Wednesday, December 21, 2005

analytic-Continental division

"I agree that there is no fruitful analytic-Continental division in terms of substantive doctrines distinctively characteristic of the two sides. But it seems to me that we can still draw a significant distinction between analytic and Continental philosophy in terms of their conceptions of experience and reason as standards of evaluation. Typically, analytic philosophy reads experience in terms of common-sense intuitions (often along with their developments and transformations in science) and understands reason in terms of formal logic. Continental philosophy, by contrast, typically sees experience as penetrating beyond the veneer of common-sense and science, and regards reason as more a matter of intellectual imagination than deductive rigor. In these terms, Continental philosophy still exists as a significant challenge to the increasing hegemony of analytic thought . . . ."

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There is an informed discussion on the above here

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Critiques of Secular Reason in Adorno and Levinas

"Extended it is, for at 760 pages this is a huge study of its own. Its subtitle – Critiques of Secular Reason in Adorno and Levinas – should be taken in its Kantian meaning: what de Vries is after is how Adorno and Levinas (with Habermas and Derrida, each in their own way, functioning as backdrops to the discussion), in the context of the all-too-familiar man-made disasters of the twentieth century, negotiate and articulate a certain theological impulse, a metaphysical desire, without making ontological or onto-theological commitments. The critique is particularly Kantian in that, rather than rejecting this impulse outright, they seek to acknowledge, explore and analyse it with a view to uncovering a dimension that on a legitimate, although not ‘traditional’ or indeed even fully conceptual, basis can be accepted by philosophy.

In some respects, the fact that this book was written in the 1980s can be felt rather strongly, and de Vries would perhaps have written it differently today. It is, for example, caught up in the then virulent debates around discourse ethics, and de Vries spends more time than I imagine he would have today worrying about Habermas’s attributions, in the notoriously im­patient Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (1985), of ‘performative self-contradictions’ to thinkers as distinguished and different from each other as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Adorno, Derrida and Foucault. Habermas’s more direct engagement with religion was in his debate with Joseph Ratzinger (now Bene­dictus XI), which took place more than a decade after the writing of this book and is therefore not discussed (See Haber­mas’s ‘Stellungnahme’ to the issue of ‘Vorpolitische moralische Grundlagen eines freiheitlichen Staates’ in Zur Debatte: Themen der Katholischen Akademie in Bayern 34, 2004; and Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity, ed. Eduardo Mendieta, 2002). However, the more general deficits that de Vries locates in Habermas’s work, and which he discusses in a long warm-up to the analysis of Adorno, are still relevant and important. According to de Vries, Habermas fails to explain adequately how rationality, as embodied in our claims to unconditional validity, can be represented in principles, rules or norms. Indeed, Habermas himself admits that secular moralities stand in need of semantic resources drawn from extra-reflective or extra-philosophical registers – yet these are resources that cannot be accounted for within his own system."

full review here

Rethinking "Liberal Eugenics": Reflections and Questions on Habermas on Bioethics


In the new "liberal eugenics," children could be genetically improved as long as the enhancements let children choose from among a wide range of ways to live their lives. The German political philosopher Jürgen Habermas has opened a debate with the proponents of this view. Habermas suggests that a person could not really regard her life as her own if she lived with a body that somebody else had, without asking her opinion, "enhanced" for her.

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Religion in der Moderne

Zur Auseinandersetzung von Jürgen Habermas mit naturalistischen Weltbildern der Wissenschaft und religiِsen Orthodoxien

Von Hans Joas

Wie kaum ein anderer der groكen systematischen Denker unserer Zeit hat Jürgen Habermas seit Jahrzehnten auch stets zu brennenden Zeitfragen Stellung genommen und sich in seiner philosophischen Arbeit von aktuellen Konstellationen inspirieren lassen. Von einem Nachlassen seiner enormen zeitdiagnostischen Krنfte kann weiterhin keine Rede sein. Mit seinem neuen Aufsatzband legt der Philosoph nun eine Sammlung von Arbeiten aus den Jahren 2001 bis 2004 vor, die zwar etwas heterogen geraten ist, aber gerade auch deshalb Anknüpfungspunkte für vielerlei Interessen bietet. Einige Kapitel werden vornehmlich diejenigen interessieren, die sich mit den Finessen der inneren Architektonik von Habermas' Gedankengebنude auseinander setzen. Die meisten Teile des Buches aber sind von allgemeinerem Interesse, und am Beginn des Bandes steht ein anrührender autobiografischer Text, dessen Ausstrahlung sich wohl niemand entziehen kann.

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Habermas kann nicht anders

Gerhard Beckmann setzt sich mit dem populärsten deutschen Gegenwartsphilosophen auseinander, der nun die "postsäkulare Gesellschaft" verkündet
von Gerhard Beckmann

Bis vor vier Jahren war Religion für Jürgen Habermas Privatsache. Religiöse Motive für das öffentliche Handeln galten ihm als inakzeptabel: Im gesellschaftlichen und politischen Raum könne nur eine universale, für alle nachvollziehbare Moral verpflichtend sein; eine Moral, wie sie sich nur in einem vorbehaltlos freien, rational und pragmatisch geführten Verständigungsprozeß herausbilden könne. Das Modell solch einer rigoros "normativen" säkularen Ordnung entwarf Habermas in seinem philosophischen Hauptwerk "Die Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns".

