Friday, December 29, 2006

Free Will as Part of Nature: Habermas and His Critics

a special issue of Philosophical Explorations: An International Journal of the Philosophy of Mind and Action 10:1 (March 2007), edited by Joel Anderson


Joel Anderson, "Introduction"

Lead Article:

Jürgen Habermas, “The Language Game of Responsible Agency and the Problem of Free Will: How Can Epistemic Dualism Be Reconciled with Ontological Monism?” (trans. Joel Anderson)

Commentaries on Habermas's essay:

Randolph Clarke, "The Appearance of Freedom"
Michael Quante, "Habermas on Compatibilism and Ontological Monism: Some problems"
John Searle, "Neuroscience, Intentionality and Free Will: Reply to Habermas"
Timothy Schroeder, "Reflection, Reason, and Free Will"


Jürgen Habermas, “Reply to Schroeder, Clarke, Searle, and Quante” (trans. Joel Anderson)

[posting here due to its extreme importance, will eventually move to Habermasian resources]

Habermasian Resources blog

I have created a separate blog (entitled, "Habermasian Resources") for Habermas related resources. From now on this blog will be reserved for more substantial discussion of Habermas' work and for important quotes from Hab's work. In due time, I shall move, all non substantial posts to the new blog. Needless to say, posting on this blog from now on would be less frequent.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Truth and justification - the essential link

“Argumentation remains the only available medium of ascertaining truth since truth claims that have been problematized cannot be tested in any other way. There is no unmediated, discursively unfiltered access to the truth conditions of empirical beliefs. There is no unmediated, discursively unfiltered access to the truth conditions of empirical beliefs. After all, only the truth of unsettled beliefs is subject to question – beliefs that have been roused from the unquestioned mode of functioning practical certainties. Although we cannot sever the connection of truth and justification, this epistemically unavoidable connection must not be turned into a conceptually inseparable connection in the form of an epistemic concept of truth.” (TJ: italics in the original).

This is without doubt a very crucial passage for understanding Habermas’ transition from an epistemic conception of truth to a more ontologically tuned conception of truth. However, I shall mention one key problem with this passage. The passage implies that if we had unmediated access to the truth conditions of empirical beliefs we could have been able circumvent argumentation. However, this is misleading. The reason for argumentation being the sole medium of ascertaining is not just epistemic; it is also “discursive.” The latter follows from Habermas’ rejection of the notion of truth as ‘evidence’ (see his critique of Husserl in OPSI). The game of truth cannot circumvent the game of argumentation because the “truth conditions” of beliefs can support beliefs only by being converted into “reasons.” Truth game is squarely located within the space of reason and since the space of reason is sustained by the game of argumentation even if we had unmediated access to the truth conditions we could not have avoided the game of argumentation. That’s why the problem of bringing “propositions/statements” face to face with the world itself is such an issue for Habermas.

Handley paper for free download!

I have just noticed that Steven Hendley's paper on Habermas (the abstract of which was posted earlier) is available for free download from here

A brief note on relation between "epistemic" and "discursive" in Habermas

“The epistemic conception of truth transforms the (two-place) validity (Gültigkeit) of the proposition p into the (three-place) validity (Geltung) “for us” or acceptance “by us” . . . .” (TJ: 37). Habermas’ epistemic "turn" is part of his rejection of objectivism and should be understood as part of his adherence to the phenomenological tradition (see for example TCA I: 11 for this). Habermas’ epistemic turn is conceptually distinct from his discursive "turn" whereby “reasons” are conceptualised with reference to the practice of giving and defending reasons and not monologically. Although Habermas’ epistemic turn and his discursive turn are conceptually distinct, in practice they are intertwined. This amounts to saying that although in Habermas epistemic and discursive are intertwined they need not be in general [Kant’s theory, for example, is epistemic but not discursive in Habermas’ sense]. Habermas’ discourse theory of truth was both epistemic and discursive. The move away from the discursive theory of truth to a more ontologically tuned theory of truth in part results from the realisation that “although we cannot sever the connection of truth and justification, this epistimically unavoidable connection must not be turned into a conceptually inseparable connection in the form of an epistemic concept of truth.” (TJ: 38, emphasis in the original).

Habermas's realism and his epistemic concption of truth

I want to bring together two important comments posted on this topic. The comments were response to the abstract of "Habermas between Metaphysical and Natural Realism." I hope to write a more substantial post on this topic in the coming days: Here are the two comments:

"This is bullshit, in the typical publish-or-perish sense of rhetoric for the C.V. If a conception of truth is relative to conditions of rationality, then it's a discursive conception, not an "epistemic conception". There's no "decisive rejection" of his epistemic conception of truth, because realism requires an epistemic conception of truth. To claim that Habermas "severs any conceptual link between truth and justification" shows that the author hasn't really read the "truth and justification" section of "Further Clarifications on Communicative Action" in On the Pragmatics of Communication, nor Truth and Justification. Besides, one can't logically "respect[] the epistemic relevance of justification for ascertaining the truth" without a conceptual link between truth and justification. Furthermore, it's implausible to acknowledge Habermas' appreciation for fallibilism in justification while also claiming he "veers too close to a form of metaphysical realism." To say that Hilary Putnam is more successful is only to say that the author doesn't understand Habermas, because Habermas clearly understands Putnam ("Some Further Clarifications"), while Putnam doesn't understand Habermas (Collapse of the fact / value dichotomy)."

Dr. Spinoza replied:

"If an "epistemic conception of truth" is taken to mean that truth is indistinguisable from idealized warrant -- what would be warranted under ideal conditions -- then I cannot see how realism requires such a conception.

On the contrary, I would tend to think that it is a commitment to such a conception, as found in "middle" Putnam and also in Rorty -- is crucial for the rejection of realism.

