Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Running two themes together

There are two themes that run parallel in Habermas.

On the one hand:

1) There is what I call “transcendental theme” in the context of which Habemras forcefully argue for:

a) A sharp distinction between facticty and validity.
b) A sharp distinction between nature and human (social and cultural) world.
c) What following Allison we can term as absolute spontaneity of reason.
d) Spontaneity of human subjectivity and agency.
e) Typically Kantian notions of Reflection, thought and critique.

On the other hand:

2)there is a parallel “detranscendentalization theme” in Habermas as well where he equally forcefully argues for:

a) detranscendentalization of reason.
b) Embeddedness of human agency.
c) Our status as “Being in the world”
d) Critique of transcendental subjectivity and consciousness.
e) Critique of all types of metaphysics that locates reason beyond this world.

Habermas commentators tend to emphasize one theme at the expense of the other depending on their own preferences. However what needs to be done is to understand how we can systematically synthesise these two themes in one coherent “theory” without down plying one theme at the expense of the other.

If we want to do justice two both themes in Habermas then in my opinion the only way out is to emphasise and highlight the theme of “transcendence from within”. This is the only way to go in my opinion.

If we want to say on the one hand that there is a sharp distinction between ‘facticity’ and ‘validity’ while on the other hand we also want to emphasise that ultimate ‘detranscendentalsied’ character of the ‘validity’, the only way out possible is to show how a sharp distinction between facticity and validity can emerge from within, i.e. to show how ‘factual' can produce what is not only sharply distinct from it but also in some sense antithesis of it.

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Carl Sachs said...

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.

melancholic science said...

It seems you are more interested in
producing a consistent Habermas than searching for truth. This can surely function as the basis for getting a Ph.D. but not much more.
I think, developing the Adornoian theme of a reconciliation of reason with nature, in which reason becomes aware of its belonging to nature without losing its distance from it, that is the theme of mimetic affinity, will get you much closer to the thinking of philosophy than any lukewarm Habermasian play with psudo-transcendentalism.
But anyway, good luck.
M. Farhadpour

Ali Rizvi said...

Dear M. Farhadpour,

Thank you for your comments and well wishes.

One of the things you learn when you do PhD is to try to limit yourself. I have a hard time trying to achieve that.

I think it is important to realise a Phd for what it is (and for what it is not, by implication). It is an apprenticeship in research and I have tried to treat it as such (however I have had great trouble, again, limiting myself).

However I hope that doing the above would not deter me from pursuing it in a manner which has at least some relation to my ultimate "search" for truth. If that ultimate concern was not my motivating force, I doubt doing a PhD in itself would have been enough to spur me on.

Lastly, it would be great if you could illumiante us in some detail how the Adornian "mimetic affinity" is different form the "lukewarm Habermasian play with psudo-transcendentalism." I have an abiding interest in Adorno's thought and think that Habermas' Adorno connections have been underestimated/underemphasised in the literature (except for in some recent works by Hauke Brunkhorst).

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