Saturday, May 28, 2005

Apel and Habermas: a thought. . .

Note: Moving forward this post due to recent comments.

Habermas’ debate with Apel can be considered as a debate about how far detranscendentalisation should be taken and how much detranscendentalisation should be carried out. While Habermas is concerned with how this detranscendentalisation turn is carried out (it needs a balancing act according to some of his interpreters), this does not inhibit him to carry out the turn thoroughly.

For Habermas’ typical response to those who he deems to have carried out the turn before him (like Hegel and Heidegger) is that they have not carried out it thoroughly and wholeheartedly. There is no stage at which this thoroughgoing detranscendentalisation should stop.

One of the most fascinating thought Habermas has is that in order to preserve the transcending character of reason it is necessary (though obviously not sufficient) to carry out the detranscendentalisation more and not less robustly. Thus we can differentiate between robust and non robust conceptions of detranscendentalisation.

Apel has been a colleague and mentor of Habermas for a long time. In Habermas’ own words, “under the living philosophers non one has more lastingly determined the direction of my thinking than Karl-Otto Apel.” Habermas and Apel share the detranscendentalisation turn. However despite this a difference has emerged in recent days between them about what kind of justification or what notion of justification is compatible with the detranscendentalisation turn. Apel thinks that we can maintain a version of “ultimate grounding or justification,” despite the turn. Habermas on the other hand thinks that ultimate justification of grounding is incompatible with the turn. Habermas insists that only a modest conception of grounding and justification is compatible with the turn.

The debate between Apel and Habermas can be read as a debate about which of the two notions of detranscendentalisation (roust or non-robust) are to be espoused. Habermas claims that detranscendentalisation should be carried out thoroughly and nothing should be immune form it. Apel on the other hand thinks that there is a limit to detranscendentalisation (thus he adopts a less robust conception of it). According to Apel there are certain principles and certain hierarchy among principles that is immune from detranscendentalisation and hence they retain their old transcendental character.

Habermas considers this half hearted detranscendentalisation not only incoherent but also anti-modern in its spirit (as it is more clear in is debate with Henrich on the status of metaphysics).
related posts:
Apel's critique of Habermas

two sense of linguistic turn

Apel and Habermas

Kant and Darwin

Morality,law and deliberative democracy

Friday, May 27, 2005

irreversibility of learning process

“The religious forces of social integration grew weaker in the wake of a process of enlightenment that is just as little susceptible of being revoked as it was arbitrarily brought about in the first place. One feature of this enlightenment is that irreversibility of learning process, which is based on the fact that insights cannot be forgotten at will; they can only be repressed or corrected by better insights. Hence, enlightenment can only make good its deficits by radicalized enlightenment: this is why Hegel and his disciples had to place their hope in a dialectic of enlightenment in which reason was validated as an equivalent for the unifying power of religion. They worked out concepts of reason that were supposed to fulfil such a program.” (The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, p. 84).

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Pragmatism: four theses

"(1) antiskepticism: pragmatism hold that doubt requires justification just as much as belief (recall Peirce ’s famous distinction between “real” and “philosophical” doubt); (2) fallibilism: pragmatists hold that there is never a metaphysical guarantee to be had that such and – such belief will never need revision (that one can be both fallibilistic and antiskeptical is perhaps the unique insight of American pragmatism); (3) the thesis that there is no fundamental dichotomy between “facts” and values”; and (4) the thesis that, in a certain sense, practice is primary in philosophy.” (Words and Life, p. 152).

Habermas would accept all the above theses except (3).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Habermas and Brandom on empiricism: An interesting contrast

Consider the following remarks by Brandom about the tradition of empiricism in the English-speaking world:

“Empiricism has been the fighting faith and organizing principle of philosophy in the English-speaking world since at least the time of Locke. Its distinctive twentieth-century form, developed by thinkers such as Russell, Carnap, and Quine, joins to the classical insistence on the origin of knowledge in experience an emphasis on the crucial cognitive role played by language and logic.” (Articulating reasons, p. 23).

Brandom describes his own project with reference to the above mentioned tradition of empiricism in the following way:

“A central goal of [my project] is to introduce a way of thinking about these latter topics [i.e. language and logic] – and so about meaning, mind, and knowledge-that swings free of the context of empiricist commitments that has shaped discussion within this tradition.” (ibid.).

Now consider the following description by Habermas:

“. . . there continues from Russel and Carnap onward an empiricist analysis of language with a merely methodological understanding of the linguistic turn, a strand that has gained worldwide acceptance through the work of Quine and Davidson.” (TJ: 69, italics added).

Interestingly Habermas includes Brandom in what he terms as ‘nonempiricist’ branch of Frege tradition and contrasts it with ‘empiricist branch’ which he terms as Carnap-Quine-Davidson tradition:

“. . . Wittgenstein serves as the inspiration for the nonempiricist branch of the Frege tradition all the way to Dummett and Brandom. In contrast to the Carnap-Quine-Davidson tradition, these authors start from normatively regulated practices in which we engage together and which give rise to an intersubjectively shared context of meaning.” (TJ: 121).

It can be said without the fear of contradiction that Habermas would agree with description of his own project as “a way of thinking about . . . meaning, mind, and knowledge-that swings free of the context of empiricist commitments that has shaped discussion within this tradition.”

Habermas' (alleged) formalism

This is an excerpt from a short note, which I will post latr. I think it clarifies an important point about Habemras' formalism:

"Admittedly Habermas still insists on a certain sort of formalism and takes procedural rationality as central to his project of postmetaphyscial thinking. However it would be an error to construe Habermas’ conception of formalism and procedural thinking as a form of abstraction. Habermas’ formal conditions of pragmatic rationality are not the formal grid imposed on the existing practices from “without” but are the conditions that are immanent to those practices themselves and hence conditions that emerge from “within” those practices rather than imposed on them from without. Similarly Habermas’ proceduralism has specific meaning to it which must be understood on its own ground rather than construed in Kantian terms. Proceduralism for Habermas derives from his rejection of the metaphysical conception of reason. Reason does not have the capability to tell us about the nature of things or of morals. From this Habermas infers that the only way for reason to exist in the postmetaphycial world is to go procedural, that is, to become a practice of raising and defending claims within conversation (within dialogue). This conception of proceduralism obviously has nothing to do with what Adorno or Bernstein are criticising."

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Habermas and Argumentation Theory

Informal Logic has just published a special issue on Special issue on Habermas and Argumentation Theory. Eminent Habermas scholar William Rehg is a guest editor for the issue. Apart from guest editor's introduction following articles are included in the issue.

Predicaments of Communication, Arguments and Power G.T. Goodnight
The Rationality of Legal Discourse in Habermas' s Discourse Theory E. Feteris
The Public Metonym P.A. Cramer
Habermas, Argumentation Theory and Science Studies W. Rehg

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Reflections on McDowell

I have been reading McDowell’s introduction to the (1996) edition of his Mind and World (pp. xi-xxiv). Here are few thoughts on McDowell’s project (with specific reference to Habermas).

•McDowell describes what he calls minimal empiricism as an idea whose core concept is that we are answerable to what he calls, quoting Quine, ‘the tribunal of experience.’ (p. xii).

•As I have noted earlier, Habermas would accept the concept of answerability to ‘experience’ but his concept of experience is radically different from McDowell as Habermas attempts to transcend the empiricist conception of experience through his pragmatist concept of experience and knowledge (for Habermas’ pragmatist conception of knowledge see TJ: 12-17). Habermas would be specifically troubled by the view McDowell propagates that our contact with world itself is normative (xiv).

•The second important difference between Habermas and McDowell is that Habermas as against McDowell sharply distinguishes between knowledge and rationality (see TCA I: 8-41). This Habermas from over intellectualising the conception of knowledge. In this Habermas is nearer to McDowell’s colleague Brandom (see Articulating reasons: 22-35, also see "Non inferential knowledge, perceputal experience, and secondary qualities," 93 and 105 n.3).

•Having said above we note many similarities between McDowell’s and Habermas’ project of weak naturalism.

•According to McDowell the above mentioned notion of the tribunal of experience is challenged by Sellers and Davidson’s assault on the ‘Myth of the Given.’ (xiv and xvii, for Habermas’ views on the Myth of the Given, see TJ: 178-179).[Addendum: "The Myth of the Given is the claim that there is some kind of experience the having of which does not presuppose grasp of concepts, such that merely having having the experience counts as knowing something, or can serve as evidence for beliefs, judgements, claims, and so on, that such a non-cocneptual experience can raitonally ground, and not just causally occasion, belief." (Robert Brandom, "Non inferential knowledge, perceputal experience, and secondary qualities," in Reading McDowell, pp. 92-119, here 93, emphasis in the original. Needless to say that Habermas would take (unlike McDowell) the Myth of the Given relavent only on the level of raitonality and not knowledge as such.]

