Update: Bringing forward due to new comments.
There are two interrelated aims of the thesis:
a)I want to understand the logic of Habermas’ claim that he wants to go beyond transcendenceless empiricism and high flying idealism. I argue that Habermas does this by combining two stances which are normally considered incompatible. Habermas combines transcendentalism (about reason) with (its) detranscendentalisation. The outcome is what he calls “transcendence from within and transcendence in this world.” Habermas on the one hand wants to preserve the Kantian insight that reason has transcending powers and that there is a sharp distinction between the ‘space of reason’ and the ‘space of law’ to use Sellars’ terminology. On the other hand Habermas rejects Kant’s two realm distinction in order to establish the sharp distinction between ‘causality of law’ and ‘causality of reason’ to use Kant’s own terminology this time. This is connected to Habermas’ acceptance of Hegel’s and Post Hegelian insight about the inevitable detranscendentalisation of the realm of pure intelligibility. This detranscendentalisation is the outcome of the loss of faith in non immanent versions of transcendence, the process which for Habermas (following Weber and Nietzsche) culminates in the decline of great world religions. Thus for Habermas if one is to defend the Kantian vision of the transcending powers of reason however without accepting the Kantian dichotomy between the realm of pure intelligibility and realm of phenomenon then one does not have any other option but to show how the transcending powers of reason emerge from “within” that is from within “this world.” This Habermas terms as “transcendence from within and in this world,” in his recent writings.
b)The second main aim of my thesis is to situate Habermas’ ‘weak’ naturalism in the context of his project of ‘transcendence from within.’ My purpose here is not to deal with ‘weak naturalism’ on its own terms but only to clarify its relation with the project of ‘transcendence form within.’ In this context my main argument is that ‘weak naturalism’ provides an ‘ontological’ underpinning to Habermas’ project of ‘transcendence from within.’ While the problematic of the ‘transcendence from within,’ is dealt on the social and linguistic levels where human beings are already in ‘possession’ of a propositionally differentiated language, the problematic of ‘weak naturalism’ is located at a more primitive level where we have to think about the emergence of ‘reason’ from within ‘nature.’ In Habermas’ own words the project of ‘weak’ naturalism aims at reconciling Kant with Darwin while we can say that the aim of the project of ‘transcendence from within’ is to reconcile Kant and Hegel. In this context the project of ‘weak naturalism’ performs two functions: i) It provides the ‘structural’ model for the argument at the level of ‘transcendence from within.’ ii) Most importantly as mentioned earlier ‘weak’ naturalism provides the ‘ontological’ basis for the argument at the level of ‘transcendence from within.’ If it can be hypothesized (as ‘weak’ naturalism does) that ‘reason’ and our form of life based on this is the continuation of a prior “evolutionary learning process” then it is more plausible to suppose that ‘transcending powers of reason’ can emerge from historically situated and embedded reason. In other words if Kant can be reconciled with Darwin then it is all the more plausible that he can be reconciled with Hegel.
c)Building on the above I go on to show how Habermas proposes to explain ‘transcendence form within,’ in detail. This explanation is divided into two parts: i) First I argue that Habermas needs to have a conception of freedom which transcends the conception of freedom that is prevalent since Kant and Hegel. In brief I argue that the conception of freedom presupposed by Kant and Hegel (ultimately) posits a dichotomy between freedom and limit. It is for this reason Kant had to locate ‘freedom’ beyond the world of limitations. Habermas’ weak naturalism as well as his project of ‘transcendence from within’ presupposes a very different conception of freedom. Such a conception of freedom overcomes dichotomy between freedom and limit and conceptualizes limits in more positive terms as conditions of possibility (à la Heidegger and Schelling). I argue that though Habermas has never argued for such a conception of freedom, such a conception of freedom in fact permeates his work. Consequently I go on to construct an outline of such a conception of freedom from Habermas’ work. ii) Second I show in positive terms how Habermas can argue for his notion of ‘transcendence from within.’ Here exploiting different aspects of Habermas’ philosophy of language and his theory of meaning I go on to show in detail how the possibility of ‘transcendence from within,’ can be said to have been explained in Habermas’ work in different senses and in different ways. I also show how Habermas can argue in detail for retaining the Kantian vision of unique characteristics of reason while refusing Kantian ontology of two realms. In other words I show how Habermas can argue for the Kantian notion of the unique ‘causality of reason’ without recourse to the two realm ontology, in other words without abandoning the belief that reason is historically situated and embedded.
d)Though the thesis is mainly a major interpretation of Habermas in the concluding section I briefly enumerate possible criticisms of such a project. This is done as a suggestion for further venues of and lines of research in the wake of my interpretation of Habermas.
e)It is worth mentioning at the end that although the thesis deals with the work of Habermas I use the work of major figures in continental and non continental philosophy and their work to understand and deepen my interpretation of Habermas. Theses figures include Heidegger, Apel, Brandom, McDowell, Quine (and Davidson), Rorty (and Sellars), and Schelling.