Monday, May 02, 2005

“inaccessibility” to the world or reconciliation between reason and nature?

In his critique of Rorty, McDowell says that the problem is not the “answerability” to the world but “inaccessibility” to the world. As he puts it:

“The culprit, rather, is a frame of mind in which the world to which we want to conceive our thinking as answerable threatens to withdraw out of reach of anything we can think of as our means of access to it. A gap threatens to open between us and what we should like to conceive ourselves as knowing about, and it then seems to be a task for philosophy to show us ways to bridge the gulf. It is this threat of inaccessibility on the part of the world that we need to dislodge, in order to unmask as illusory the seeming part of the very idea of the world as something other than ourselves to which our investigative activities are answerable.” (“Towards rehabilitating Objectivity,” in Rorty and his critics ed. By Robert Brandom, pp. 109-123, here p. 110.)

Haberams does not see even “inaccessibility” as a problem. The problem of accessibility has been solved by Hegel and Heidegger among others. Habermas explicitly says this in his reply to Rorty:

“. . . we as socialized individuals, always already find ourselves in the linguistically disclosed horizon of our lifeworld [which] implies an unquestioned background of intersubjectively shared convictions, proven true in practice, which makes nonsense of total doubt as to the accessibility of the world. Language, which we cannot “get outside of,” should not be understood in analogy to the inwardness of a representing subject who is as if cut off from the external world of representable objects. The relationship between justifiability and truth, although in need of clarifications, signals no gulf between inner and outer, no dualism that would have to be bridged and that could give rise to the skeptical doubt as to whether our world as a whole is an illusion. The pragmatic turn pulls the rug from under this skepticism. There is a simple reason for this. In everyday practices, we cannot use language without acting.” (Richard Rorty’s Pragmatic Turn, in OPC, pp. 341-382, here, p. 359).

Habermas makes it clear that the problem of inaccessibility vanishes away with passing away of mentalism. With linguistic problem we are faced with a new problem and that problem is not inaccessibility to the world or radical doubt but that of contextualism: “the contextualism is built into the basic concepts of linguistic paradigm just as skepticism is built into mentalism.” (p. 355).

Contextualsim is the result of detranscendentalisation and desublimation of reason. The question is whether in the wake of this desublimation we can preserve the world transcending powers of reason without giving up the hard won naturalization of reason. In this way the problem of reconciliations recurs but in a new form. Now it is a question of reconciliation between reason and nature and not the problem of mere accessiblity to nature.

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