•The idea behind the rejection of the Myth of the Given is that there is a sharp dichotomy between space of reason (or spontaneity) and space of law (or passivity). Since experience is located in the latter it cannot act as the tribunal and consequently we cannot be answerable to it. McDowell accepts the force of the argument but does not go from there with Sellers and Davidson to the conclusion that we cannot have any rational contact with the reality. In this Habermas is certainly with McDowell even when he would disagree with McDowell on how to explain it (mainly because of their different notions of experience). It should be noted however that Habermas would not concur with McDowell in calling the distinction between space of reason and space of law as a dichotomy, he would rather go for ‘sharp distinction’ which is not same as dichotomy (McDowell uses both 'distinction in kind' and dichotomy to describe the difference between the two spaced see p. xv and xix).

•So McDowell poses the problem of reconciliation between nature and reason (McDowell would reject such description of his project see Reading McDowell, p. 269) as transcending the apparent incompatibility between two equally persuasive appeals. On the one hand it seems intuitive to us to think of our judgments and claims to be answerable to nature and experience in a sense McDowell describes. On the other hand there is power to objections of both Sellers and Davidson. So what is the way out of this dilemma which is described by McDowell as interminable oscillation between coherentism and the Myth of the Given?

•Habermas’ project can be described in similar terms. On the one hand he agrees with Sellers and Davidson (and ultimately with Kant) that ‘reason’ is to be situated outside the space of law (that is the point of his categorical distinction between instrumental reason and communicative reason) but on the other hand he also emphasises the need to assert the centrality of experience for the process of learning and ultimately for reasoning processes themselves (As early as in TCA I: p. 18, italics in the original) Habermas wrote: “The concept of grounding is interwoven with that of learning.”. As far as learning is concerned it is situated in the context of reality which resists our claims and we have to prove the wroth of our claims against this resisting and surprising reality (on this last point see Habermas' critique of Rorty in OPC: 343-382 and TJ: introduction and passim).

•Now McDowell rejects one way out of the above mentioned oscillation which he terms as ‘bald naturalism.’ (xiii). Bald naturalism is no solution because it levels the legitimate distinction between space of reason and space of law. Habermas rejects the solution on the same lines. Habermas calls this strong naturalism and equates it with Quine’s naturalism (Habermas in this context invokes Putnam’s slogan that reason cannot be naturalised TJ: 218-219). Bald or strong naturalism does not take into account the unique characteristics of the space of reason and does not respond adequately to the critique of the Myth of the Given [It can be argued that Quine has taken the critique fo the Myth into account by abandoning mentalism of the old empiricism of the Humean and Lockean type (see his "Epistemology Nautralized" in Ontological Relativity and Other essays, 69-90, here 89) but Habermas would argue that Quine is still attached to the Myth of the Given to the extent that he does not take a methodlogicla disitnciton between observation and understanding seriously and to the extent that he levels distinction between the lifeworld and the objective world (TJ: 218). It is interesting to note that in the context of his discussion on Putnam Habermas attributes a view to Quine according to which “language and world are connected only causally and not semantically.” (TJ: 219). Here ‘semantically’ should be read as rationally.] .

•So what is McDowell’s preferred solution? McDowell starts with saying that though there is a dichotomy between the space of law and space of reason it does not follow from this that there is a dichotomy between natural and normative. However this statement does not make much sense in Habermasian terms. However the way McDowell explains the idea is compatible with Habermas’ solution. What McDowell concludes form the above is that the space of law does not exhaust nature. Thus both Habermas and McDowell assume that natural scientific intelligibility does not exhaust concept of nature as such. The space of law cannot exhaust nature as such (xix) [McDowell says that he agrees with Davidson and Sellers that the space of reason is sui generis, so that he sides with them against bald naturalism but he goes on to says that against Sellers and Davidson he still holds that the notion of experience is natural and empirical thinking is answerable to experience (xix). Habermas would accept the contention that experience is natural in a broad sense but the point of McDowell as irrelevant to the debate because the question of answerability to experience arises within space of reason and not on the level of experience itself and transition from the former to the latter is not automatic. On this see TJ: 154 where Habermas makes this point against Brandom).

•Thus one of McDowell’s basic moves is to argue that nature is not exhausted by the space of law. This is similar to Habermas’ move where by he differentiates between ‘objective nature,’ ‘subjective nature,’ and ‘nature in itself.’ (TJ: 22). The rationale of the move is to show that the objectification of nature can never exhaust nature itself and thus the space of law can not be taken as covering nature as a whole (It is important to remember however that Habermas’ conception of ‘nature in itself’ is totally different from the Kantian concept because according to Habermas’ pragmatic conception of knowledge we are in direct contact with a naked reality on the pragmatic level).

•The second of McDowell’s move is similar to that of Habermas’ move in his weak naturalism as well. Here McDowell shows that the space of reason itself is ‘natural’ to the extent that we can conceive of nature in non causal terms. Here McDowell brings in his conception of second nature. A. C. Genova, in his review of Reading McDowell perceptively calls this notion of the space of reason ‘naturalised spontaneity.’ This is also the point of Habermas’ weak naturalism to the extent that it presupposes that the space of reason has evolved ‘naturally.’ (TJ: 28).

•The combination of the above two insights allows both Habermas and McDowell to transcend the interminable oscillation between the Myth of the Given and coherentism. It allows them to escape equally unacceptable solution of the empiricist tradition that falls prey to the Myth of the Given as well as the rationalist tradition that loses contact with reality.

•But from a Habermasian point of view McDowell’s position ultiamtely remains engulfed within the Myth of the Given to the extent that it still remains attached to the overintellectualised conception of knowledge and over-intellectualised notion of contact with the reality to be found in the empiricist and Kantian traditions. To this extent he still remains within the interminable oscillation . . .

Monday, May 16, 2005

Le non illusoire de la gauche

Le non illusoire de la gauche

Exclusif. Pour le grand philosophe allemand, si le non l’emportait en France, «il est certain qu’une dépression s’abattrait sur toute l’Europe, et pour longtemps»

L’unification de l’Europe n’a longtemps été l’affaire que des élites politiques. Tant qu’ils en ont profité, les citoyens n’y ont rien vu à redire. Les résultats, jusqu’ici, ont suffi à donner au projet européen sa légitimité. Mais dans l’Europe des 25, confrontée à ses conflits d’attribution (sièges, postes, voix...), une telle légitimation au rendement ne permet plus que chacun y trouve son compte. Les citoyens rechignent à être dirigés de manière bureaucratique, et même au sein des Etats membres les plus europhiles la population se montre de moins en moins encline à tout accepter. En outre, le tandem franco-allemand est sorti de la cadence et n’est plus en position, désormais, de donner le sens de la marche.

Dans cette situation, le gouvernement français a eu le courage de soumettre la ratification de la Constitution à référendum. En tant qu’Allemand à qui la pusillanimité de son personnel politique a fait perdre toute illusion, j’envie la France. Cette République française a encore au moins conscience des critères démocratiques qui font sa tradition et en deçà desquels il convient de ne pas tomber. L’acte constituant s’accomplira dans la confrontation des opinions polarisées et des voix dissonantes, et par le décompte des oui et des non exprimés par les citoyens. Nous devrions donc être satisfaits par ces discussions où se mêlent toutes les voix, et dont la presse française nous transmet l’écho de ce côté-ci du Rhin nous le serions sans doute, n’était un petit problème. Nous qui portons nos regards vers la France par-delà nos frontières nationales nous rendons compte que c’est aussi notre Constitution qui risque d’être mise en échec par le vote des Français.

Certes, de la même manière, les Français sont dépendants du vote des Britanniques, des Polonais, des Tchèques et de tous les autres. Alors que normalement un peuple se prononce sur sa propre Constitution, la Constitution européenne ne pourra naître que du vote d’adhésion de vingt-cinq peuples et non de la volonté formée en commun par l’ensemble des citoyens européens. En effet, il n’existe toujours ni espace public européen, ni thématiques transfrontalières, ni discussions communes. Chaque vote se déroule donc au sein des frontières de son propre espace public national. Or une telle asymétrie est dangereuse, car la priorité accordée aux problèmes nationaux par exemple les reproches faits au président Chirac et au gouvernement Raffarin fausse le regard que l’on doit porter sur les problèmes effectifs posés par l’adoption ou le rejet de la Constitution européenne. Il faudrait au moins que les pour et les contre des autres nations aient également accès à chacun de nos espaces publics nationaux. C’est aussi en ce sens que je comprends l’invitation qui m’est faite de prendre position dans le débat électoral français.

