Thursday, May 05, 2005

Two models of "disenchantment" revisited

I shall begin with drawing an important insight by Bernstein that to the every disenchantment of nature there follows a rationalisation of “reason:” “if you disenchant nature you necessarily disenchant society since as animals we are also part of nature – that there occurs with it a disenchantment or rationalisation of reason.” (J.M. Bernstein, “Re-Enchanting Nature," p. 219 italic are by Bernstein). Thus for each type of disenchantment of nature follows its own kind of the disenchantment or rationalisation of reason.

Let us suppose that there is a conception of disenchantment of nature and a corresponding conception of disenchantment of reason. Let us call these conceptions d1 and r1 respectively. In Habermas’ opinion to reject d1 and r1 would be a regressive step shunning the positive achievements of Modernity.

One the other hand we have a conception of disenchantment that Habermas rejects and wants to overcome. A conception of rationalisation corresponds to this conception of disenchantment as well. Let us call them d2 and r2 respectively. Rejection these conception is part and parcel of Habermas’ project of reconciliation with nature.

The key to understanding the difference between d1/r1 and d2/r2 is to understand the difference between distinction and dichotomy (or separation). As Hauke Brunkhorst writes:

“We . . . should draw a contrast between a mere distinction (including ‘extreme’ differences) between identity thinking and non-identical, mimetic impulses, and a dichotomy, which means a fundamental opposition or an unbridgeable gap between different world pictures or ‘paradigms.’ At this point Adorno comes very close to pragmatists like Dewey or Putnam, and he shares the methodological idea with Rorty. There is, as Putnam once put it, not only a common element between pragmatism and the thinking of the new Frankfurt School of Apel and Habermas, but also pragmatism and the old thinking of the Frankfurt School of Adorno and Horkheimer. Where Heidegger sees a great divide that yawns between truth and correctness, between the ‘Being’ and ‘being just there’ (Dasein), between authenticity and the inauthentic life of the ordinary man (das Man) or between poetry and everyday language, Adorno, along with Dewey, Putnam and Rorty, sees as continuum. Adorno calls it a constellation. There are dialectical tensions, even contradictions and paradoxes, within a continuum or a constellation of everyday language, and philosophical interpretation, between ‘constructivism’ and ‘mimesis,’ between ‘spirit’ and ‘material’ between authentic worlds of art and inauthentic products of the cultural industry, between identifying thinking and the non identical. But there are no hierarchies and here is no unbridgeable gap, no dichotomy between two distinct metaphysical realms.” (Adorno and critical theory, p. 85, italics by Brunkhorst.)

The purpose of the (d1/r1) is to maintain a distinction between nature and reason but the purpose of (d2/r2) is to reject the separation between nature and reason. Habermas’ thinking is that distinction between nature and reason emerge from within (i.e. from within “nature” itself/and from within “world”) and there is no need to posit two realms in the manner of Kant to establish this distinction and hence there is no need to create a dichotomy through creating a separation and gulf between nature and reason.

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