More generally, I tend to think that realism -- however "natural," "direct," "metaphysical," etc. -- requires a distinction between truth and justification. Where Rorty is usually regarded as having gone off the rails is where he follows James, or a certain strand in James, in thinking that there's nothing to be said about the difference between truth and justification. As he puts it, the phrase "justified but perhaps not true" only means "justified to us, but perhaps not justified to our descendents." Here the distinction between truth and justification collapses.

In more recent work, it should be noted, Rorty makes a distinction between a concept of truth that is identical with justification and a concept of truth that is expressed in disquotation. And that clearly cannot be an epistemic conception of truth, but it is a conception of truth that can play no idealizing or regulatory work for us at all. Hence, as Rorty puts it, truth cannot be "a goal of inquiry."

That aside, I do wonder at how sophisticated a reading could be which identifies Habermas' new-found respect for "weak naturalism" as veering too close to "metaphysical realism." The real bugbear for Habermas, it strikes me, is the danger of lapsing into idealism. The Frankfurters tried to keep their idealist tendencies in check through an eclectic borrowing from Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud -- which gave their work an emphasis on materiality, historicity, embodiment, and desire. But the giants of "German Materialism" (as Brian Leiter calls it) have been abandoned by Habermas.

On the other hand, if idealism is a manifestation of metaphysical realism (as Kant himself suggested, empirical idealism is transcendental realism), then perhaps there's something to the worry after all."

I think there is much to learn from both comments and I shall write on some of the issues raised in these comments in the coming days. However, here I wish to retract my earlier hasty agreement with the first comments. I am reading the paper more carefully now and though the author misunderstands Habermas at points the paper is worth reading and raises important questions about Habermas' conception of truth. More on the paper in the coming days...

Whom to thank?

German philosopher (and Habermas' important interlocutor) Ernst Tugendhat on religion as a need and the difficulty of satisfying it

"Faust avoided Gretchen's question "Do you believe in God?" But what should someone say who refuses to avoid the question and yet isn't naive? I believe that on the one hand the need to believe in God is not only a cultural, but also an anthropological phenomenon, founded in the structure of human being. Today, however, people can't give in to this need without fooling themselves. What we have here is a contradiction between need and feasibility. Seen logically, such contradictions are harmless, and relatively normal in human life.

Let me clarify this with an example. People – at least in general – have a need to go on living. That too is anthropologically founded. Yet this need stands in contradiction to reality: all individual life ceases to exist after a time. However the need to go on living is so deeply rooted that people in all cultures have attempted in one way or another, with or without religion, to construct a life after death."

Full here

Habermas, Fest und die "Rehabilitierung von Nazi-Denkern"

Habermas, Fest und die "Rehabilitierung von Nazi-Denkern"
Eine Stellungnahme von Ernst Nolte
Von Arno Orzessek

Ein Gerücht lässt die alten Fronten im Historikerstreit erneut sichtbar werden. Der Philosoph Jürgen Habermas sei in seiner Jugend ein strammer Nazi gewesen, so behauptete der im September verstorbene Publizist Joachim Fest in seinen Memoiren. Und er gründete diese These auf Spekulationen um ein angeblich belastendes Schriftstück, das Habermas von seinem Freund, dem Historiker Hans- Ulrich Wehler, zurückbekommen und aufgegessen haben soll. Wehler und Habermas sagen, hier habe ein Gerücht um eine harmlose Mahnung, weil Wehler einen Erste-Hilfe-Kurs geschwänzt habe, im Laufe der Jahre immer weitere Blüten getrieben. Und Joachim Fest habe das ganze wider besseres Wissen öffentlich gemacht, weil er Habermas die Kritik an seinem Verhalten im Historikerstreit nicht verziehen habe. Damals hatte Fest als Herausgeber der FAZ dem Historiker Ernst Nolte ein Forum gegeben. Und Habermas hatte Nolte vorgeworfen, die Nazi-Verbrechen zu verharmlosen. Nun hat sich auch Ernst Nolte geäußert.

full here

Habermasian reflections has a co-blogger

Habermasian Reflections has a co-blogger from Russia. Konstantin Kokarev is a postgraduate student with interests in "political science, theory of political legitimacy, literature from Scandinavia."

If there are any other Habermasians out there willing to join us as co-bloggers, please let us know.

Laudatio for Ronald Dworkin

"On December 15, 2006, professor Ronald Dworkin received the Bielefeld Science Award in Bielefeld, Germany. Dworkin is professor at the New York University School of Law and at the University College London. The award is set up in memory of the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann.

The laudatio for Ronald Dworkin was held by professor Jürgen Habermas.

"Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" has published Habermas' speech in its issue Monday December 18:

"Wer kann wen umarmen? Konsensussuche im Streit: Lobrede auf Ronald Dworkin, den Philosophen, Polemiker und Bürger".

From the speech:

(....) Dworkin "ist ein Solitär sowohl im Kreise der Rechtsgelehrten wie der Philosophen, er genießt große Reputation unter den öffentlichen Intellektuellen seines Landes, er ist ein begnadeter politischer Redner. Mit etwas weniger Brillanz, Widerspruchsgeist und Genialität wäre er längst Richter am Supreme Court in Washington geworden." (....)

"Er kämpft nicht nur gegen Rechtspositivisten, die die moralischen Gehalte des Recht neutralisieren, sondern auch gegen Rechtsrealisten, die das Recht an die Politik angleichen und es als ein weiteres Instrument zur Gestaltung der Zukunft gebrauchen. Dworkin verteidigt den normativen Eigensinn des Rechtsmediums gegenüber dem Versuch, das Recht in seiner Rolle als Organisationsmittel der staatlichen Macht aufgehen zu lassen. Wer Rechte ernst nimmt, darf sie nicht gegen unerwünschte Konsequenzen abwägen und die Konditionalprogramme, wie Luhmann sagen würde, den Zielprogrammen einfach unterordnen." (....)

