critical Theory

J.M. Bernstein
A1 New School for Social Research, New York, USA

It is the persistence of social suffering in a world in which it could be eliminated that for Adorno is the source of the need for critical reflection, for philosophy. Philosophy continues and gains its cultural place because an as yet unbridgeable abyss separates the social potential for the relief of unnecessary human suffering and its emphatic continuance. Philosophy now is the culturally bound repository for the systematic acknowledgement and articulation of the meaning of the expanse of human suffering within technologically advanced societies that are already committed to liberal ideals of freedom and equality.

Disclosing Possibility: The Past and Future of Critical Theory1

Nikolas Kompridis
A1 York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

In this paper I indicate the reasons why critical theory needs an alternative conception of critique, and then I sketch out what such an alternative should be. The conception of critique I develop involves a time‐responsive redisclosure of the world capable of disclosing new or previously unnoticed possibilities, possibilities in light of which agents can change their self‐understanding and their practices, and change their orientation to the future and the past.

We, Heirs of Enlightenment: Critical Theory, Democracy and Social Science

James Bohman

A1 St Louis University, St Louis, Missouri, USA

My goal here is to come to terms with the Enlightenment as the horizon of critical social science. First, I consider in more detail the understanding of the Enlightenment in Critical Theory, particularly in its conception of the sociality of reason. Second, I develop an account of freedom in terms of human powers, along the lines of recent capability conceptions that link freedom to the development of human powers, including the power to interpret and create norms. Finally, I show the ways in which the social sciences can be moral sciences in the Enlightenment sense. This account provides us with a coherent Enlightenment standard by which to judge institutions as promoting development, understood in terms of the capabilities necessary for freedom. The relevant social science in this area might include the robust generalization that there has never been a famine in a democratic society.

Avoiding Authoritarianism: On the Problem of Justification in Contemporary Critical Social Theory

Maeve Cooke
A1 University College Dublin, Ireland

Critical social theories look critically at the ways in which particular social arrangements hinder human flourishing, with a view to bringing about social change for the better. In this they are guided by the idea of a good society in which the identified social impediments to human flourishing would once and for all have been removed. The question of how these guiding ideas of the good life can be justified as valid across socio‐cultural contexts and historical epochs is the most fundamental difficulty facing critical social theories today. This problem of justification, which can be traced back to certain key shifts in the modern Western social imaginary, calls on contemporary theories to negotiate the tensions between the idea of context‐transcendent validity and their own anti‐authoritarian impulses. Habermas makes an important contribution towards resolving the problem, but takes a number of wrong turnings.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Realism after the linguistic-pragmatic turn*

"Reading Wahrheit und Rechtfertigung (1999) and more specifically what Jürgen Habermas writes in the "Introduction" to his recent book, not yet published in English[2], I will try to explain his answer to the epistemological problem of realism: how can we conciliate both the postulate of a world that is independent of our descriptions, a single objective world, and the philosophy of language discovery according to which we have no direct access, non-mediated by language, to "naked" reality. Habermas wants to hold on to the moment of unconditionality that is part of the correspondence idea of truth, while retaining an internal relation between truth and justifiability: his aim is to work out a theory of truth that is inherently pragmatic yet retains the idea of an unconditional truth claim."

full here

Related resources:
One World is Enough
Truth, Knowledge and Reality
Hilary Putnam on the Problem of Representation and "Internal" Realism.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A brief statement about my Ph.D. thesis

Update: Bringing forward due to new comments.

There are two interrelated aims of the thesis:

a)I want to understand the logic of Habermas’ claim that he wants to go beyond transcendenceless empiricism and high flying idealism. I argue that Habermas does this by combining two stances which are normally considered incompatible. Habermas combines transcendentalism (about reason) with (its) detranscendentalisation. The outcome is what he calls “transcendence from within and transcendence in this world.” Habermas on the one hand wants to preserve the Kantian insight that reason has transcending powers and that there is a sharp distinction between the ‘space of reason’ and the ‘space of law’ to use Sellars’ terminology. On the other hand Habermas rejects Kant’s two realm distinction in order to establish the sharp distinction between ‘causality of law’ and ‘causality of reason’ to use Kant’s own terminology this time. This is connected to Habermas’ acceptance of Hegel’s and Post Hegelian insight about the inevitable detranscendentalisation of the realm of pure intelligibility. This detranscendentalisation is the outcome of the loss of faith in non immanent versions of transcendence, the process which for Habermas (following Weber and Nietzsche) culminates in the decline of great world religions. Thus for Habermas if one is to defend the Kantian vision of the transcending powers of reason however without accepting the Kantian dichotomy between the realm of pure intelligibility and realm of phenomenon then one does not have any other option but to show how the transcending powers of reason emerge from “within” that is from within “this world.” This Habermas terms as “transcendence from within and in this world,” in his recent writings.