A mon avis, une gauche qui, désireuse de dompter et de civiliser le capitalisme , se prononcerait contre la Constitution européenne le ferait au mauvais moment et en choisissant le mauvais côté. Il existe naturellement de bonnes raisons de critiquer le chemin pris par l’unification européenne. Jacques Delors et sa vision politique ont été mis en échec. C’est au contraire une intégration horizontale qui a eu lieu, avec l’instauration d’un marché commun et la création d’une union monétaire partielle. Et il est même vraisemblable que, sans cette dynamique des intérêts économiques, la perspective d’une union politique n’aurait sans doute jamais vu le jour. Il est vrai qu’une telle dynamique ne fait que renforcer la tendance à la dérégulation des marchés à l’échelle mondiale; pour autant, l’idée droitière et xénophobe selon laquelle l’abolition des frontières entraîne des conséquences sociales indésirables que l’on pourrait éviter par un repli sur les forces de l’Etat-nation est non seulement une idée suspecte pour des raisons normatives, mais encore tout à fait irréaliste. Une gauche digne de ce nom n’a pas le droit de se laisser contaminer par ce genre de réflexes régressifs.
La capacité de régulation de l’Etat-nation ne suffit plus depuis longtemps à faire pièce aux conséquences ambivalentes de la mondialisation économique. Ce qui est célébré aujourd’hui comme «modèle social européen» ne peut être défendu que si, dans le cadre même de l’Europe, la politique est capable de revenir à la hauteur des marchés. Ce n’est qu’au niveau européen que l’on pourra récupérer tout ou partie de la capacité de régulation politique de toute façon perdue au niveau de l’Etat-nation. Les membres de l’UE renforcent aujourd’hui leur coopération dans les domaines qui relèvent de la politique de sécurité – la justice, le droit pénal et l’immigration. Une gauche active et lucide dans sa politique européenne aurait déjà depuis longtemps incité à une harmonisation beaucoup plus poussée, y compris dans les domaines de la politique économique et fiscale.
A cet égard, la Constitution européenne a au moins le mérite d’offrir une telle latitude. Il faut que l’Union retrouve, après l’élargissement à l’Est, toute sa capacité d’action, or c’est un objectif que peut permettre d’atteindre la Constitution. Nous sommes actuellement mis en demeure de coordonner, dans cette Europe des 25, des intérêts divergents selon les procédures conclues à Nice, et il en est ainsi parce que l’Europe des 15 ne fut pas en mesure de se doter en temps voulu d’une constitution politique. Si nous devions en rester là après un rejet du projet constitutionnel, l’Union ne serait certes pas ingouvernable, mais elle retomberait à un niveau d’immobilité et d’impuissance décisionnelle dont les néolibéraux feraient leur miel – eux dont les intentions sont de ne pas aller au-delà du traité de Maastricht.
Une gauche qui entend tenir tête au régime économique néolibéral doit regarder plus loin que l’Europe. Face au consensus dominant qu’est en train d’arracher Washington, elle ne peut proposer une solution sociale-démocrate au sens large que si l’Union européenne est capable d’agir non seulement à l’intérieur, mais également à l’extérieur. Contre un libéralisme hégémonique qui associe élections libres et marchés libres et entend imposer ses vues à l’échelle mondiale – s’il le faut en solo et par les armes –, l’Europe doit, de toute façon, apprendre à mener une politique extérieure où elle parlera d’une seule voix.

C’est George Bush qui ne pourrait que se réjouir d’un échec de la Constitution européenne. Grâce à cette Constitution, en effet, l’Europe pourrait développer une politique extérieure et de sécurité commune qui disposerait d’un soft power suffisant pour conforter l’opposition aux idées que se font les néoconservateurs de l’ordre mondial, et ce aux Etats-Unis même. Il est dans notre intérêt commun d’aider au développement des Nations unies et du droit international en vue d’une société mondiale politiquement constituée, sans gouvernement mondial. Nous devons parvenir à faire entrer effectivement dans un vrai cadre juridique les relations internationales, avant que d’autres puissances mondiales ne soient à même d’imiter, dans sa conception étroite du droit international, la politique de la force de l’administration Bush.
Nous ne pourrons faire face de manière offensive aux défis et aux risques liés à un monde en rupture que si nous renforçons l’Europe plutôt que de chercher à exploiter, au prix d’un vieux populisme, les angoisses, par ailleurs bien compréhensibles, de la population. La coalition malgré elle du non de gauche avec le non réactionnaire d’une certaine droite a par surcroît une note tragique, en ce qu’elle repose sur une illusion de la gauche. Elle fait fond en effet sur cette illusion qu’un non émis par la France conduirait nécessairement les autres membres à reprendre les négociations sur la Constitution européenne. Attendre cela revient à commettre une double erreur.

Du point de vue de toutes les autres nations, un non venant de France aura, s’il se produit, une signification spécifique. C’est de la nation française qu’est venue, dans une belle largeur de vues, l’initiative de la réconciliation avec l’Allemagne. Et c’est elle, du même coup, qui a mis l’unification européenne sur ses rails – une unification qu’elle n’a cessé de stimuler par des impulsions constamment renouvelées. S’il advenait, au moment précis où nous nous trouvons à la croisée des chemins, que cette France-là s’écarte de la route jusqu’ici suivie, il est certain qu’une dépression s’abattrait sur toute l’Europe, et pour longtemps.
C’est une conséquence que je tiens quasiment pour inévitable. La France, en effet, n’est pas la Grande-Bretagne. Si le référendum britannique sur la Constitution débouchait sur un non – ce que je n’espère certes pas –, il est probable que la plupart des autres Etats membres réagiraient, du moins je le crois, par le défi. Qu’on réponde «maintenant ou jamais!» à un pays qui, après avoir en permanence tergiversé, mettrait en échec la Constitution n’aurait après tout rien d’extraordinaire. Un non français, en revanche, ne pourrait que paralyser durablement l’Europe; une telle décision aurait en effet pour tous les autres pays européens valeur de signal, et il est probable que dans sa fragilité leur opinion publique se renverserait en faveur de tous les europhobes – nationalistes et souverainistes de tout poil –, mais aussi en faveur des néolibéraux, pour qui la Constitution de l’Europe trouve sa pleine et entière expression dans l’économisme de la Constitution actuelle.

Il faut enfin se surestimer de manière grotesque pour imaginer comme le font les partisans du non de gauche que la Constitution serait renégociée au seul prétexte qu’au sein de la coalition perverse du non français se trouvent également quelques europhiles pour qui l’intégration politique ne va pas assez loin. Et là réside la seconde illusion : s’il advenait effectivement qu’un rejet par la France du traité constitutionnel entraîne sa renégociation, ce serait le triomphe de ceux pour qui, au contraire, le compromis constitutionnel va trop loin. Le résultat ne serait nullement un approfondissement des institutions, mais bien plutôt un renforcement de l’intergouvernementalisme.
Je n’abandonne toutefois pas l’espoir que la gauche française reste fidèle à elle-même et qu’elle se range à des arguments plutôt que de succomber à des états d’âme.

Traduit de l’allemand par Christian Bouchindhomme.

Jürgen Habermas est professeur émérite à l’Université de Francfort et professeur invité à l’Université de Northwestern. Ses derniers ouvrages en français sont « Après l’Etat-nation » (Fayard, 2000) et « l’Avenir de la nature humaine » (Gallimard, 2002). « Une époque de transition (écrits politiques 1998-2003) » paraît chez Fayard le 11 mai et « De l’usage public des idées » sortira à l’automne.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Das illusionäre 'Nein der Linken'

Das illusionäre 'Nein der Linken'
Die Verfassung annehmen, um Europas Handlungsfähigkeit zu stärken. Von Jürgen Habermas

Die europäische Einigung ist lange genug von den politischen Eliten vorangetrieben worden. Solange alle davon profitierten, waren's die Bürger zufrieden. Das Projekt hat sich bisher durch seine Ergebnisse allein legitimiert. Aber im Europa der 25 bahnen sich Verteilungskonflikte an, für die diese Art der output-Legitimation nicht mehr ausreicht. Die Bürger sind mit dem bürokratischen Steuerungsmodus unzufrieden, die Akzeptanz lässt auch in der Bevölkerung der europafreundlichen Mitgliedstaaten nach. Das Tandem Frankreich und Deutschland ist aus dem Tritt geraten und bestimmt nicht mehr die Richtung der Tour.