"Dworkin wollte von vornherein die Politik- und Rechtsphilosophie auf ein breiteres Fundament stellen. Er entfaltet die Grundbegriffe und Verfahren des demokratischen Rechtsstaates aus der Substanz und dem kämpferischen Geist eines ethischen Liberalismus. Dieser steht und fällt mit einer bevorzugten Konzeption des richtigen Lebens und einer spezifischen Lebensform.Der Aristoteliker in Ronald Dworkin scheut vor einer anthropologischen Begründung der gerechten politischen Ordnung nicht zurück. Das richtige Bild vom Menschen trägt die ästhetisch-expressiven Züge der schöpferischen Person, die die Verpflichtung spürt, aus ihrem Leben etwas Produktives zu machen. Am Anfang steht die Einsicht, daß wir für die Gestaltung unseres eigenen Lebens verantwortlich sind. Kant behält nicht das letzte Wort. Am Jüngsten Tage müssen wir Rechenschaft ablegen, aber nicht in erster Linie über die Wunden, die wir anderen zugefügt haben, sondern über die verspielten Möglichkeiten des eigenen, falsch genutzten Lebens. Die Achtung gegenüber anderen gründet in der Generalisierung dieser Pflicht sich selbst gegenüber. Dieser Vorrang der ethischen Freiheit des einzelnen Gesellschaftsbürgers vor der moralisch-politischen Freiheit des Staatsbürgers erklärt auch den zwischen Rawls' und Dworkins Konzeptionen der Verteilungsgerechtigkeit." (.....)

"Dworkin läßt kein heißes Eisen aus. Er verhandelt uneingeschüchtert Guantánamo und die Verweigerung von Justizgrundrechten, die terroristischen Gefahren und jene Folterpraktiken, die als coercive interrogation verniedlicht werden; er diskutiert über staatliche Sicherheitsinteressen und die Eingriffe in individuelle Bürgerfreiheiten, über die Todesstrafe und die utilitaristische Aushöhlung des Strafrechts; er spricht über den religiösen Fundamentalismus und die weltanschauliche Neutralität des Staates, über die Homosexuellenehe und das Verhältnis des biblischen Glaubens zur Autorität der Wissenschaften; er erörtert die neoliberale Wirtschaftspolitik und die Frage der sozialen Gerechtigkeit, den Sozialstaat als Legitimitätsbedingung der Demokratie und die Zerstörung der politischen Öffentlichkeit durch die Medienmacht der privaten Konzerne. Aber dieses Mal zeichnet sich seine Argumentation dadurch aus, daß er als Patriot über sehr tiefe Gräben hinweg die Grundlagen der gemeinsamen politischen Kultur beschwört. Hier appelliert einer im Tenor von "We Americans" an die Gegenseite, den besseren Teil der nationalen Werte nicht zu vergessen.

Weil ich weiß, wie sehr mich selbst die Polemik in ähnlich angespannten Situationen reizt, verhehle ich nicht meine Bewunderung für die demokratische Geistesart dieser um Konsens werbenden Intervention, die den Faden der diskursiven Auseinandersetzung auch mit extremen Gegnern nicht abreißen lassen will. Blindes Vertrauen in die Zerreißfestigkeit der eigenen politischen Kultur ist gewiß nicht ungefährlich; aber in begründeten Fällen ist es Ausdruck der reiferen demokratischen Tradition.""

from Habermas Forum

New book on Habermas and religion

"A new book is now available on Jürgen Habermas and religion in the modern society:

Rudolf Langthaler & Herta Nagl-Docekal (eds.)- Glauben und Wissen. Ein Symposium mit Jürgen Habermas (Akademie Verlag, 2006)

The book has contributions from Maeve Cooke, Christian Danz, Reinhold Esterbauer, Rudolf Langthaler, Wilhelm Lütterfelds, Klaus Müller, Ludwig Nagl, Herta Nagl-Docekal, Walter Raberger, Johann Reikersdorfer, Thomas M. Schmidt, Hans Julius Schneider und Magnus Striet.

And a reply from Jürgen Habermas: ”Replik auf Einwände, Reaktion auf Anregungen”."

from Habermas Forum

Monday, December 25, 2006

Theoretical paradise – empirically lost? Arguing with Habermas

Jürgen Habermas' thinking gained influence within the German International Relations (IR) community in the early 1990s. At the core of the so-called ‘ZIB-debate’ was the controversy whether rationalist theory can explain interstate cooperation. Constructivists accused rationalists of ignoring communication, language and reason, thereby leaving a logical gap in their analyses of interstate cooperation. This gap exists between the plausible motivation for states to cooperate and their actual achievement of cooperation. Rationalist approaches assume that actors face problematic, interdependent situations, in which they can only optimise their preferences by collaboration. Such situations involve a plausible motivation for actors to cooperate but they are not a sufficient condition to ensure that cooperation will actually happen. What is missing is a theoretical link between a general motivation to cooperate and its realisation, given that rationalist theory, following realism, regularly assumes a dangerous anarchical environment with its daunting security dilemma. These circumstances make cooperation risky and should normally work as a show-stopper for nation-states to collaborate.

