Friday, September 09, 2005

Language and transcendence from within

"As long as language is used only as a medium for transmitting information, action coordination proceed through the mutual influence that actors exert on each other in a purposive-rational manner. On the other hand, as soon as the illocutionary forces of speech acts take on an action-coordinating role, language itself supplies the primary source of social interaction. Only in this case should one speak of “communicative action.” In such action, actors in the roles of speaker and hearer attempts to negotiate interpretations of the situation at hand to harmonize their respective plans with one another through the unrestrained pursuit of illocutionary goals. Naturally, the binding energies of language can be mobilized to coordinate action plans only if the participants suspend the objectivating attitude of an observer, along with the immediate orientation to personal success, in favor of the performaitve attitude of a speaker who wants to reach an understanding with a second person about something in the world." (BFN: 18, emphasis in italics mine, in bold by Habermas).

The unique of causality of reason emerges from within only when we deliver ourselves to language itself. Language interrupts the natural causality and makes possible the emergence of the causality of reason as long as we remain delivered to the language itself.


Gary E. Davis said...


I wrote a critical comment Friday about your sense above of "the unique causality of reason," but when I tried to post it, eBlogger was offline for maintenance, and I lost it all. So, I quickly re-wrote my comments and
posted them to the Yahoo! Habermas group. You would know that, as a subscriber, so I mention this mostly for the sake of whatever readers here.

But there I didn't comment on your quote from Habermas (which I've now done )—something you also would know.

Saturday, I set out to catch up with your blog. The past month, I've kept up with your recent postings, since I discovered your blog last month (thanks to notification from you, at last—so long after the fact of your beginning it!), but I hadn't yet come through on my promise to catch up on the earlier months of your blog (a promise just to myself? I thought I'd promised you, but I don't find that in my recent emailings to you).

Though I did set out to really catch up with your blog, I gave up somewhere in March's or April's archive, as a blog is an unorganized medium (like a discussion list with one member—though you've had a few exchanges with others besides yourself), and it can't be the reader's responsibility to find the coherence in a journal of fascinating pieces—nor, of course, is it the author's responsibility to integrate the journal; that's what the dissertation may do (as the journal journals its way, a genealogy of ideas).

Your journal has been an impressive endeavor this past year! Had I known about your blog early on, I could have been useful for you (as I said earlier via email), while I (and many others) could have benefitted from the many Internet resources you've turned up. You invited comment, but you didn't let the Yahoo! Habermas list know of your project (or perhaps you were just avoiding me). Anyway, the blog became a fascinating journal of your influences and ideas while (I suppose) you began writing your dissertation.

You know, you more or less disappeared from posting to the Yahoo! group in late 2003, just after our exchange with Matt (postings #625-690, passim) on (invalid) transcendentalist reading of Habermas—now surprise, surprise, you're finishing a dissertation related to that discussion [back then motivated by Matt's transcendentalist reading of JH]---a discussion which, in a sense, you never abandoned at all!—rather moving on without letting me know that you were focusing on Habermas in your doctoral work (no longer Foucault), let alone that you were somewhat working in the vein of that problem !)

You said earlier, via email, that, in effect, humility kept you from letting Yahoo! group members know of your project. But in fact, your project has been so extensive (parasitic?) that one can too easily suspect that something else was going on.

My humility (mea culpa now) causes me to believe that I "excused" myself from your project because I'm not a gentleman about defending Habermas—which recalls to me the sensitive issue of the extent to which "Critical Theory" is a bourgeois parlor game of ordinary academic careerism.

You know, you asked me last month (via email) "Also do you know any body working on themes related to my thesis?" I was so insulted, I simply replied "No, sorry."

Anyway, I eagerly began reading your "Habermas' Ontological conception of Freedom: Some preliminary Reflections." But it gave me lots of problems, which I sketched (excuse the typos there)—which I cite here for other readers' sake.

Thanks for your reply . I think I was a rather exemplary gentleman in my reply to your reply. You replied further (thank you), and so did I. But, I grant, I got rather obtuse (7th paragraph onward) in terms of your dissertation outline. Yes, I wrote (email to you) that I wanted to offer constructive commentary, not negative feedback, and that is what I've done via recent Yahoo! group commentary mentioned above—or so I believed.

Anyway, I much enjoyed what I've read of your journal. To my mind, we are kindred spirits in devotion to Habermasian studies, and we are both devoted to the challenges of valid reading (validity of interpretation).

Best regards,


Gary E. Davis said...


missing link above...

.... But there I didn't comment on your quote from Habermas (which I've now done )....


Ali Rizvi said...


Many thanks for your comments.

1) I disappeared from yahoo group and spoons after 2003 because I thought I needed to delve into Habermas' texts more thoroughly than I had done at that point. That is what I have been doing for last two years. I was also despaired of the mailing lists mode. Setting blog was in a sense my alternative to the mailing list mode.

2) My dissertation was from the start on Haberams, though at the beginning I thought I would be doing a Foucauldian analysis of Habermas. However as I went on I got more and more interested in Habermas' analysis on its own term and hence I dropped Foucault. I have already done two dissertations on Foucault, I do not really need a third one on him!

3) I do not think I have any substantial differences with you. I am also not concerned primarily with the interpretation of Habermas or any one else. My interests are philosophical and I engage with Habermas' work from a philosophical perspective and I interpret him through the vantage point of my philosophical interests even when I have not made them explicit. I do not claim to have any monopoly on Habermas' interpretation, nor is this my main concern. Having said that I have been reading Habermas extensively and closely for last four years. I have read and reread his main texts with enough sensitivity to their context. I do not interpret Habermas on the basis of partial knowledge of texts.