In dieser Situation hatte die französische Regierung den Mut zum Verfassungsreferendum. Als Deutscher, der über den Kleinmut seiner Politiker enttäuscht ist, beneide ich Frankreich. Diese französische Republik hat noch ein Bewusstsein von den demokratischen Maßstäben einer Tradition, hinter die sie nicht zurückfallen will. Der Akt der Verfassungsgebung vollzieht sich durch die polarisierten Meinungen und dissonanten Stimmen, durch das kumulierte "Ja" und "Nein" der Bürger hindurch. So könnten wir mit den vielstimmigen Diskursen, die aus der französischen Presse über den Rhein zu uns dringen, zufrieden sein - wenn es da nicht ein Problem gäbe. Wir, die wir von jenseits der nationalen Grenzen nach Frankreich schauen, wissen, dass es ebenso unsere Verfassung ist, die am Votum der Franzosen scheitern kann.

Auf die gleiche Weise sind die Franzosen vom Votum der Engländer, der Polen, der Tschechen und aller anderen abhängig. Während im normalen Fall ein Volk über seine eigene Verfassung beschließt, muss die europäische Verfassung aus den übereinstimmenden Voten von 25 Völkern hervorgehen, und nicht aus einem gemeinsam gebildeten Willen der europäischen Bürger. Denn noch besteht keine europäische Öffentlichkeit, keine grenzüberschreitende Bündelung von Themen, keine gemeinsame Diskussion. Jedes dieser Voten bildet sich in den Grenzen der jeweils eigenen nationalen Öffentlichkeit. Diese Asymmetrie ist gefährlich, weil der Vorrang nationaler Probleme, beispielsweise Vorbehalte gegenüber der Regierung Chirac, den Blick auf diejenigen Probleme verstellt, die sich mit der Annahme oder Ablehnung der europäischen Verfassung tatsächlich stellen. In jede unserer nationalen Öffentlichkeiten müsste auch das Für und Wider der anderen Nationen Eingang finden.

In diesem Sinne verstehe ich auch die Einladung, mich in den französischen Wahlkampf einzumischen. Nach meiner Auffassung würde sich eine Linke, die den Kapitalismus zähmen und zivilisieren will, mit einem "Nein" zur europäischen Verfassung zum falschen Zeitpunkt für die falsche Seite entscheiden.

Natürlich gibt es gute Gründe, den Weg zu kritisieren, den die Einigung Europas genommen hat. Delors ist mit seiner politischen Vision gescheitert. Europa ist stattdessen horizontal, über die Herstellung eines Gemeinsamen Marktes und die Schaffung eines partiell gemeinsamen Währungsgebietes, integriert worden. Die Politische Union wäre vermutlich ohne die Dynamik wirtschaftlicher Interessen gar nicht zustande gekommen. Diese Dynamik verstärkt nur die Tendenz der weltweiten Deregulierung von Märkten. Aber die xenophobische Vorstellung der Rechten, dass die sozial unerwünschten Folgen dieser Entgrenzung durch den Rückzug auf die protektionistischen Kräfte des Nationalstaates abgewendet werden könnten, ist nicht nur aus normativen Gründen dubios, sondern ganz und gar unrealistisch. Die Linke darf sich von diesen regressiven Reflexen nicht anstecken lassen.

Die Regulierungskraft des Nationalstaates reicht längst nicht mehr aus, um ambivalente Folgen der wirtschaftlichen Globalisierung abzufedern. Was heute als "europäische Gesellschaftsmodell" gerühmt wird, lässt sich nur dadurch verteidigen, dass die Politik den Märkten in Europa selbst nachwächst. Allein auf europäischer Ebene kann ein Teil der politischen Steuerungsfähigkeit zurückgewonnen werden, die auf nationaler Ebene so oder so verloren geht. Die Mitglieder der EU verstärken heute ihre Kooperation auf den sicherheitspolitischen Feldern von Justiz, Strafrecht und Immigration. Eine europapolitisch aufgeklärte und aktive Linke hätte längst auf eine weitergehende Harmonisierung, auch in Bereichen der Steuer- und Wirtschaftspolitik drängen können.

Dafür eröffnet die europäische Verfassung nun wenigstens den Spielraum. Sie dient dem Ziel, die Handlungsfähigkeit der Europäischen Union auch nach der Osterweiterung zu erhalten. Im Europa der 25 müssen die auseinanderstrebenden Interessen nach den in Nizza beschlossenen Verfahren koordiniert werden, weil das Europa der 15 nicht in der Lage war, sich rechtzeitig eine politische Verfassung zu geben. Wenn die EU nach Ablehnung des Verfassungsentwurfs in diesem Zustand verharrt, wird sie zwar nicht unregierbar. Aber sie fällt dann auf ein Niveau der Unbeweglichkeit und der Entscheidungsschwäche zurück, das den Neoliberalen nur recht sein kann. Denn diese hatten ihr Ziel mit dem Vertrag von Maastricht schon erreicht.

Eine Linke, die sich gegen das neoliberale Wirtschaftregime stemmt, muss auch über Europa hinausschauen. Eine im weitesten Sinne sozialdemokratische Alternative zum herrschenden Washington Konsens kann sie nur verfolgen, wenn die Europäische Union Handlungsfähigkeit nicht nur nach innen, sondern auch nach außen gewinnt. Sie muss ohnehin lernen, außenpolitisch mit einer Stimme zu sprechen, wenn sie einem hegemonialen Liberalismus begegnen will, der freie Wahlen und freie Märkte notfalls im Alleingang und mit militärische Gewalt weltweit durchsetzen will.

Es ist Bush, der sich über ein Scheitern der europäischen Verfassung freuen dürfte. Im Rahmen dieser Verfassung könnte Europa nämlich eine gemeinsame Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik entwickeln, die über genügend soft power verfügt, um der Opposition gegen die Weltordnungsvorstellungen der Neokonservativen, auch in den Vereinigten Staaten selbst, den Rücken zu stärken. Es liegt in unserem gemeinsamen Interesse, die Vereinten Nationen und das Völkerrecht zu einer politisch verfassten Weltgesellschaft ohne Weltregierung fortzuentwickeln. Wir müssen zu einer effektiven Verrechtlichung der internationalen Beziehungen gelangen, bevor andere Weltmächte in die Lage versetzt werden, die völkerrechtswidrige Machtpolitik der Bush-Regierung nachzuahmen.

Den Herausforderungen und Risiken einer Welt im Umbruch können wir nur offensiv begegnen, wenn wir Europa stärken und nicht die verständlichen Ängste der Bevölkerung auch noch populistisch ausbeuten. Die unfreiwillige Koalition des Neins der Linken mit dem reaktionären Nein der Rechten hat eine tragisch Note, weil sie auf einer Illusion der Linken beruht. Sie kommt auf der Grundlage der Illusion zustande, dass ein Nein aus Frankreich die anderen Mitgliedstaaten dazu veranlassen könnte, die Verhandlungen über die europäische Verfassung wieder aufzunehmen. Diese Erwartung ist ein doppelter Irrtum.

Aus der Sicht aller übrigen Nationen hat das französische Nein eine spezifische Bedeutung. Die französische Nation hat nach dem Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges die großzügige Initiative zur Aussöhnung mit Deutschland ergriffen. Damit hat sie die europäische Einigung erst auf den Weg gebracht; sie hat dieser auch fortan immer wieder neue Impulse gegeben. Wenn sich dieses Frankreich an der kritischen Wegkreuzung, an der wir heute stehen, von der bisher verfolgten Route abwendet, wird sich eine langanhaltende Depression über ganz Europa ausbreiten.

Ich halte das für eine fast unvermeidliche Folge. Denn Frankreich ist nicht Großbritannien. Wenn das Verfassungsreferendum in England scheitern sollte, was ich nicht hoffe, halte ich eine Trotzreaktion der meisten anderen Mitgliedstaaten für wahrscheinlich. Auf das Scheitern in einem Lande, das immer schon gezögert hat, könnte ein "Nun erst recht!" die Antwort sein. Aber ein Nein aus Frankreich müsste Europa auf lange Zeit lähmen, weil diese Entscheidung eine Signalwirkung für alle anderen europäischen Länder hätte und dort die prekären Stimmungslagen zugunsten der Europagegner umkippen ließe - zugunsten der Nationalisten und Souveränisten aller Couleurs, auch zugunsten der Neoliberalen, für die sich die Verfassung Europas in der bestehenden Wirtschaftsverfassung erschöpft.

Es ist eine groteske Selbstüberschätzung der linken Neinsager anzunehmen, dass die Verfassung nur deshalb neu verhandelt werden würde, weil sich in der perversen Koalition der französischen Neinstimmen auch die von einigen Europafreunden befinden, denen die politische Integration nicht weit genug geht. Denn das ist die zweite Illusion: Wenn es aufgrund des französischen Votums tatsächlich zu einer Neuverhandlung käme, würden diejenigen triumphieren, denen der Verfassungskompromiss zu weit geht. Das Resultat wäre keineswegs eine weitere Vertiefung der europäischen Institutionen, sondern eine Verstärkung des Intergouvernementalismus.