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link courtesy of excellent Habermas Forum

Habermas vs the Pope

"On 19th January last year, two old men came to the Catholic Academy of Bavaria to debate the imposing-looking topic: "Pre-political moral foundations of the liberal state." Both are German; both grew up under the third reich; both went on to achieve distinction in their respective fields. But here the resemblance ends. Jürgen Habermas is a leftist philosopher and advocate of "democratically enlightened common sense." His championship of untrammelled debate as the foundation of political legitimacy has inspired radicals across the world. His antagonist, Cardinal Ratzinger, came to prominence as an enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy throughout the Catholic church. He is now Pope Benedict XVI.

Here, then, were the makings of an epic duel, worthy to stand alongside Luther's famous confrontation with Zwingli or Heidegger's 1929 dispute with Cassirer at Davos. But the duel never took place. The transcript of the debate instead reveals the strange spectacle of philosopher and cardinal bending over backwards to accommodate each other. Habermas treats religious communities with great respect, claiming that they have "preserved intact something which has elsewhere been lost." And Ratzinger grants a central role to the "divine light of reason" in controlling the "pathologies of religion.""

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Habermasian Moment

"Jürgen Habermas has arguably been the most influential German philosopher since Heidegger. Despite Habermas' reputation as a "democratic" opponent of "authoritarianism" and champion of "domination-free discourse," Paul Gottfried argues, in "The Habermasian Moment," that a disturbing strain of dogmatism and intolerance can be found in Habermas's work. In particular, Gottfried marshals evidence to show that Habermas is quick to brand those who disagree with him as fascist sympathizers, and that his commitment to free speech is unreliable. Gottfried's discussion locates Habermas' reputation within a broader German cultural context in which authoritarian tendencies are highlighted when they occur on the right but too often downplayed when they occur on the left."

from here

Full article here

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On Law and Disagreement. Some Comments on "Interpretative Pluralism"

Jürgen Habermas

Abstract. This paper focuses on the question: Do persisting disagreements in constitutional interpretation affect the legitimacy of "the democratic system as a whole"? According to both Michelman and Waldron, the epistemic indeterminacy of interpretation—that is, the fact that principles do not possess stable meanings beyond, and independent of, their application to concrete cases—puts its finger on a point of the contractualist and prevailing political theory. But, if neither the legitimacy of any democratic order nor the standard of internal criticism can be founded on a broad background consensus on constitutional essentials, "what else makes a deliberative process of legislation and adjudication a generator of legitimacy so that citizens are induced to accept controversial results as 'worthy of respect'?" The route pursued goes beyond all views that require legitimacy to be based on sharing a set of "thick" ethical beliefs. In this perspective, the author argues that the performative meaning of constitution-making "provides a thin yet sufficiently strong base," which corresponds to the minimal requirements inherent in the very practice of framing a constitution.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Review of The Cambridge Companion to Critical Theory

Reviewed by James Gordon Finlayson, University of Sussex

"No doubt Habermas's theory of meaning as validity is the most controversial component of his theory, so White's criticism targets right general area. But even the idea, which seems to underlie the objection, that Habermas's social, moral and political theory are grounded on his pragmatic theory of meaning and theory of communicative action, and that therefore the former stand and fall with the latter, is erroneous. In fact Habermas's various research programmes, though interrelated, are relatively self-standing, and offer at best mutual collateral support. Failure in one programme would require revisions in another; it might weaken the overall structure, but not undermine it. Though conventional labels never quite seem to fit Habermas's philosophy, its kinship is with coherentism and pragmatism not foundationalism.

The theme of pragmatism provides an interesting undercurrent to several essays in the volume. While White aims to cure Habermas theory of its 'foundationalism' with a dose of pragmatism, Baynes, by means of a comparison with Robert Brandom, attempts to show how Habermas's Kantianism is already tempered by pragmatism. Whereas White repudiates Habermas's central thesis that Verständigung is the telos of speech as a 'strong ontological claim about the essence or telos of language'. (p. 318) Baynes shows, by contrast, and in my view correctly, that it is not an ontological but a pragmatic claim about the social function of speech. Validity-claims to truth and rightness are pragmatic presuppositions of agency. Habermas's 'claim concerning both the existence and presuppositions of communicative action is essentially a claim about what it means to be located in . . . the space of reasons' (p. 199). This links back to a point that Chambers makes. For Habermas, to be citizen a in a modern liberal democratic state means to give and take reasons, a practice one can only undertake as a participant in a community of other reason givers: the modern politikon zoon is very much still the zoon logon echon, but in a community held together by multiple discourses – moral, ethical, legal, and pragmatic (instrumental), by a market economy and the rule of law.