Review of International Studies (2005), 31: 167-179 Cambridge University Press

A review of "The Future of Human Nature"

Germany—even when contrasted with other European countries—has taken a very conservative attitude toward anything that smacks of eugenics (for clear historical reasons), and Habermas has been one of the most prominent voices reminding his countrymen that they cannot and dare not forget the errors of their past. In the three lectures compiled in this recent book he speaks out on some issues that are of great interest to contemporary bioethics, which he sees as related to the history of eugenics. Habermas questions the ethical justification for genetic interventions, embryo research and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

This book consists of a translation of a German essay first published in 2001 by Suhrkamp Verlag in Germany, plus two sections not included in the original German text. A clarifying postscript to the first two chapters was written after presenting the original text to a skeptical audience at a New York University law school colloquium in 2002, and the author also includes his address on the occasion of receiving the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2001. The collection constitutes an important contribution to national and international controversy on current and proposed scientific and medical advances in biomedical research, and will be of interest to any reader of Buchanan, Brock, Daniels and Wickler’s From Chance to Choice or Kass’ Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity."

Read the review in full

Another review of Truth and Justification

Truth and Justification, Jürgen Habermas, edited and with translation by Barbara Fultner, MIT Press, 2003, 349pp, $40.00 (hbk) ISBN 0262083183.

Richard Rorty tells us “most Anglophone philosophers still do not take Hegel seriously.” He continues, “… the rise of what Brandom and McDowell refer to as their ‘Pittsburg School of neo-Hegelians’ may force them. For this school must still pass over from its Kantian to its Hegelian moment.” Habermas’s Truth and Justification is a not so gentle challenge to the spirit of Pittsburg neo-Hegelianism. Habermas is especially uneasy with its emphasis on discursive practices and, its sequela, an epistemic conception of truth. It is well known that Habermas himself defended a discursive view, and the implications he here identifies, until the late 1990s. Qualifying his own transformation, Habermas traces his philosophical development, noting with some restrained approbation, the publication of Rorty’s seminal, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Habermas writes:

When I responded to critiques of Knowledge and Human Interests in the appendix to the paperback addition in 1973, the turn toward a postempiricist philosophy of science had already been initiated by Thomas Kuhn. However, I had not yet fully realized the philosophical implications of a consistent contextualism. Only six years later Richard Rorty precipitated a pragmatic turn in epistemology, in which, despite all our differences, I was able to discern some of my own intentions (p. 9).
Habermas thinks that the pragmatic turn transformed Kant’s transcendental problematic. Much of this book is a serious rethinking of the so-called transcendental problem after pragmatism. Kant, Habermas writes, “ensured the status of the unavoidable conditions of the possibility of cognition as rational and atemporal” (p. 9). Neo-Hegelianism attacks the idealist background set aside to guarantee objectivity; without the self-transcendent guarantees, only an “anthropocentrically contingent and perspectivally curtailed view of the world” is spared. Defending his Kantian intuitions, Habermas thinks “… the difference between the world and what is innerwordly, which is crucial for the architectonic of his [Kant’s] theory, is blurred” (p. 9). Sympathetic to aspects of the pragmatic turn, Habermas sets out to defend both (a) an ontological assumption about a mind-independent world and (b) a nonepistemic conception of truth. However, Habermas wishes to preserve an epistemic conception of normative rightness in the space of moral and legal theory. Much of the book is confined to an analysis of detranscentalized Kantian position; in the last Chapter, “The Relationship between Theory and Practice Revisited,” Habermas discusses the constitutive nature of our moral orientation and how we determine the conditions for rational judgment formation and the reasonableness of moral action. Habermas wonders at the fate of our realist intuitions against the linguistic turn. Noting the appeal behind the move from a Kantian to Hegelian moment, he thinks that our ontology faces a “contextualist challenge.” We are left wondering “whether any sense of context-independent validity can be salvaged from the concept of truth” (249).

We are treated to eight essays in this volume. Each can be read as a stand-alone piece, but taken together they reveal a forceful defense of a “justification-transcendent standard for orienting ourselves by context-independent truth-claims” (254). “Realism after the Linguistic Turn,” the first essay, sets the tone; taken with the second essay, “Hermeneutic and Analytic Philosophy: Two Complementary Versions of the Linguistic Turn,” one gets a compelling appraisal of how language went public, and how, historically, the so-called analytic-continental divide came to characterize twentieth century philosophy. Demonstrating grace and mastery, Habermas is able to move about the divide without difficulty. The other essays include: “From Kant’s ‘Ideas’ of Pure reason to the ‘Idealizing’ Presuppositions of Communicative Action: Reflections on the Detranscendentalized ‘Use of Reason’,” “From Kant to Hegel: On Robert Brandom’s Pragmatic Philosophy of Language,” “From Kant to Hegel and Back Again: The Move Toward Detranscendentalization,” “Norms and Values: On Hilary Putnam’s Kantian Pragmatism,” “Rightness versus Truth: On the Sense of Normative Validity in Moral Judgments and Norms,” and “The Relationship Between Theory and Practice Revisited.”

Habermas, in this volume, is a philosopher of record. His discussions of Brandom’s very important Making it Explicit and of Putnam, of Humboldt’s central place along side Frege in the rise of our linguistic orientation, capture nicely the new divide; we are no longer analytical and continental philosophers—though, of course, we are. Rather, if Habermas is correct, our divisions are preserved by whether our affinities are Kantian or Hegelian.

Karim Dharamsi
The University of Winnipeg

Previously posted reviews of TJ:

A reveiw of Habermas' Truth and Justification

A review of "Truth and Justification"

Truth and Justification, Reviewed by Richard Rorty , Stanford University

When the world withdraws its cooperation

“Languages and practices are corroborated by their continuing “functioning” and “working,” that is, by their successful performance itself. When they fail, the world stops cooperating as expected. Through failure, we experience in practice that the world revokes its readiness to cooperate, and this refusal gives rise the concept of objectivity. The latter extends, on the one hand, to the resistance of a world that is not up to us, that opposes our manipulation on its own terms, and, on the other hand, to the identity of a world shared by everyone. Since in cooperating with the one another, actors mutually presuppose that each refers to the same world from his or her perspective, the world “exits” only in the singular.” (TJ: 255).

Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory and Postmodern Thought

A great resource page on Critical Theory etc.

Communicative Ethics

Source: The inclusion of the Other. Studies in Political Theory. Jürgen Habermas. MIT Press, 1998, parts VIII and IX of Chapter 1 only, reproduced here;
Transcribed by: Andy Blunden.

"It is no accident that the categorical imperative is directed to the second person singular and that it creates the impression that each individual could undertake the required test of norms for himself in foro interno. But in fact the reflexive application of the universalisation test calls for a form of deliberation in which each participant is compelled to adopt the perspective of all others in order to examine whether a norm could be willed by all from the perspective of each person. This is the situation of a rational discourse oriented to reaching understanding in which all those concerned participate. This idea of a discursively produced understanding also imposes a greater burden of justification on the isolated judging subject than would a monologically applied universalisation test."

Read the parts in full here

From Prison to Liberation: An Analysis of Habermas' Critique of Tradition

"Die-hard followers of Gadamer would definitely be uncomfortable with the title of this article as biased and prejudiced in favor of Habermas. I know I have to do a lot of explaining. But allow me to start with the idea of prison. The concept of prison present tradition in a bad light, and Gadamer, the prophet of tradition, becomes an unwitting witness to the imprisonment. It is true that Gadamer counter argued with Habermas concerning the issue of critique. Gadamer always insists that interpretation can only be within the perimeters of tradition as this is part of man's being in the world to use Heidegger. Hence no one can escape tradition. To get out of tradition is a repetition of the mistakes of the Romantic School and the Historical School. Husserl too was caught up with the same Dilemma. The entire Crises were written justifying himself from the attacks of Heidegger on the question of inter-subjectivity against a transcendental ego. Gadamer is aware of the loopholes of Truth and Method. He already anticipated the critique of Habermas on tradition. But before coming up with an answer, I suppose, Gadamer has to resolve first two important questions: the first concerns consistency and the other paying lip service. Concerning the first, Part II of Part II in Truth and Method was dedicated to the critique of both the Romantic and Historical School. Both schools exerted substantial influence in Gadamer except on the proper interpretation of history. These schools always posit a historian that gets out of history to know history. Gadamer, influenced by Heidegger, always insists that a historian cannot get out of history. Any form of interpretation must be within the boundaries of tradition and so is any form of critique of tradition. Tradition defines interpretation and critique. And Gadamer has always been consistent in defending tradition. His hermeneutics is essentially connected with the metaphysics of being, a legacy he inherited from Heidegger. To be is to be in the world - a world that has formed us what we are and we cannot get out of it. This consistency lost him an ally in Habermas. Secondly, I suspect that Gadamer wants to get out the weight of Habermas critique of tradition and do away with the burden of proof by saying that this critique is implied already in his system. Gadamer argues that pronesis is a form of critique. This Aristotelian concept of moral judgment provides room for an individual confronted with a particular situation to apply (subtilitas applicandi) the moral law based on the context of the present moment. However, this attempt I consider lip service for the reason that Gadamer did not really elaborate this part lengthily and profoundly like what Habermas did."

Read the article in full

Monday, December 18, 2006




Bookman takes up the subject on the "fracture" introduced by modernity into the ethical substance of tradition by staging a confrontation between John McDowell, who seeks to defend a pre-modern concept of "second nature" by rejecting the stranglehold that modern scientific naturalism has on the concept of nature, and Jurgen Habermas, who embraces the cognitive potential of modernity to correct the blindness inherent in all tradition. Though McDowell is suspicious of formal moral universalisms such as Habermas's, and though Habermas accuses McDowell's moral realism of being only "weakly" cognitive and thus incapable of providing any principled way to adjudicate moral conflict, Bookman reads Habermas as providing a complementary perspective to McDowell's hermeneutical purposes.

Philosophy Today; 2005; Vol.49, Iss.5; Directions and Directives: A Snapshot of Current...

Pragmatism and Neopragmatism

It has been claimed that recently there has been a renaissance of pragmatism in the philosophical community. Not only have a multitude of books and articles on pragmatism been published in the past several decades, but notable thinkers across philosophical traditions have embraced or at least endorsed aspects of it, thinkers ranging from Quine, Putnam and Rorty to Habermas, Eco and Apel. Nevertheless, while in one sense this claim of renaissance is true, it is misleading, misleading because pragmatism has been with us continuously since Peirce is said to have coined the term in 1870s. Russell and Dewey engaged in rousing debates on epistemology, logic and truth throughout the first third of the 20th century; Quine championed pragmatism via his brand of naturalism over the past fifty years. Habermas, and Apel have advocated tenets of pragmatism in some form or other since the 1960s. So, while pragmatism as a philosophical tradition, or perhaps school, has been overshadowed throughout much of the 20th century by other traditions and schools (e.g., logical empiricism, ordinary language analysis, phenomenology, structuralism, critical theory), it has not been absent and has not been uninfluential. Furthermore, while pragmatists often focused on epistemological issues such as truth and knowledge, they also - most notably Dewey - addressed concerns of social and political philosophy.

Of course, the term 'pragmatism' as a rubric covers a variety of doctrines and a variety of perspectives with respect to those doctrines, as is evidenced by Peirce's famous - or perhaps infamous - annoyance with William James and others, which eventually led him to abandon the term 'pragmatism' in favor of 'pragmaticism', which he remarked was "ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers." Various pragmatic doctrines include: a method of philosophizing, a theory of meaning, and a theory of truth. While these are distinguishable, they are also interconnected.