Ich gebe die Hoffnung nicht auf, dass sich die französische Linke treu bleibt. Dann wird sie auch dieses Mal Argumenten und nicht Stimmungen folgen.

Jürgen Habermas

Dieser Artikel erschien zuerst auf französisch im Nouvel Observateur. Wir danken Jürgen Habermas für die Nachdruckgenehmigung.

The illusionary "Leftist No"

The illusionary "Leftist No"
Adopting the constitution to strengthen Europe's power to act. By Jürgen Habermas

European unification has been pushed for long enough by political elites. As long as everyone profited, the citizens were content. Until now, the project has been granted legitimacy by its results. But the Europe of 25 is in store for conflicts over distribution which will not be appeased by this kind of output legitimation. Citizens are dissatisfied with the modus of bureaucratic control, and acceptance is also dwindling among the populations of Europe-friendly member states. The France-Germany tandem has been out of step for a while, and no longer decides what direction is to be taken.

In this situation, the French government had the courage to hold a constitutional referendum. As a German who is disappointed with the faint-heartedness of his own politicians, I envy France. This French republic is still conscious of the democratic standards of a tradition it does not want to fall short of. The act of choosing a constitution is taking place among polarised opinions and dissonant voices, through the cumulative "Yes" and "No" of the French citizens. So we could be content with the many-sided discourses from the French press that reach us over the Rhine - if it weren't for one problem. Those of us looking towards France from beyond its national boundaries know that it is also our constitution which can miscarry with the French vote.

In the same way, the French are dependent on the votes of the English, the Poles, the Czechs and all the others. While in the normal case a people decides on its own constitution, the European constitution must result from the supporting votes of 25 peoples, and not from the common will of the citizens of Europe. For there is still no European public space, no transnational bundling of themes, no common discussion. Each one of these votes takes place within the bounds of the individual country's public sphere. This asymmetry is dangerous, because the primacy of national problems, for instance reservations about Chirac's government, can obstruct the view of the problems actually posed by the acceptance or rejection of the European constitution. In each of our national public spheres, the pros and cons of the other nations should also find a voice.

It is in this spirit that I understand the invitation for me to become involved in the French electoral campaign. In my view, a Left which aims to tame and civilise capitalism with a "No" to the European constitution would be deciding for the wrong side at the wrong time.

Of course there are good reasons to criticise the course that the unification of Europe has taken. Delors failed with his political vision. Instead, Europe has been integrated horizontally, through the creation of a common market and a partially common currency. Without the dynamic of economic interests, the political union would have probably never gotten off the ground. This dynamic only strengthens the worldwide tendency toward market deregulation. But the xenophobic perception of the Right that the socially undesirable consequences of this lifting of boundaries could be avoided by returning to the protectionist forces of the nation state is not only dubious for normative reasons, it is also outright unrealistic. The Left must not let itself be infected by such regressive reflexes.

The regulative capacity of the nation state has long been insufficient to buffer the ambivalent consequences of economic globalisation. What is vaunted today as the "European social model" can only be defended if European political strength grows alongside the markets. It is solely on the European level that a part of the political regulatory power that is bound to be lost on the national level can be won back. Today the EU member states are strengthening their cooperation in the areas of justice, criminal law and immigration. An active Left taking an enlightened stance toward European politics could have also pressed long ago for greater harmonisation in the areas of taxation and economic policy.

The European constitution now creates at least the conditions for this. It will maintain the European Union's power to act, even after the eastward expansion. In the Europe of 25, divergent interests must be coordinated according to the procedure decided on in Nice, because the Europe of 15 was not able to give itself a political constitution in due time. If this state continues after the rejection of the draft constitution, the EU will certainly not become ungovernable. But it will fall back to a level of immobility and indecisiveness that can only add grist to the mill of the neoliberals. They already achieved their goal with the Treaty of Maastricht.

A Left that opposes the neoliberal economic regime must also look beyond Europe. It can only follow a social-democratic - in the largest sense of the term – alternative to the ruling consensus in Washington, if the European Union acquires the power to act not only on its home turf, but also in international affairs. It must learn to speak the language of foreign policy with a single voice, if it wants to counter the hegemonic liberalism that is willing to push through free elections and the free market on its own and backed by military might, if need be.

Bush is the one who would rejoice at the failure of the European constitution, for it would allow Europe to develop a common foreign and security policy with enough soft power to bolster opposition to the neoconservative view of global order, also within the United States. It is in our common interest to develop the United Nations, and the law of nations, into a politically constituted world community without a world government. We must attain an effective juridification of international relations, before other world powers are in a position to emulate the power politics of the Bush government in violation of the law of nations.

We can only meet the challenges and risks of a world in upheaval in an offensive way by strengthening Europe, not by exploiting the understandable fears of the people in a populist manner. The involuntary coalition of the Leftist "No" with the reactionary "No" of the Right has a tragic note to it, because it rides on a Leftist illusion: that a "No" in France could prompt other member states to renew negotiations on the European constitution. This idea contains a twofold error.

From the perspective of all the other nations, the French "No" has a specific significance. After the end of the Second World War, the French nation took the generous initiative of reconciliation with Germany. In doing so, it started the ball rolling for European unification. And France has continually given new impulses to this unification. If now, at this critical junction, France departs from the route it has been following, a prolonged depression will spread across Europe.

I hold this for practically unavoidable. France is not Great Britain. If the constitutional referendum were to fail there, which I hope it will not, I think most of the member states would probably react defiantly. Their answer to a constitutional "No" in a country that had always been hesitant could well be "all the more reason!" But a "No" in France would paralyse Europe in the long term, because it would send a signal to all other European countries, and tip the precarious balance of opinion in favour of Europe's adversaries – nationalists and sovereigntists of all stripes. And it would play into the hands of the neoliberals, for whom the concept of a European constitution goes no further than the existing economic constitution.

It is a grotesque overestimation on the part of the Leftist naysayers to presume that the constitution would be reopened to negotiation because the perverse coalition of French "No" votes also includes a few friends of Europe who feel the political integration does not go far enough. And that is the second illusion: if in fact the French vote did lead to new negotiations, the winners would be those who feel the constitution compromise goes too far. The result would in no means be a further strengthening of European institutions, but a strengthening of intergovernmentalism.

I do not relinquish the hope that the French Left will remain true to itself, and that this time too, it will be swayed by arguments, and not by sentiment.


The article was originally published in French in the Nouvel Observateur on 7 May, 2005, and in German on the Perlentaucher website on 11 May, 2005.

Jürgen Habermas, born in 1929, is one of Germany's foremost intellectual figures. A philosopher and sociologist, he is professor emeritus at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt and the leading representative of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. His works include "Legitimation Crisis", "Knowledge and Human Interests", "Theory of Communicative Action" and "The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity".

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The rationality of worldviews

Habermas often speaks as though the question of the rationality of a worldviews as a whole cannot be judged within the parameters of a post metaphysical concept of rationality. However this is true only regarding the substantive portion of any worldview is concerned (its conception of good life for example). The same does not apply to the formal character of a worldview. Thus two worldviews can be judged and compared as a whole as regard to their formal-prgamtic rational potential. Hence on this level we can judge one worldview as less or more rational than other or can even judge some worldviews as irrational if they lack the basic formal-pragmatic concepts!

As Habermas puts it:

“The rationality of worldviews is not measured in terms of logical and semantic properties but in terms of formal-pragmatic basic concepts they place at the disposal of individuals for interpreting their world. We could also speak of the “ontologies” built into worldviews, providing that this concept, which stems from the tradition of Greek metaphysics, is not restricted to a special world-relation that is, to the cognitive relation to the world of existing things [Seienden]. There is no corresponding concept in philosophy that includes relations to the social and the subjective worlds as well as to the objective world. The theory of communicative action is also meant to remedy this lack.” (TCA I: p. 45).

Thus the modern worldview is superior to pre modern worldviews because it possesses richer formal-pragmatic basic concepts.


“On the other hand, worldviews differ form portraits in that they in turn make possible utterances that admit of truth. To this extent they have a relation, albeit indirect, to truth . . . . Owing to their reference to totality, worldviews are indeed removed from the dimension in which judgment of them according to criteria of truth makes sense; even the choice of criteria according to which the truth of statements is to be judged may depend on the basic conceptual context of a worldview . . . worldviews can be compared with one another not only form the quasiaesthetic and truth-indifferent standpoints of coherence, depth, economy, completeness, and the like, but also form the standpoint of cognitive adequacy. The adequacy of a linguistically articulated worldview is a function of the true statements that are possible in this language system.” (TCA I: 58-59, italics in the original).

