Saturday, March 26, 2005

Nietzsche, Habermas and factual validity distinction . . .

Following comments by Carl Sachs were in my opinion too important to be buried in the comments section. I hope Carl does not mind me putting them here. I will comment on some of the issues raised in here later, but let me say that on the whole I am in basic agreement with Carl:

"I've been thinking about Habermas' critique of Nietzsche, in KHI. Habermas also wrote an essay on Nietzsche's epistemology in 1968, but I haven't looked at it yet.

I'd like to use Sellars' distinction, which has become important to Brandom, between sentience and sapience. Let "sentience" refer to reliable differential responses to stimuli. Let "sapience" refer to conceptually structured relations of material inference. (One of the many reasons I like this contrast is that it forces into the open that by "Nature" we do not mean inert matter (hyle, res extensa) but animal embodiment. And one of Nietzsche's great achievements, I think, was to put the question of our own animal embodiment back on the agenda.

In these terms, Habermas' critique is this: Nietzsche reduces sapience to sentience. That is, Nietzsche refuses to acknowledge the distinction between "the game of asking for and giving reasons" (Sellars) and patterns of activity and reactivity that characterize all living things. This is what is at stake when Habermas argues, in KHI, that Nietzsche psychologizes transcendence. For Nietzsche does not only psychologize transcendence, but does so in terms of a psychological theory that makes no distinction of kinds between humans and other animals. It's "will to power" all the way down.

Following that revolution in our self-understanding that is called "Darwin," Habermas acknowledges that the distinction between sapience and sentience must be a "natural" distinction. (Does this mean that we should expect cognitive science to tell us how it happened?) But Habermas wants to resist the "strong naturalism" of Quine that would level out the sapeience/sentience distinction.

On Habermas' reading, is Nietzsche a "strong naturalist" in the same camp as Quine? Reading KHI alongside TJ produces that impression. Is that fair to Nietzsche?

Ali, you wrote that the "factual' can produce what is not only sharply distinct from it but also in some sense antithesis of it." What bothers me about this way of framing the issue is this: is the opposition between sapience ("Reason") and sentience ("Nature") constitutive of the distinction? Or is rather that we moderns have inherited a certain tradition, given inflection and expression by Plato, Descartes, and Kant, that construes this distinction as an opposition? If the latter (as I suspect) then the very notion of an opposition between Nature and Reason might itself be part of the philosophy of the subject that we need to overcome.

Overcoming opposition in the name of difference? There might be a way, here, to re-frame the one-sided debate between Habermas and Nietzsche. But in order to do so one would need to show, it seems to me, that Nietzsche's acocunt of "spiritualization" is an account of the emergence of sapience from sentience. And I don't know if the notion of spiritualization is really worked out well enough, in Nietzsche, to do the work that a defender of Nietzsche would need it to do."

1 comment:

Carl Sachs said...

I don't mind your posting them at all. I'm honored that you find my comments worthwhile by enough to put them in a new post.

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