While not all pragmatists agree on what constitutes the core of pragmatism, there is a cluster of doctrines that characterize it generally. These doctrines are often stated negatively, that is, in terms of what pragmatists reject. For example, pragmatism is identified as being anti-foundationalist, as anti-realist, as rejecting a fact/value dichotomy. Though these labels are not inaccurate, they portray pragmatism as primarily a reaction against other philosophical views or stances. Pragmatist doctrines can be more positively stated, however. So, pragmatism holds to a naturalistic approach to traditional philosophical concerns; it endorses a holistic approach to meaning and truth; it insists on the recognition and importance of no inquiry as disinterested (hence, the rejection of a fact/value dichotomy) and of non-goal-based standards of evaluating inquiry (hence, the rejection of metaphysical realism). As one example: a pragmatist view of truth is frequently identified as (1) opposed to a correspondence view of truth and (2) related to a coherence view of truth, with the added emphasis on future consequences (i.e., what works or what difference it makes). It is not so much false to say this is the gist of a pragmatist view of truth, but it is not very illuminating to identify the pragmatist view of truth this way. Rather, several points need to be made. First, not all pragmatists endorse an identical conception of truth. Peirce was quite critical of what he took James’s view of truth to be. Second, underlying a view of truth is always the question of why such a theory is a desideratum at all. (What do we want a view of truth for?) Third, how does a pragmatist view of truth differ from alternative views? Where a correspondence view sees truth as a dyadic relation between a sentence or belief on the one hand and facts or states of affairs on the other, and a coherence view sees truth also as a dyadic relation between a sentence or belief on the one hand and a set other sentences or beliefs on the other, a pragmatist view of truth is that it is a triadic relation among (1) a sentence or belief, (2) facts or states of affairs, and (3) a set of other beliefs. For some pragmatists, truth is a quadratic relation including the above three components plus (4) goals or aims. The problem with a straight correspondence view, for pragmatism, is not that it is false, but that, as a theory, it has little (if any) value. For example, one could be a Goodmanian and hold that the reason that the sentence “Grass is grue” is true is because grass is grue just as readily as an English speaker might hold that “Grass is green” is true because grass is green. Likewise, a coherence view of truth fails. Even William James, (in)famous for declaring that truth is a form of expediency, insisted on established, “older” truths as crucial for the status of a given sentence as being true. Quite simply, to pragmatism, the correspondence and coherence views of truth are incomplete; at best they provide necessary conditions. For some pragmatists, then, truth is a triadic relation of sentence + facts + other sentences. For other pragmatists, however, “true” carries a normative component. Rejecting a fact/value dichotomy, pragmatism identifies as involving this fourth aspect of evaluation. The point here is not to fully elaborate a pragmatist conception of truth, but to suggest that pragmatism can and should be characterized not merely in negative terms (e.g., anti-correspondence) but as promulgating positive doctrines.

Among these doctrines are the following: beliefs are instruments with coping with the world; the acceptability of a belief is ultimately a function of the extent to which the belief allows for successful adaptation to the world; all beliefs are fallible; and truth and rationality depend upon utility in coping with future experience. These doctrines, while directly epistemological, apply to ethical and political matters. "Apply" might be a misnomer here, since, for pragmatists, belief, as the product of inquiry, is never disinterested or noninterpretive. That is to say, since inquiry is connected to dismissing or diminishing doubt or surprise, and since we are to understand belief as flowing from our engagement with the world and utility in coping with future experience, there is never disinterested inquiry nor inquiry that does not involve conceptualized interpretation. (It does not follow from this that there are no objective, or at least intersubjective, standards and criteria for inquiry, belief, truth, etc. This is simply to say that all inquiry and belief are not interest-free or nonconceptualized.) So, again, "apply" might be a misnomer above in the sense that axiological elements (both ethical and political) enter into inquiry and are not simply tacked on at the end of inquiry as an application.

As the papers in this issue of Essays in Philosophy demonstrate, pragmatists have found themselves closely related to philosophical thinkers and traditions characterized both as analytic and as continental. Both Quine and Carnap spoke of pragmatic criteria in establishing and settling ontological questions, while both Habermas and Apel both spoke of human situatedness as an ineliminable element in methods and criteria of epistemological assessment. Of course, individual pragmatists have provided numerous seminal works on various philosophical issues, as well. Peirce is acknowledged as having done ground-breaking work in semiotics, James in psychology and philosophy of consciousness, Dewey in naturalistic inquiry and ethics, Mead in the sociality of language and personal identity. The renewed interest and appreciation in not only the classical pragmatists, but also more recent (neo)pragmatists is evidenced in the recognition of their relevance to long-standing as well as recently-emerging philosophical concerns. For example, dissatisfaction with received conceptions of reference has begun to lead philosophers of language to address this issue through a more pragmatist-oriented lens (e.g., many of the works of Hilary Putnam). Likewise, as a self-labeled pragmatist, Richard Rorty has taken up Dewey’s challenge of putting philosophical analysis to work in the public sphere.

The essays herein provide a representative sample of a pragmatist approach to topics across the philosophical spectrum. The first three essays (by Fahey, Decker, and Butler) specifically relate to axiological issues, the next three (by Clark, Salaverría, and McEvoy) to epistemological concerns, and the final two (by Pihlstrom & El-Hani and Pieterse) to metaphysics. Citing Dewey’s simile that “ideals are like stars; we steer by them, not towards them,” Fahey, argues that, like Aristotle, Dewey speaks of the good with an emphasis on both agent and action, on the idea of the good necessarily in relation to both character and deed. Aims and goals are always situated, with the good as orienting and guiding practical, “choiceworthy” action. This Deweyan naturalistic approach speaks to a unity of virtues as they connect to action via habit, to coherence relative to situatedness.