4) My dissertation is not on subject related to our discussion in 2003, it is about 'transcendence from within' and its structure. The thing which actually spurred my decision to focus on this was discussion on spoons list about Dallmayr’s reading of Habermas and Habermas’ strong rebuttal to him.

5) I started this blog when I had already written the main part of dissertation and I was wondering on different options for contextualising it.

6) I am not avoiding you or any body else. I invite you and your group to comment here (and invite you and other Habermas scholars to contribute to the blog). I do not know why you felt insult when I asked question about any Habermas' scholars working in the area. Obviously I was meaning scholars other than you, as I was already in contact with you.

7) In my view, the problem with your position is that although you have a well thought philosophical posiiton of your own (unlike me, as I do not have any elaborate well thought philosophical psoition of my own), you engage with the work of others on the basis of cursory readings. You do not have even read my article in full and you have developed a whole critique of my position on the basis of reading the conclusion and perhaps introduction. You do the same with Habermas. You do not bother to read texts in full and with sensitivity to the context. You can’t read philosophical text just with reference to index. It is not for nothing that Heidegger had barred indexing from his philosophical texts. I have never read Habermas through looking into index.

8) I respect your endeavours and philosophical skills and I am interested when you argue your philosophical position and engage constructively with Habermas' texts. However I have no interest in your reading of Habermas as such. I have read Habermas long enough and intensively enough to know what I am talking about. People have right to disagree with my reading, but to show that my reading is a 'misreading' would require more than superficial reading of Habermas.


Gary E. Davis said...

Well, Ali, that's quite a reply!

Hey, if you want to get non-cursory, that's fine with me. I believe that the links I've provided above speak well for themselves: You misrepresent Habermas' position, relative to the passage that you quoted above, and I showed in much detail how that is the case. If you think I'm misreading, show me. Go to my reading of your quote above and show me what's cursory.

What you see as cursory reading is actually my best effort to be polite: Frankly, your "ontological" paper began invalidly and ended implausibly. I lost interest, but wanted good reason to continue reading.

If an argument seems to start off invalidly, it's reasonable to stop tracing its case and to ask, as I did (in effect): Why should I continue reading this carefully?—notwithstanding the fact that it was full of grammatical errors, like something written quickly (a sloppiness of form that suggested sloppiness of reading?). But you linked to it very recently, so I supposed there was no later version over the past year that (contrary to your suggestion at the end of the essay) I should contact you about. It remained an apparently sloppy piece of work.

Your brief defense against my objections to the opening of your "ontological" paper didn't include any reference to content from your paper that I should have turned to, which seems apt, since I was objecting to your reading of your apparently motivating sources. Apparently, you don't turn to your own work to back up your opinion.

I requested that you choose a passage from Habermas' work and make your point with immanent reading, but you didn't. You replied with general themes, and I objected in detail to what you said. If you think I treated your postings in a cursory manner, give me an example. But you really ought to refer to specifics of your own work in defending your views. (Referring to specifics from Habermas is even better.)

I hate self-serving comments as much as you apparently do (re: an August email from you to me I mentioned above), but it's apposite here that I mention that I've been working in light of Habermas' work since the mid-1970s, and Habermas invited me to study with him in Frankfurt after I spent a semester "with" him while he worked here in Berkeley, 1980, writing TCA (I declined, fool that I was). Our detailed discussion of his basic philosophical strategy (such as it was in 1980), relative to my dissertation on his work, The Discourse of Emancipatory Practice in Habermas' Historical Materialism, apparently caused his invitation.

Since then, I've lived through all of his philosophical work dearly. If you have evidence to the contrary, pick a view of mine toward Habermas' views, and show me my mistakenness. Barbara Feltner, translator of Truth & Justification, thought enough of the close reading I did on her manuscript of chapter 6 to include mention of me at the end of her "Translator's Introduction" for the book.

My referral to Indexes is sarcastic: If you're going to fasten onto the importance of a concept that's not even indexed in major works, what are you really doing? But I also have a philosophical interest in the notion of an index: the supposedly approved categoriality of work about categoriality (as philosophy is at least about the terms we choose to make basic to our views).

Analogously, for me, by the way, it's fun going to the dictionary for answers to philosophical questions: What is truth? Well, tell me how it's not what's indicated by lexicographers in a standard dictionary (such that, by doing ordinary language analysis, we dissolve our dilemmas). What's the status of lexical normativity for philosophical dilemmas?

What's the status of the fact that some terms appear in a philosopher's index and some do not? You tell me how "transcendence from within" is a big deal (beyond a metaphor for specific cognitive features), if I can't even find it referenced in the index of major works by JH!

But all that's just a flippant way of "saying": Show me the details, point me in the directions that warrant your views. Otherwise, I've got plenty else to do. If you will attest to me that you stand by your "ontological" paper, then I will give it lots of attention. If you're more or less finished with your dissertation, then send it to me, and let's get down to details before you submit it.

Best regards,


Gary E. Davis said...


No, don't send me your dissertation; I couldn't get useful feedback to you by your deadline.

I understand the need to withdraw from influences in order to consolidate your own work; this is the only way to do work that's your own. Likewise with me, actually, as I'm focusing on philosophical biology and I expect to be receiving Habermas' naturalism syllabus from him shortly.

But when your dissertation process is over, I really want to read what you've done—to learn from it.

I hope all goes smoothly for you.



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