Thursday, April 28, 2005

Kant, Habermas and normativity of reason

“. . . on a Kantian account, the appropriate causal history of one’s token identity of one’s beliefs . . . is not sufficient for understanding. This is because understanding that p requires not merely arriving at one’s belief that p by the correct causal route, that is, having this belief produced by the appropriate set of prior beliefs; it also requires taking or recognizing these prior beliefs as warranting the belief that p. Reason can function as reasons only when they are consciously recognized as such. And this recognition cannot, in turn, be analyzed simply as the possession of a further, second-order belief about the relationship between one’s first-order beliefs. Not only such view fail to account for this moment of recognition, it would lead inevitably to the infinite regress. . . .” (Henry E Allison, (1995) "On Naturalizing Kant's Transcendental Psychology", Dialectica, 49(2-4), pp. 335-351, here p. 348, italics added).

As noted earlier, though Habermas would disagree with the above as far as it is meant to explain an adequate conception of experience, he would totally agree with Kant in claiming that “ Reason can function as reasons only when they are consciously recognized as such.” For Haberams, as for Kant, reason is normative through and through and in defending this normativity he is certainly a Kantian.

There are variety of ways, in which Habermas defends Kant’s insight. One important strategy through which Habermas defends the above Kantian insight is to claim that there is no interpretation without evaluation:

“For reasons to be sound and for them to be merely considered sound are not the same thing, whether we are dealing with reasons for asserting facts, for recommending norms and values, or for expressing desires and feelings. That is why the interpreter cannot simply look at and understand such reasons without at least implicitly passing judgment on them as reasons.” (Habermas, Reconstruction and Interpretations in the Social Sciences, in MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS AND COMMUNICATIVE ACTION, pp. 21-41, here p. 30)

“. . . reasons can be understood only insofar as they are taken seriously as reasons and evaluated.” (p. 30).

“There is a sense in which any interpretation is a rational interpretation.” (p. 31).

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