Monday, January 24, 2005

Peter Dews and Habermas' weak Naturalism

I have found Dews' work on Habermas' weak naturalism extremely useful and illuminating. However I find his following comments a bit strange:

“Henrich argued that Habermas’ philosophy finds itself torn between the contradictory tendencies of naturalism and transcendentalism. Habermas’ position, he claimed, is philosophically inconsistent, because – on the one hand – it presupposes a pragmatic and socio-scientific conception of language and communication, and – on the other hand – also draws on the tradition of transcendental phenomenology in its elaboration of the conception of lifeworld. In reply to this criticism, Habermas insisted that his naturalism was not to be confused with the physicalism and of the modern natural-scientific world-view: ‘It seems to me that it has been clear since Marx that the normative content of modernity can be taken up and preserved even and especially under materialist premises.’ And he continued: “Nature in itself” does not coincide with objetivated nature. What Marx had in mind is the emergence in natural history of the sociocultural form of life of homo sapiens, which goes beyond physically objectified nature to conceptually include, as it were, a piece of natura naturans.” (The Limits of Disenchantment Essays on Contemporary European Philosophy pp. 160-161).

Commenting on the above remarks he quotes from Habermas, Dews writes the following which I find problematic:

“Habermas’s gesture toward the double terminology of natura naturata and natura naturans is as surprising as illuminating.” (The Limits of Disenchantment Essays on Contemporary European Philosophy p. 161).

Dews implies in the above quotes that Habermas' turn to 'weak naturalism' is only recent (and so is surprising). However I do not see any element of surprise in Habermas' reply to Henrich. It is strange that such a close reader of Habermas as Dews can make such a claim. Habermas' position since Knowledge and Human Interests has been consistently a weak naturalist and has never been a physicalist. Habermas even in Knowledge and human interest has been aiming at combining transcendentalism with naturalism and naturalism in that instance as now was always to be construed in broader sense rather than in a physicalist sense. Habermas clearly states this in his recent work:

"Knowledge and Human Interests answered the basic question of theoretical philosophy in terms of a weak naturalism and a transcendental pragmatic epistemological realism." (Truth and Justification, p. 7).

A further minor point is that Dews mentions Henrich depiction of Habermas' conception of lifeworld as based on and derived from a phenomenological conception of lifeworld and fails to mention that Habermas' conception of lifeworld cannot be reduced to a phenomenological conception.
(to be continued).

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1 comment:

Matt Scofield said...

Enjoying these posts on transcendentalism!

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