Where Fahey addresses a connection between pragmatism and traditional moral theory (via Aristotle), Decker argues for the importance of a pragmatist position for the in-the-news topic of human cloning. Adding to a number of contemporary voices on a pragmatist conception of rights, Decker highlights Dewey’s notion of rights as a means to further social and personal ends as well as in terms of situated status. Rights involve persons in natural and social and historical contexts. Understanding rights as fundamentally relations among agents, not as properties of them, is central to his criticism of some recent arguments by Habermas against human cloning. Besides speaking to the nature of rights, Decker’s pragmatist claims also focus on the nature of personhood, again with the emphasis on the relational nature of the self, a theme common throughout the writings of George Herbert Mead. Echoing James’s dictum that a legitimate difference must make a practical difference, Butler states, contrary to the claims of David Luban and others, that the jurisprudential view of legal pragmatism does indeed make a difference both descriptively and prescriptively. Arguing for various procedural and criteriological commitments of legal pragmatism (e.g., contextualism, perspectivism), Butler claims that legal pragmatism, not a “rule of law” model of jurisprudence, is both the practiced norms of our legal system and is also a more fruitful approach to legal adjudication.

D.S. Clark’s essay on a pragmatist instrumental view of moral reasoning bridges pragmatism’s concerns of axiology and epistemology. With respect to “the moral and the prudent,” Clark acknowledges that pragmatism is analogous to forms of practical instrumentalism, while denying that they are identical. Citing Ralph Barton Perry’s work on practical reasoning and deliberative action [work that is being fleshed out today by Gilbert Harman and others] and noting the “working harmony among diverse desires,” Clark addresses a fundamental concern about any naturalistic approach to evaluative concerns, viz., distinguishing and relating the descriptive explanation and prescriptive justification. Clark focuses on three aspects of this concern, (1) prudential practical inferences, (2) moral inferences and shared desires, and (3) the rationalist (i.e., universalizationistic) alternative, and argues for the fecundity of a pragmatist approach over a rationalist one.

Continuing the focus on epistemic concerns and continuing the emphasis by pragmatism on the situated self, Salaverría analyzes the notion of practical deliberation (i.e., common sense) that seems so central to pragmatism. She argues that what has counted as common sense has varied among the pragmatists, but that what has been common to them is the regulatory function of common sense. Drawing especially from the works of recent neopragmatists Richard Rorty and Richard Shusterman, she claims that “common sense” is inherently political and communal. As a regulatory epistemic feature, then, common sense transcends the individual and is intersubjective. She suggests that the poststructuralist stress on the notion of “discourse” should be replaced by the pragmatist notion of “common sense” because the latter not only recognizes a situated self, but also is a notion that is not primarily linguistic nor primarily imposed from outside. McEvoy, too, insists that, for pragmatism, thought arises from the agent/world interaction and is fallible. His emphasis, however, is specifically on Quine’s version of naturalized epistemology, particularly whether it refutes all accounts of apriorism. McEvoy claims that it does not; he argues that although a pragmatist naturalist epistemology does indeed reject any “first philosophy,” it is not antithetical to apriorism or normative criteria of truth and justification.

Among contemporary adherents of pragmatism, Hilary Putnam is undoubtedly the person most identified with addressing metaphysical issues. Pihlstrom and El-Hani extend pragmatism and Putnam’s criticisms of metaphysical realism to the particular metaphysical issue of emergentism. Drawing not only on Putnam, but also on the works of Dewey and Mead as well as the recent work of Margolis and Stephen, they attempt to provide a pragmatist account of emergents. Beginning with the view that pragmatism holds to a non-reductive naturalism, they argue that the ontology of emergents, like any other ontological issue, is “irreducibly epistemologized.” Along the way, they argue against some critiques of emergents (e.g., those of Jaegwon Kim) and for a version of pragmatic realism. In the final essay, Pieterse asks if there can be a meaningful dialogue between neopragmatism, especially of a Rortyan variety, and the notion of (and desire for) a transcendent God. Such concerns (i.e., a pragmatist understanding of religious matters, including James’s notorious notion of a will to believe and Dewey’s conception of God as the unity of ideal values) have a long-standing tradition among pragmatists. Pieterse argues that such a dialogue is possible (and desirable) by rejecting what he sees as a dichotomy that is set up by Rorty between “transcendence” and “solidarily.” Underlying this dichotomy, for Pieterse, is an emphasis on “the rational self” as the final tribunal of truth claims. Belief in a form of transcendent sacred reality is not inimical to human freedom or flourishing, for Pieterse, because it is not necessarily ahistorical or atemporal.

David Boersema
Pacific University

Source: Essays in Philosophy

Related: Habermas and Pragmatism

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Communication without Constellation? Habermas's Argumentative Turn in (and Away from) Critical Theory

This article contrasts the recent communicative and epistemological conceptualizations of Jürgen Habermas with those provided by earlier critical theorists such as Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer, and Theodor Adorno. I argue that Habermas's "argumentative turn" breaks sharply with certain basic assumptions about language, discourse and knowledge common to his predecessors. While the earlier theorists were operating with assumptions derived from the "declarative" rhetorical lineage of German early romanticism and Hegelian Marxism, Habermas has returned to the hegemonic assumptions of Western "demonstrative" rhetoric. His prioritizing of oral argumentative discourse over written forms of nonargumentative "indirect communication" leaves little space for the kind of "constellational" cognition and "combinational" articulation considered essential by the earlier theorists. Some of the theoretical and political implications of Habermas's argumentative turn away from declarative critical theory are then discussed.

found here

Deliberative democracy and conceptions of freedom (Juergen Habermas, John Rawls)


This dissertation is about the connection between democracy and freedom in deliberative democracy. I argue that deliberative democracy presupposes a theory of freedom and present a suggestion to what that theory entails. That is, I propose a new formulation of the theory of deliberative democracy that is made in terms of the dimensions of freedom it should be normatively committed to. It is my thesis that deliberative democracy aims at not one kind of freedom but at multiple dimensions of freedom. The contention is not only that deliberative democracy as a theory should be normatively committed to multiple dimensions of freedom but also that the practice of public deliberation entails, expresses, and develops the different dimensions of freedom. As a theory, deliberative democracy is in my formulation a regulative ideal that in terms of dimensions of freedom suggest what we should aspire to and in light of which we can see and criticize the deficiencies of present conditions and institutions.