b)The second main aim of my thesis is to situate Habermas’ ‘weak’ naturalism in the context of his project of ‘transcendence from within.’ My purpose here is not to deal with ‘weak naturalism’ on its own terms but only to clarify its relation with the project of ‘transcendence form within.’ In this context my main argument is that ‘weak naturalism’ provides an ‘ontological’ underpinning to Habermas’ project of ‘transcendence from within.’ While the problematic of the ‘transcendence from within,’ is dealt on the social and linguistic levels where human beings are already in ‘possession’ of a propositionally differentiated language, the problematic of ‘weak naturalism’ is located at a more primitive level where we have to think about the emergence of ‘reason’ from within ‘nature.’ In Habermas’ own words the project of ‘weak’ naturalism aims at reconciling Kant with Darwin while we can say that the aim of the project of ‘transcendence from within’ is to reconcile Kant and Hegel. In this context the project of ‘weak naturalism’ performs two functions: i) It provides the ‘structural’ model for the argument at the level of ‘transcendence from within.’ ii) Most importantly as mentioned earlier ‘weak’ naturalism provides the ‘ontological’ basis for the argument at the level of ‘transcendence from within.’ If it can be hypothesized (as ‘weak’ naturalism does) that ‘reason’ and our form of life based on this is the continuation of a prior “evolutionary learning process” then it is more plausible to suppose that ‘transcending powers of reason’ can emerge from historically situated and embedded reason. In other words if Kant can be reconciled with Darwin then it is all the more plausible that he can be reconciled with Hegel.

c)Building on the above I go on to show how Habermas proposes to explain ‘transcendence form within,’ in detail. This explanation is divided into two parts: i) First I argue that Habermas needs to have a conception of freedom which transcends the conception of freedom that is prevalent since Kant and Hegel. In brief I argue that the conception of freedom presupposed by Kant and Hegel (ultimately) posits a dichotomy between freedom and limit. It is for this reason Kant had to locate ‘freedom’ beyond the world of limitations. Habermas’ weak naturalism as well as his project of ‘transcendence from within’ presupposes a very different conception of freedom. Such a conception of freedom overcomes dichotomy between freedom and limit and conceptualizes limits in more positive terms as conditions of possibility (à la Heidegger and Schelling). I argue that though Habermas has never argued for such a conception of freedom, such a conception of freedom in fact permeates his work. Consequently I go on to construct an outline of such a conception of freedom from Habermas’ work. ii) Second I show in positive terms how Habermas can argue for his notion of ‘transcendence from within.’ Here exploiting different aspects of Habermas’ philosophy of language and his theory of meaning I go on to show in detail how the possibility of ‘transcendence from within,’ can be said to have been explained in Habermas’ work in different senses and in different ways. I also show how Habermas can argue in detail for retaining the Kantian vision of unique characteristics of reason while refusing Kantian ontology of two realms. In other words I show how Habermas can argue for the Kantian notion of the unique ‘causality of reason’ without recourse to the two realm ontology, in other words without abandoning the belief that reason is historically situated and embedded.

d)Though the thesis is mainly a major interpretation of Habermas in the concluding section I briefly enumerate possible criticisms of such a project. This is done as a suggestion for further venues of and lines of research in the wake of my interpretation of Habermas.

e)It is worth mentioning at the end that although the thesis deals with the work of Habermas I use the work of major figures in continental and non continental philosophy and their work to understand and deepen my interpretation of Habermas. Theses figures include Heidegger, Apel, Brandom, McDowell, Quine (and Davidson), Rorty (and Sellars), and Schelling.

Tolerance Makes Great Demands. Jürgen Habermas Shows What Is Involved

"Jürgen Habermas, one of the most important contemporary philosophers and social theoreticians, is someone who intervenes in public discourse - but as an analyst not a moralist.

Far from merely publishing for other inhabitants of the celebrated ivory tower of scholarly research, his philosophizing is characterized by an attempt at systematic mediation of thinking and political action. He thereby adheres to the view that rationality is implemented in verbal understanding. That is also the background to his lecture on June the 29th, 2002, at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, devoted to the question "When Must We Be Tolerant? On Rivalry between Views of the World, Values, and Theories". His speech shows what contradictions we must endure in order to be tolerant, and also that tolerance can only be practiced on the basis of a democratic state founded on the rule of law.