Monday, May 09, 2005

Pragmatism and Weak Naturalism

I have posted several times on the pragmatist conception of Knowledge and its significance for Habermas. Pragmatist conception of Knowledge acquires significance for Habermas mainly in the context of his weak naturalism. The question arises what specific role a pragmatist conception of knowledge fulfils for Habermas' weak naturalism. I have provided few clues before. However here are two main functions of the pragmatist conception of knowledge for Habermas' weak naturalism. I provide the relevant quotes below (to be elaborated later).

First quote:

“If we presuppose [the] pragmatic conception of knowledge, we can opt for a naturalism that preserves the transcendental difference between the world and what is innerworldly, in spite of detranscendntalisatization.” (TJ: 27).

The meaning of the quote is clear even if the full logical analysis of the links is to be provided. Weak Naturalism is supposed to provide the resources that allow us to maintain the Kantian distinction between "empirical" and "transcendental" even after the detranscendentalisation. However for Habermas this can only be done if we adopt a pragmatist conception of knowledge.

Second quote:

“The world of the natural environment is constituted as nature that is objective “for us” by means of the same forms of social labor whereby the physical “material transformation” between society and its material substrate is accomplished. The next step is to interpret this materialist connection between knowledge and labor naturalistically. At the level of sociocultural development, natural evolution is supposed simultaneously to produce “subjective nature,” that is , the organic endowment ofHomo sapiens, and the conditions under which he has cognitive access to what is to him “objective nature.” However, if there is a rigid, that is, inescapable, correlation between objective nature and the possible forms of coping with nature that are determined by subjective nature, then the constitution of a “nature in itself” can only be the result of the glimpse behind the stage set by human mind.”

But the above dilemma can be avoided if we adopt the pragmatic conception of knowledge:

“The aporias we face as a result of detranscendentalisation seem to show that the transcendental formulation of the problem cannot be separated unscathed form the assumption of transcendental idealism. However, the paradoxical consequences result not so much form a pragmatist transformation of the transcendental approach as from the representational model of knowledge to which Kant himself subscribed. A nonclassical form of epistemological realism, which must be accepted in the wake of the linguistic turn, can be combined with a “weak” naturalism without relinquishing the transcendental pragmatic approach.” (TJ: 22).

Habermas wishes to maintain the Kantian distinctions between 'subjective nature', 'objective nature' and 'nature in itself' even after the detranscendentalisation. According to critics (like McCarthy and Whitebook) this leads to contradictions and aporias. Habermas retorts that the said aporias result because of the representational model of knowledge that is presupposed. If we move on to a pragmatist conception of knowledge the aporias vanish away. The function of the pragmatist conception of knowledge here is that it helps maintain a distinction between 'objective nature' and 'nature in itself' which is important for Habermas' weak naturalism.

Friday, May 06, 2005

"Europa ist heute in einem miserablen Zustand"

Der Philosoph Jürgen Habermas hat auf Einladung des Warschauer Goethe-Instituts Polen besucht und in öffentlichen Diskussionen seine Sicht der Lage in Europa verteidigt. Mit Jürgen Habermas sprach der polnische Publizist Adam Krzeminski.

Die Welt: 2003 haben Sie zusammen mit Jacques Derrida ein Manifest des europäischen Selbstverständnisses geschrieben. Ein kantianisch friedfertiges Europa solle ein Korrektiv sein zu den "martialischen" USA. Die Realität heute ist verwickelter. Die Amerikaner haben Saddam gestürzt und zwei Jahre später Wahlen im Irak durchgesetzt.

Jürgen Habermas: Nach meiner Beobachtung haben die zweifelhaften Folgen der völkerrechtswidrigen Invasion in den Irak auch die einstigen Kriegsbefürworter nachdenklich gemacht. Natürlich hoffe ich mit Ihnen darauf, daß sich dort wenigstens ein halbwegs liberales Regime durchsetzen wird. Aber eine möglicherweise eintretende positive Folge kann doch nicht ausreichen, um die Kantsche Testfrage zu bejahen: Ob wir unter gleichen Umständen, also ohne Evidenzen für eine unmittelbar bevorstehende Gefahr, wieder so handeln - und dabei die Verantwortung für Zehntausende von Opfern übernehmen - sollten. Wenn man schon das Völkerrecht beiseite schiebt, sollten wir als Intellektuelle wenigstens moralische Skrupel haben und fragen, ob sich der Fall Irak verallgemeinern läßt. Warum Irak, wenn nicht Usbekistan - ein Land, das die USA stattdessen dankbar in die Koalition der Willigen aufgenommen haben?

Unter den EU-Mitgliedern gab es aus guten normativen Gründen kein einziges Land, in dem eine Mehrheit der Bevölkerung diesen Krieg in irgendeiner Phase unterstützt hätte - auch in Polen nicht. Und warum sollten sich Demokraten nicht von der Tatsache beeindrucken lassen, daß in London und Rom, Madrid und Barcelona, Paris und Berlin Proteste in einer Größenordnung stattgefunden haben, die die größten jemals seit 1945 beobachteten Demonstrationen um ein Mehrfaches in den Schatten gestellt haben? Heute ist das Zerwürfnis, das zwischen den Regierungen, nicht zwischen den Völkern Europas bestanden hat, abgeklungen; es hat aber in ganz Europa eine Katerstimmung hinterlassen.

Die Welt: Die "Alteuropäer" dagegen wollen China Demokratie bescheinigen, um Waffen verkaufen zu können und sehen in Putin einen "lupenreinen Demokraten". Ist dieses angeblich so friedfertige "alte Europa" nicht verlogen?

Habermas: Ich stimme Ihnen in der Kritik an dem wirtschaftsopportunistischen Verhalten der Berliner Regierung gegenüber Rußland und China vorbehaltlos zu. Diese normativ rückgratlose Politik wird in der deutschen, gerade in der linksliberalen Öffentlichkeit ebenso entschieden kritisiert wie in Polen. Für Europa ist es gut, wenn sich die öffentliche Meinung in allen Mitgliedstaaten gleichzeitig an denselben Themen in ähnlicher Weise polarisiert.

Die Welt: Die EU scheint heute keinen Aufwind zu haben. Ist ein europäischer Verfassungspatriotismus überhaupt möglich?

Habermas: Europa ist heute in einem miserablen Zustand. Die Tatsache, daß Rumsfeld Europa gleichsam über Nacht in ein "altes" und ein "neues" Europa spalten konnte, hat uns zu Bewußtsein gebracht, wie sehr wir alle die politische Gegenwart aus der beschränkten und manchmal verzerrenden Perspektive unserer jeweils eigenen Erfahrungen und nationalgeschichtlichen Traumata wahrnehmen. Soziale Egoismen lassen sich nach den üblichen Verfahren der Kompromißbildung bearbeiten, nationale Mythen nicht. Diese bilden ein trügerisches Sicherheitsnetz, in das wir uns nur zu leicht fallen lassen, wenn wir vor etwas Angst bekommen und das Gleichgewicht verlieren. Ich will damit sagen, daß es in Europa nicht um diese oder jene Art von Patriotismus geht, sondern um das elementare Vertrauen darauf, daß uns die jeweils anderen im Konfliktfall nicht über den Tisch ziehen. Dieses Grundvertrauen fehlt, solange wir uns noch nicht als Mitglieder desselben Gemeinwesens verstehen. Für die einen ist die Nato vertrauenswürdiger als die EU, für die anderen setzt der europäische Wohlfahrtsstaat einen vertrauenswürdigeren Maßstab als der hegemoniale Liberalismus, der freie Märkte und freie Wahlen notfalls mit militärischer Gewalt durchsetzt.

Die Welt: Der heftige Streit um das Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen zeigt, daß der Wettlauf der nationalen Leiden in Europa weiterhin im Gange ist, und die Europäer Schwierigkeiten haben, gemeinsame Geschichtserzählungen zu (er)finden. Der Holocaust jedenfalls scheint dabei als Gründungsmythos des vereinten Europa nicht auszureichen.

Habermas: Der Bezugspunkt des Historikerstreites war die eigene Nation, das eigene nationale Selbstverständnis. Der Holocaust ist nach wie vor konstitutiv für das Selbstverständnis der Bürger der Bundesrepublik. Gewiß, seit der Wiedervereinigung mit der DDR, die noch einmal ein Stück Spätstalinismus ins ohnehin schwer belastete nationale Erbe eingebracht hat, sind wir mit einer "doppelten Vergangenheit" konfrontiert. Das hat an der gemeinsamen Haftung der Deutschen für den Holocaust nichts geändert.

