Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Habermas on Peirce (2)

My earlier poston Peirce and Habermas was based exclusively on Habermas' interpretation of Peirce as found in Knowledge & Human Interest. So in order not to give any wrong impression I would add here a paragraph from Swindal which fruitfully summarises Habermas' later views on Peirce.

"It is important to note, however, that Habermas later modifies his early interpretation of Peirce. In "Peirce and Communication" (in Postmetaphysical Thinking) he presents a more sanguine view of the categories of representation present in Peirce' s logic of language. Habermas now acknowledge the intersubjectvity implied in Peirce' s claim that every sign has both a "quasi-utterer" and a "quasi-interpreter" (Postmetaphysical Thinking, pp. 88-89). He admits that Perice expanded the realm of sign usage into the realm of linguistic forms of expression by showing that the indexical and iconic functions refer to "analogous" actuality and object-relations independent from mere propositional representation. For Habermas these two functions open up Peirce's theory of meaning to the realms of the aesthetic and social. But Habermas continues to criticize Peirce for ignoring the broader "world-disclosing" function of signs.*

Habermas continues to level the criticism, however, that Peirce attempted to anchor the chain of signifiers in reality and, like the later Husserl in Experience and Judgment, "decended[ed] from the method of a logical genesis of judgments of perception into the realm of pre-predicative experience"(Texte und Kontexte
, p. 98
). Such semantic realism insufficiently accounts for the distinction between first-and second- person discourse, a claim that Habermas develops more fully after Knowledge and Human Interests. Habermas argues that learning processes must be grounded, not in a metaphysical concept of nature, a position which the later Peirce adopted but in actual argumentation with others about practical conflict. Habermas claims that we cannot break out of the sphere of language and argumentation: "we can only establish the relation to reality, which is not equivalent to 'existence,' by projecting a 'transcendence form within'"(Postmetaphysical Thinking, p. 103).**

For Habermas this view of inner transcendence both respects the 'objectivity' of the intersubjectivity of understanding that has become reflexive and avoids the ontologization of reality. He argues that if the learning processes of human species are limited to mirror only w hat is already contained in nature, they lose the convincing power of the better argument, and he espouses instead a kind of "intersubjective realism": agreement always occurs between ego an about something in the world. Both the topic of the agreement and the other with whom agreement is reached give the intersubjective dialogue an objectivity. Habermas claims that the later Peirce abandoned the very moment of "secondness" that limits and distinguishes the self from the other(Postmetaphysical Thinking, p. 110-111). Peirce thus could not account for the fact that an actor maintains the facticity of his difference and uniqueness (Eigensinn) even in the process of successful communication with the other." [Reflection Revisited: Jurgen Habermas's Discursive Theory of Truth, pp. 96-97]

* Habermas makes a similar point against Quine in his Truth and Justification p. 23.
** Incidentally this would be Habermas' answer to those who accuse him of returning to pre-critical ontology by presupposing a "weak naturalism".


Clark Goble said...

Could you, perhaps in a future post, clarify why Habermas insists that Peirce misses the world-disclosing function of signs? My sense is that Habermas wishes to conceive of signs purely in terms of language. If so though, that may be is fundamental misunderstanding. I also suspect (and the mention of quasi-utterer and quasi-interpreter illustrate this) that he misses how Peirce discusses mind and quasi-mind.

Over on my blog I went off on a tangent about Peirce and Davidson's anomalous monism. (Purely speculative on my part, I should caution) However I think it fairly relevant to this discussion.

I also think he is confused when he talks about anchoring the chain of signifiers in reality. In a way one might say that the chain of signifiers is reality. (Although that can be a misleading summary in a way, and further Peirce uses "reality" in a somewhat idiocyncratic sense)

I also don't think Peirce grounds learning in a metaphysical concept of nature rather than argumentation. Or, perhaps in an other way of putting it, he makes the metaphysical nature of nature dialogical in a sense. i.e. I think Habermas may be fundamentally missing Peirce's conception of reality by trying to tie him into the way analytic philosophy discusses these issues. But, as I mentioned in connection to epistemology, Peirce's project is really a different way of doing things. It may even be closer to Habermas' than Habermas thinks. Although as I said, I'm so ignorant of Habermas as to be unable to say muhch there.

Anyway, a light came on for me with respect to Peirce last year when someone said he was very much a Platonist in the sense of seeing everything being illuminated through dialog. (As one can see in the form in which Plato couches his philosophy, as well as in the possibly pseudo-Platonic dialog of the Alcabiades)

Ali Rizvi said...

I will perhaps need to think a bit more on issue to be able to post on the topic but just few remarks based on your comments.

I think for Habermas there is not non mediated access to 'reality' which is however not to say that there is no non-linguistic 'reality'. But Habermas would say non-linguistic reality is a 'projection' as the precondition of argument and it is not the same as proclaiming the 'existence' of such a 'reality'.

Now what I gather from your comments give me the idea that Peirce might be doing precisely this. I think Habermas would reject a construal of "the metaphysical nature of nature" as "dialogical". There can be no 'statements' about the "nature" of nature after the linguistic turn. Habermas' criticises Brandom and (by implication Mcdowell) precisely on this account and terms their position conceptual realism (?).

More on this later.


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