Though the quality of the essays varies, none are bland. Even the less convincing ones are inherently interesting. And though the collection falls miles short of being the 'overview of the entire history of critical theory' advertised on the back cover, the essays provide shafts of genuine illumination. Rush's opening chapter is well put-together and nicely written, if a little schematic. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for his introduction and the paragraph on the frontispiece, which, though brief, is replete with wild assertions and historical inaccuracies. Is Frankfurt School critical theory really still 'centrally important for philosophy'? Is it still a 'vital philosophical and political perspective', and not rather a tradition that has petered out? Honneth concludes his reflections on its intellectual legacy, much as Habermas did in the 1970's, with the claim that none of the 'core content' of critical theory 'can still be maintained today in the theoretical form in which the members of the Frankfurt School originally developed it .' (p. 357) Whilst these philosophical points are arguable, Rush's historical claim that critical theory 'remained central to European philosophical social and political thought throughout the Cold War period' is simply false. Even in Germany the first generation of Frankfurt School theorists operated on the margins of the academic establishment and were mostly ignored by it. Adorno never received a formal offer of a post at a German university, and only obtained a full professorship in Frankfurt in 1957 by dint of some (much resented) political maneuvering by Horkheimer. Habermas recalls that when he was at the Institute in the 1950's there wasn't such a thing as a Frankfurt School or a Critical Theory; these labels emerged retrospectively as the early work Horkheimer and Adorno became more widely known and appreciated and an understanding of their ideas gradually crystallised in the light of interpretation and criticism."

full here

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Holberg Prize Award Ceremony 2005, November 30

Speech of Thanks by Jürgen Habermas

Minister Djupedal, Your Excellences, Representatives from the Ludvig Holberg Memorial Fund, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Not that I would not have any experience with the rare situation of being awarded with a prominent academic price. But the rank, the ambition and the excellence of this award is truly embarrassing for anybody who is very well of the fact that is only one among many candidates of at least equal standing. I gratefully accept this distinction also as an expression of recognition of a whole generation of German philosophers who, after the end of World War II, entered the university and faced the challenge to renew the reputation and strength of a tradition the moral backbone of which hat been broken during the recent past. Of great support was the unbiased reception we enjoyed from colleagues in countries like Norway – including those who would have had good reasons for stronger reservations. I have still vivid memories of my first encounters with Knut Erik Tranøy and his younger colleagues, when Hans Skervheim invited me, in the early 70ies, to come to Bergen .

There are further reasons, why I am happy to enjoy the privilege of this occasion. It is a pleasure to serve the purpose of the Holberg Prize by helping to pull the paled face of the humanities out of the shadow of those more fortunate disciplines that are used to attract more public attention and more financial support for their more visible and robust achievements. I appreciate the decision of the Norwegian government to give, with this foundation, for the right purpose the right sign at the right moment. Moreover, it could have hardly chosen a more convenient patron for this institution than the unconventional founding father of modern Norwegian scholarship, Ludvig Holberg – an outstanding figure of the European enlightenment.

Far from the awkward role of a dignified and somewhat pompous professor, Holberg was a witty person and polemical writer, gifted with a broad range of talents, widely traveled, well versed in many languages and the ways of the world, a public figure, involved in quite a few controversies and, as the author of so many theater plays, well known to larger audiences in various countries. You imagine my increasing pleasure while reading the autobiographical letters – the epistolae ad virum perillustrem, which were, by the way, immediately translated from Latin into German, only two years after its original publication. I cannot but mentioning one episode that aroused my enthusiasm about Holberg in his role as a philosopher and let me discovered a brother in the spirit of post-metaphysical thought.

Describing the course of his life until the age of 33 years, Holberg in those letters continues to sing the melody of graceful laments about his desperate financial situation and his delicate physical constitution. But finally, the Danish King liberates him from this deplorable state by an appointment to the position of a veritable professor of metaphysics. Holberg comments the happy turn in his life with self-irony: “I received the office to teach metaphysics although that was against my inclination. This is why those people, who knew me better, predicted the decline of this splendid discipline. And they were not mistaken. I honestly confess that metaphysics was never in greater danger as under my tutelage.” Referring to his inaugural lecture, Holberg adds that all true admirers of metaphysics could not listen to him without anger since they must have had the impression of attending not an eulogy but “a funeral address on the occasion of the death of metaphysics”. This very phrase was unheard of in those days. That happened in 1717, seven years before Kant – the “Zermalmer” or great destroyer of metaphysics, as he was called – was even borne. The intrepid Holberg, I guess, was an early forerunner of this first post-metaphysical thinker when he pronounced the death of the kind of rationalist metaphysics that remained the academic philosophy for almost the whole of that century.

The sympathy I have with the creativity and spontaneity of this independent and fearless mind is the same feeling which is aroused again and again by the civil mentality I encounter when I come to this country and meet my distinguished Norwegian colleagues. In this respect the lasting influence of Holberg has obviously shaped the spirit of the academic community in his homeland until to-day. I am grateful for what I benefited from rich intellectual contacts with a whole generation of students and academic grandchildren of Arne Næss, and from the vivid debates between those parties who leaned more to Wittgensteinian arguments on one side, or more to those of my friend Karl-Otto Apel on the other. My thanks for the jury’s decision is equally an expression of my gratitude for what I learned from these exchanges.

Jürgen Habermas

from here
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