Während wir uns aus der Täterrolle nicht herausstehlen können, liegen die Dinge in Polen offensichtlich ganz anders; Sie sind in erster Linie die Opfer von Hitler und Stalin geworden. Und für das politische Selbstverständnis der Polen mag der Stalinismus im Verhältnis zum Faschismus ein anderes Gewicht haben. Jede Nation muß zunächst einmal mit der eigenen Geschichte ins Reine kommen, und das heißt auch mit ihrem Verhältnis zu den Nationen, denen sie Leid und Unrecht zugefügt hat - ganz zu schweigen von den Menschheitsverbrechen, die die Deutschen an Polen und auf polnischem Boden verübt haben. Ein europäisches Geschichtsverständnis kann sich nur in einem weiteren Schritt, und zwar aus einer wechselseitigen Perspektivenübernahme herausbilden. In diesem europäischen Horizont müssen dann die Vertreibungen und Zwangsumsiedlungen in ihrem komplexen Zusammenhang, muß der Völkermord an den Armeniern, muß auch der Luftkrieg gegen die Zivilbevölkerung in den deutschen Städten, müssen alle historischen Tatbestände aufgearbeitet werden, für die heute der internationale Strafgerichtshof in Den Haag zuständig ist. Nur so kann vielleicht die schwache Kraft der Erinnerung noch eine heilende Wirkung entfalten und zu Versöhnung und Vertrauensbildung unter den Nachgeborenen beitragen.

Die Welt: 2001 haben Sie in der Paulskirche die Aufklärung mit dem religiösen Denken zu versöhnen versucht. Dann diskutierten Sie mit Kardinal Ratzinger. Wie christlich ist Europa? Und stellt sich die Frage, wer europäischer ist, die Türkei oder die Ukraine?

Habermas: Die Katholische Kirche hat seit dem Zweiten Vatikanum mit dem "Liberalismus", d.h. mit Rechtsstaat und Demokratie, ihren Frieden gemacht. Deshalb gab es in der Frage der "vorpolitischen Grundlagen der Demokratie" zwischen dem damaligen Kardinal Ratzinger und mir keine großen Differenzen. Die Gemeinsamkeiten erstrecken sich auch auf bestimmte bioethische Fragen, die sich heute aus Fortschritten in Medizin, Gentechnik oder Hirnforschung ergeben. Mein Freund Johann Baptist Metz, der auf meinen Wunsch an jener Diskussion teilgenommen hat, war nachher über den milden Tenor der Auseinandersetzung etwas irritiert. Aber in den theologischen und kirchenpolitischen Streit wollte ich mich als Nicht-Katholik nicht einmischen.

Das heißt ja nicht, daß keine Meinungsgegensätze mehr bestehen. Ich sehe beispielsweise die möglichen Beitritte der Türkei und der Ukraine zur EU nicht als eine Alternative. Die unbestrittene Tatsache, daß die europäische Kultur tief im Christentum verwurzelt ist, kann das politische Gemeinwesen der europäischen Bürger nicht allein auf christliche Wertgrundlagen verpflichten. Die Europäische Union ist so wie auch jeder einzelne ihrer Mitgliedstaaten zur weltanschaulichen Neutralität gegenüber den rasch wachsenden Zahlen der säkularen und der nicht-christlichen Bürger verpflichtet. Das sollte man aber nicht zu einer säkularistischen Weltanschauung aufbauschen. Aus dem Gebot der Unparteilichkeit gegenüber allen Religionsgemeinschaften und allen Weltanschauungen ergibt sich noch nicht zwingend eine laizistische Kirchenpolitik, die heute selbst in Frankreich kritisiert wird.

Ich glaube, daß der liberale Staat schon aus eigenem Interesse behutsam mit allen Ressourcen umgehen sollte, aus denen sich die moralische Sensibilität seiner Bürger speist. Diese Ressourcen drohen um so eher auszutrocknen, je mehr die Lebenswelt ökonomischen Imperativen unterworfen wird. Nach neoliberalem Dogma zieht sich heute die Politik aus lebenswichtigen Bereichen wie Bildung, Energie, öffentlichem Verkehr und Kultur, auch aus der Vorsorge für die Standardrisiken des Arbeitsleben, immer weiter zurück und überläßt die sogenannten Modernisierungsverlierer sich selbst. Wenn wir den Kapitalismus nicht zähmen, fördert er eine ausgelaugte, eine entleerende Modernisierung. Angesichts dieser Tendenz zum Verdorren aller normativen Sensibilitäten verändert sich auch die politische Konstellation zwischen Aufklärung und Religion. Als ein säkularer Bürger sage ich, daß sich Glauben und Wissen selbstreflexiv der jeweils eigenen Grenzen vergewissern müssen.

Die Welt: Welche Bedeutung kann die Wahl von Joseph Ratzinger zum Papst für Europa und für Deutschland haben?

Habermas: Ich freue mich über die Geste, daß der Papst als erstes Land Polen besuchen will. Die persönliche Nähe zu seinem Vorgänger wird natürlich auch in Deutschland wahrgenommen. Andersgläubige oder säkulare Bürger müssen nicht unbedingt so kühl auf den neuen Papst reagieren wie Timothy Garton Ash. Es mag ja der Fall eintreten, daß die Entchristianisierung Europas im gleichen Rhythmus weiter fortschreitet, wie es - mit der einzigen Ausnahme Polens und Irlands - die Statistiken der letzten 60 Jahre belegen. Aber dafür gibt es konventionelle soziologische Erklärungen. An dem neuen Papst würde es mit Sicherheit nicht liegen. Im übrigen scheint die symbolische Bezugnahme auf Benedikt von Nursia, die mit der Wahl des Namens Benedikt XVI. verbunden ist, ein Hinweis darauf zu sein, daß dieser Papst selbst mit einer solchen Möglichkeit rechnet und die Kirche für eine Situation wetterfest machen will, in der die Christen zu einer Minderheit schrumpfen.

Der Philosoph Jürgen Habermas über rückgratlose Politik in Deutschland, die heilende Kraft der Erinnerung und den neuen Papst

Artikel erschienen am Mi, 4. Mai 2005

Reconciliation with Nature: A Habermasian project

I have been arguing that Habermas' project can be understood as aimed at reconciliation between nature and reason. It can be asked however that if Habermas has been committed to the project of overcoming disenchantment in the sense I have described (for example here) why this has not been acknowledged in the literature where he is constantly accused of abandoning the Adornian project of reconciliation with nature. The answer lies in the following:

1)As a thinker who is committed to working from “within” Habermas starts with accepting what he considers to be the legitimate part of the project of both Weber and Adorno. He accepts the Weberian critique of purposive rationality and the Adornian critique of instrumental rationality and presumes them in his project.

2)He wants to counter what he considers to be the pessimism as well as the theoretical mistake of both Weber and Adorno of equating instrumental rationality with rationality as such. Habermas spends considerable amount of time developing an alternative conception of raitoanlity which can not be reduced to the instrumental rationality. This move helps Habermas on the one hand to accept the critique of both Weber and Adorno while countering their pessimism since he shows that rationality cannot be equated with instrumental rationality.

3)By developing a conception of communicative rationality that is an embedded rationality fully anchored in non objectifiable lifeworld(s) Habermas in fact develop a concept of reconciled rationality that is compatible with Modern search for autonomy and with modern individualism (at least this is his project).

4)Finally Habermas believes that with the linguistic turn we have already overcome the epistemological gap between world and reason. The challenge of the new paradigm is different from the one Adorno or Weber concentrated on. The new problematic is contextualism and not bridging the gulf between reason and world (which does not exist in the first place and was only an artificial creation of a false/one sided conception of rationality). With the linguistic turn we have a new challenge. Now we have to think how to preserve the transcending power of reason while respecting the particularities of different lifeworlds and their embedded character.

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.

previous post here

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Habermas and Empiricism

Habermas preserves the empiricist emphasis on the centrality of "experience" for any viable account of knowledge and rationality, while he problematises its understanding of “experience” itself. For this he turns to such pragmatism and (most notably) Heidegger. In his short piece on Dewey he writes the following important lines:

“In The Quest for Certainty, Dewey criticizes the empiricist “spectator model of knowledge,” according to which elementary sensations provide a firm basis for experiences. In fact, experiences are gained only in interaction with a reality against which behavioral expectations may run aground. For this reason reality is disclosed not through the receptivity of sense, but rather in a context of projecting and performing actions that succeed or fail. Objects are not “conceived” independently of the controlled outcome of deliberately performed actions. Therein lies the significance of scientific experiments.” (in Habermas and Pragmatism, p. 231).

