Sunday, January 16, 2005

Kant, Hegel and Habermas

Gary in his comments on one of the recent posts wrote the following:

"I guess everybody is against the absolute character of Hegel's Geist. Does anybody defend it apart from those who reckon they have a theory of everything?

However, I'm not convinced that the Habermas/Hegel relationship is as simple as you say.

A suggestion.

It strikes me that Habermas replaces Hegel's dialectical character of desiring subjects engaged in a struggle for recognition (as an account of intersubjectivity) with a more Kantian account of communicative action as intersubjectity.

It has always stuck me that Habermas has explicitly sought to escape 'the spell' of Hegelian thought and dialectics that so "infatuated" Adorno, and to shift to thinking of communicative rationality in terms of an ideal communicative community.

His turn to language and comunicative action as a way to break away from the subject-object model of philosophy is a turn to pragmatism analytic philosophy and social science.

I'm not criticizing this as I think the turn to Mead is very useful).I'm just drawing attention to the way he moved away from his German roots and developments in continental philosophy --eg Merleau Ponty--that was also breaking away from the subject-object model of philosophy."

I do agree with lot of what Gary says but I think Habermas' Kantianism is the one, which is routed through Hegel and need to be understood as such. In recent days it has been termed as "Kantian pragmatism" however it should not be understood as a simple return to Kant. I will come back to this in coming days, for the moment I would limit myself to quoting Wellmer, just in order to show the complexity of the analysis involved. The aim of Habermas synthesis, he writes, is:

". . . to avoid the pitfalls of empiricism as well as of transcendental and absolute idealism, while relating the respective truth of these different and mutually incompatible epistemological positions. Roughly speaking, this materialist theory of knowledge will therefore have to assimilate Kant's critique of empiricism and Hegel's critique of transcendentalism as well as the empiricist critique of absolute idealism. Reformulated in this way, Marx's programmatic demand for a naturalism which "is distinguished from both idealism and materialism, and at the same time constitutes their unifying truth" now appears as the fantastic demand for a materialist version of the Phenomenology of Mind." (On critical theory / edited by John O'Neill, p. 259).

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