Title: Reclaiming the idealist heritage of critical theory
Abstract: Despite his overtures to analytical tradition Habermas remains philosophically steeped in the tradition of German idealism particularly Kantian and Hegelian versions of it. However the exact nature of Habermas’ relation with idealism still needs to be explored. In this paper I shall start doing exactly this by considering Habermas’ relation with Kant.
It is true that Habermas rejects certain basic assumptions of the idealist tradition emanating from Kant. He wants to detranscendentalise Kant’s conception of transcendental subjectivity and his notion of noumenal realm. However detranscendentalisation should not be seen as a rejection of Kant’s notion of transcendental subjectivity and noumenal as such. Habermas wants to salvage the transcending powers of reason and essence of Kant’s noumenal realm even after a thoroughgoing detranscendentalisation. Habermas terms his strategy to achieve just this ‘transcendence from within and into this world.’ Transcendence from within combines a rejection of the idealist positing of otherworldly realms with a reassertion of the idealist insight about the transcending powers of reason.
In this paper I shall not argue the case for reclaiming the idealist heritage of critical theory in any direct and grand fashion. I shall rather focus on an issue that is concrete, specific and limited in scope. I shall argue my case by proving the existence of two typically Kantian (and idealist) motives in Habermas’ work:
a) Habermas’ reassertion of Kant’s belief that rational causality is totally different from natural causality.
b) Habermas’ reassertion of Kant’s belief that in order to prove rational causality one needs to show the possibility of transcending innerworldly realm.
I shall argue however that Habermas defends the above Kantian themes without presupposing Kant’s otherworldly realm. This differentiates as well as relates Habermas’ work with that of Kant. I hope this will provide a model for considering the question of the relationship between crucial theory and idealism in general in a more balanced way which pays equal attention to the differences as well as similarities, ruptures as well as continuities.