Though Habermas in turn criticises pragmatists like Dewey for the narrowness of their concept of action and hence experience he credits them for paving the way for overcoming a narrow conception of experience derived from the empiricist tradition. In the above quote the key is Habermas’ rejection of the “sensory” model of experience. For Habermas our related with reality is move “involved” and hence our notion of experience more “embedded” than what the empiricist tradition would like us to believe.

In fact it can be argued that Habermas’ real inspiration and model in this regard is not pragmatists but Heidegger, as the following two quotes make it clear. Speaking of Apel and himself Habermas writes:

“Our early familiarity with, and learning towards, philosophical anthropology and the analytic of Dasein in Being and Time (Heidegger and analysis of “being in the world” in particular) had prepared us for a pragmatist epistemology.” (Habermas and Pragmatism, p. 227).

It is interesting to note that Habermas singles out “being in the world” as the most important element of Heidegger’s analysis. In is Discourse of Modernity in his extended discussion of Heidegger Habermas equates his own notion of lifeworld with that of ‘being in the world.” In this context it is worthwhile to recall Joachin Renn’s following remarks on Habemras’ strategy of “integrating the ‘good parts’ of his opponents’ thoeorizing into his own approach”:

“Thus, Heidegger, for instance, who serves as the central opponent with regard to hermentucial overemphasis of the linguistic function of world disclosure . . . provides the notion of ‘being in the world,’ which Habermas adopts to re-describe the concept of Lebenswelt (Husserl) as the resource of pragmatic relation to the world.” ("One World is Enough" p. 489).

In his Dewey essay mentioned above Habermas’ wrote about Heidegger that:

“Heidegger, too, drew tacitly upon the insights of pragmatism in Being and Time, in the analyses of “equipment,” the “ready-to-hand,” and “context of involvement.” With the concept of “being in the world,” Heidegger also participated in the anti-Platonic thrust of pragmatism.” (Habermas and Pragmatism, p. 231).

It is interesting to note that among contemporary "pragmatists" Brandom has returned to Heidegger’s analysis of the exactly those concepts of Heidegger’s Being and Time which Habermas has emphasised as central for his concerns (see Robert Brandom, “ Heidegger’s Categories in Being and Time” The Monist 66, no 3 (1983), pp. 387-409, also reproduced in A companion to Heidegger, pp. 214-232).

For Habermas, in order to overcome bald naturalism it is necessary to overcome a narrow empiricist conception of experience.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Weak Naturalism: The Strategy

Weak naturalism starts with an assumption:

Our “learning process” are the continuation of the learning process that have been going on in the natural and biological stages of evolution.

But crucially:

Habermas differentiates between “continuation” and “mere continuation”: Here is the key passage (from Habermas’ discussion of Peirce):

“If the learning processes of human species merely continue, in reflexive form, those of nature, then argumentation, or what one human being has to say to another, and the power of the better argument to convince, both lose the weight and value that are proper to them. The unforced agreement of individuals who hold one another accountable, and who are faced with opinions that differ form person to person, ought to issue form argumentation by virtue of the latter’s specific character. But this specific achievement falls victim to the leveling force of a universalism propelling itself inferentially from within reality itself. The multivocal character of intersubjectivity becomes an epiphenomenon.” (TJ: 109, italics added).

The assumption of weak naturalism understood in the above sense (or terms) can be regarded as the assumption about the emergence of what Allison has called absolute spontaneity (as against relative spontaneity) from within “nature itself.”

The above is supposed to be an answer to the questions like this:

If every thing is to be described ultimately in naturalistic terms (broadly construed) then it needs to be explained how freedom comes here in the first place.

The above explains in part how Kant can be reconciled with Darwin. Habermas does not give an overall argument for how freedom emerges from nature (apart from his assumption of weak naturalism and his conception of language as half transcendence) but he gives us an overall indication of how the Kantian notion of freedom can be reconciled with Darwinain naturalism.

A main part of Habermas’ strategy in this context is to distinguish between objective nature and primordial nature, a strategy that is reminiscent of Schelling (cf. PT: 20). [Relavent here is the difference between “objective nature,” “subjective nature,” and “nature in itself.” The significance of Habermas distinction between “instrumental” conception of reason and communicative reason and his methodological dualism is obvious in this context].

But with regard to the above different authors have pointed out the dilemma that emerges when we try to maintain the concept of “nature in itself.” within an overall Kantianism. Habermas' replies to this worry by spelling out his conception of the pragmatic conception of knowledge (TJ: introduction]. Habermas maintains that the aporias pointed out by different authors only apply to if we presuppose a representational model of knowledge (TJ: 22).

It is only then that we can start thinking of reconciling Kant and Hegel or alternatively start thinking of how transcending character of reason can be reconciled with a thoroughgoing detranscendentalisation.

Kant, Hegel, Darwin and weak naturalism

Detranscendentalisation is a kind of naturalism that does not entail “bald naturalism.” This is so because:

Detranscendentalisation paves way for understanding Kantian “transcendentalism” in “this worldly” terms.

(The above is possible in large part because Kant’s transcendentalism is already a form of detranscendentalisation, for this see TJ: 177 and 180).

The name of the strategy for the above is Habermas’ weak naturalism: Habermas weak naturalism reconciles Kant with Darwin. Once Kant is reconciled with Darwin then we can think of reconciling Kant with Hegel. Thus:

Weak naturalism gives us an opportunity to conceive Kantianism (or Kantian transcendentalism) in the context of an overall Darwinian picture of the world.

Once the above is conceived then we can think of reconciling Kant and Hegel, i.e. on the one hand detranscendentalising Kant but without loosing the basic idea of transcending character of reason. This would require moving towards the notion of “transcendence from within” or "immanent transcendence."

"Both the historicist tradition from Dilthey to Heidegger and the pragmatist tradition from Peirce to Dewey (and in a sense, Wittgenstein) understand the task of “situating reason” as one of detranscendentalizing the knowing subject. The finite subject is to be situated “in the world” without entirely losing its “world-constituting” spontaneity. To the extent, the encounter between McCarthy and the followers of Heidegger, Dewey, and Wittgenstein is a domestic dispute over which side accomplishes the detranscendentalization in the right way: whether the traces of a transcending reason vanish in the sand of historicism and contextualism or whether a reason embodied in historical contexts preserves the power of immanent transcendence." (TJ, p.84).

Interestingly in a note to the above passage Habermas refers to his own dispute with McCarthy as “the domestic dispute within the domestic dispute.” (p. 303 n. 5).

“inaccessibility” to the world or reconciliation between reason and nature?

In his critique of Rorty, McDowell says that the problem is not the “answerability” to the world but “inaccessibility” to the world. As he puts it:

“The culprit, rather, is a frame of mind in which the world to which we want to conceive our thinking as answerable threatens to withdraw out of reach of anything we can think of as our means of access to it. A gap threatens to open between us and what we should like to conceive ourselves as knowing about, and it then seems to be a task for philosophy to show us ways to bridge the gulf. It is this threat of inaccessibility on the part of the world that we need to dislodge, in order to unmask as illusory the seeming part of the very idea of the world as something other than ourselves to which our investigative activities are answerable.” (“Towards rehabilitating Objectivity,” in Rorty and his critics ed. By Robert Brandom, pp. 109-123, here p. 110.)

Haberams does not see even “inaccessibility” as a problem. The problem of accessibility has been solved by Hegel and Heidegger among others. Habermas explicitly says this in his reply to Rorty:

“. . . we as socialized individuals, always already find ourselves in the linguistically disclosed horizon of our lifeworld [which] implies an unquestioned background of intersubjectively shared convictions, proven true in practice, which makes nonsense of total doubt as to the accessibility of the world. Language, which we cannot “get outside of,” should not be understood in analogy to the inwardness of a representing subject who is as if cut off from the external world of representable objects. The relationship between justifiability and truth, although in need of clarifications, signals no gulf between inner and outer, no dualism that would have to be bridged and that could give rise to the skeptical doubt as to whether our world as a whole is an illusion. The pragmatic turn pulls the rug from under this skepticism. There is a simple reason for this. In everyday practices, we cannot use language without acting.” (Richard Rorty’s Pragmatic Turn, in OPC, pp. 341-382, here, p. 359).

Habermas makes it clear that the problem of inaccessibility vanishes away with passing away of mentalism. With linguistic problem we are faced with a new problem and that problem is not inaccessibility to the world or radical doubt but that of contextualism: “the contextualism is built into the basic concepts of linguistic paradigm just as skepticism is built into mentalism.” (p. 355).

Contextualsim is the result of detranscendentalisation and desublimation of reason. The question is whether in the wake of this desublimation we can preserve the world transcending powers of reason without giving up the hard won naturalization of reason. In this way the problem of reconciliations recurs but in a new form. Now it is a question of reconciliation between reason and nature and not the problem of mere accessiblity to nature.
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