Cognitive Rejection without Practical Consequences

We generally understand tolerance as meaning putting up with divergent convictions. The concept thus contains an element of rejection since we can in fact only demonstrate tolerance towards convictions that we have renounced for good subjective reasons. As soon as we are either indifferent about an alien view or even appreciate the "value" of this other conviction, we do not need to be tolerant. The rejection inherent in tolerance is thus radical. Tolerance is located where non-negotiable fundamental convictions meet and no agreement can be expected. What is expected of a tolerant person is not some unresolvable contradiction between competing convictions. That must be accepted. "At issue is the neutralizing bracketing of specific practical consequences arising out of unresolved interpersonal contradiction" (J. Habermas). In other words, the demand is that no action should be allowed to follow from the collision of competing views.

Potential for Conflict: The Good Takes Precedence over the Just

Anyone who is not "metaphysically restricted" has an easier time with the demand that contradictions between competing views of the world should simply be left open. That becomes problematic for someone who derives an ethos, i.e. personal moral convictions, from a religion. After all every religion lays claim to total structuring of a way of life, orienting itself on an infallible doctrine of salvation which lays down what is good and what bad. A religion thus prescribes how a good life must be led. What is good takes precedence over what is just. For someone who derives his or her personal ethos from religious truths laying claim to universal validity, the burden of tolerance is particularly difficult to bear. As soon as his own ideas about right living are determined by generally binding models of the good or of salvation, there arises a perspective where other ways of life seem not only different but also mistaken. The ethos of the other appears as a question of truth or untruth rather than an assessment of values. That explains the potential for conflict implicit in disputes between religions.

Peaceful Co-Existence: The Just Takes Precedence over the Good

Following that model, religious tolerance does not signify that the adherents of some belief should relativize let alone renounce their own claims to truth and certainty. Instead tolerance calls for limitation of the practical impact of one’s own claims to truth and certainty. The demand is that the way of life prescribed by one’s own religion can only be implemented on condition that the same rights are accorded to all others. What is just takes precedence over what is good, and that precedence manifests itself positively in inter-subjective and supra-confessional recognition of the rules of liberal co-existence - as provided for in democracy and human rights as normative foundations of the constitutional state. So for the individual believer that means he can only implement his own ethos within the boundaries set by civic norms of equality. He recognizes the other as a fellow citizen with equal rights, no matter what his or her religious convictions might be.

Pluralist Societies

The expanded concept of tolerance does not remain restricted to the sphere of religion but can be generally extended to tolerance of others who think differently in any way. Within today’s pluralist societies where the traditions of various linguistic and cultural communities come together, tolerance is always necessary "where ways of life challenge judgements in terms of both existential relevance and claims to truth and rightness" (J. Habermas)"

from here

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Confusion between internal and immanent criticism

Dr Gordon Finlayson, the author of Habermas, A very short introduction has an interesting project he is working on about the nature of immanent criticism. The project is entitled "What is immanent criticism/critique? Why should social criticism be immanent?" In his book he has the following comments concerning Habermas and immanent criticism:

". . . like Horkheimer and Adorno before him, Habermas employs the method of immanent criticism. One can also call it internal, as opposed to external criticism. The critical theorists think this approach derives from Hegel and Marx. In some respects it is closer to the Socratic mode of argumentation, which assumes the position of the interlocutor, for the sake of argument, without actually endorsing it, in order to point out its incoherence and untruth. Whatever its origins, the critical theorists aim to criticize an object - a conception of society or a work of philosophy - on its own terms, and not on the basis of values or standards that transcend it, in order to bring its untruth to light." (Haberams, AVS, p. 9, emphasis retained).

I believe Finlayson here confuses immanent criticism with internal criticism and considers them synonyms. In fact they are not synonyms. Immanent criticism can include both internal and external criticism and is opposed not to external criticism but to transcendent criticism. Habermas' approach is not an internal criticism it is rather an immanent criticism and does not exclude external criticism. This is crucial difference between Habermas' approach and Gadamer's approach (for example). Immanent criticism in Habermasian context means that the basis of critique must be inthe actual rational practices and is not to be derived from any other source which is located beyond these practices. However for Habermas these immanent practices provide us resources to go beyond them from "within" without appealing to any transcendent. Thus immanent criticism is very closed linked to Habermas' project of ‘transcendence from within.’
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