The version of deliberative democracy defended here should be seen as a response to and rejection of the prevailing synthesis between Habermasian critical theory and Rawlsian political liberalism. The argument is that this synthesis obscures and neglects important concerns in terms of freedom and emancipation. The focus on a broader theory of freedom is an attempt to reinvigorate the critical edge of the deliberative democratic project. The suggested theory of deliberative democracy, however, is not blind to the importance of the dimension of freedom stressed by political liberalism. It is exactly for this reason that deliberative democracy must be seen as committed to a number of different dimensions of freedom. This dissertation develops a theory of deliberative democracy that simultaneously can serve as the basis for a critique of existing conditions and institutions and respect the individual and political freedom of citizens with divergent views of the good. I argue that this is not achieved by the prevalent synthesis on Rawlsian grounds but requires that we retrieve dimensions of freedom stressed only in earlier critical theory.

found here

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Habermas And Critique: Theoretical Bases Of A Radical Social Democratic Politics

Leet, Martin Ronald (1999) Habermas And Critique: Theoretical Bases Of A Radical Social Democratic Politics. PhD Thesis, Department of Government, The University of Queensland.


This dissertation aims to evaluate the philosophy of Jurgen Habermas with reference to the arguments it provides for a theory of radical social democratic politics. Habermas is a German philosopher and social theorist whose broad concern is the defence and elaboration of the 'project of modernity'. This means that he wishes to justify modern, developed societies as viable and worthwhile forms of civilization. He attempts to specify and redeem the claim that these societies represent, potentially, the most advanced and rational way of organizing human life. Habermas is committed, among the various political programs which raise this kind of claim and seek to realize it in practice, to a form of radical social democracy. This tradition of theory and practice pursues the task of human emancipation by means of fundamental reforms to the social, cultural, economic and political institutions of contemporary modern societies. Habermas' work can be understood as one of the most systematic contributions to this tradition. The central question guiding the dissertation concerns the theoretical and political adequacy of this contribution. The dissertation establishes two general criteria for evaluating Habermas' work. The first criterion requires identifying the normative foundations of social democratic politics. It is argued that a 'theory of the rational' is needed to satisfy this. Such a theory must demonstrate that the social structures and political institutions of the modern epoch represent an hitherto unprecedented opportunity for the expression of the human capacity for rationality. The exposition of normative grounds for social democratic politics determines the basis for social criticism and political struggle. A theory of the rational, in other words, informs us of why we are struggling. Nonetheless, such a theory, on its own, cannot provide guidance about how to struggle. The second criterion of evaluation relates to this question of 'how', of what theoretical direction can be given to political practice. The dissertation contends, in this regard, that a 'theory of the irrational' is necessary. It is argued that a theory of the irrational offers a framework for orienting social movements in struggles against those obstacles which stand in the way of a further expansion of rationality. Such a theory seeks to understand the irrationality of human life in an effort to recommend political strategies that can intervene prudently in the current state of affairs. It is maintained that a satisfactory construction of both theories is essential for an adequate comprehension of radical social democratic politics. The dissertation pursues this argument by clarifying the nature of three dimensions of 'critique' within Habermas' oeuvre. Conceptions of critique represent methodological frameworks for formulating theories of the rational and the irrational. Habermas deploys these methods of critique throughout his work. It is argued, however, that his application of critique focuses primarily on providing a theory of the rational. The central thesis is that while he offers the rudiments of a theory of the irrational, this theory is underdeveloped. Since this theory addresses the question of how social movements are to struggle, it is argued that Habermas' approach lacks a practical dimension. The dissertation concludes that his contribution in this regard needs to be elaborated more consistently and in more detail. The dissertation represents an internal analysis of Habermas' work. It seeks to ascertain whether his theory achieves the philosophical and political goals required by the tradition of thought to which it belongs. The dissertation contributes to the critical literature on Habermas' writings in three substantial ways. First, it establishes a framework for understanding how the separate elements of his theory fit together. The identification of general criteria with respect to which a theory of social democracy is to be evaluated means that the political purposes of these various elements can be understood more clearly. The tensions between them can also be illustrated. Second, with the help of this framework, the dissertation expands upon and sharpens longstanding criticisms of Habermas' thinking which have pointed to a missing practical dimension. Third, the dissertation identifies theoretical resources, elaborated by Habermas himself, which it is argued can be used to overcome these problems of impracticality. With this, the dissertation also contributes, in a more indirect way, to the current debate about the meaning of and possibilities for social democratic politics.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Habermas between Metaphysical and Natural Realism


Habermas’s recent work in epistemology has been marked by a decisive rejection of his earlier epistemic conception of truth in which he understood truth as ‘what may be accepted as rational under ideal conditions’. Arguing that no ‘idealization of justificatory conditions’ can do justice to both human fallibility and the unconditional nature of truth, he has attempted to develop a realistic conception of truth that severs any conceptual link between truth and justification while respecting the epistemic relevance of justification for ascertaining the truth. But realizing this second goal has proved elusive for Habermas because he veers too close to a form of metaphysical realism in his epistemology. By contrast, Hilary Putnam’s recent turn to what he calls ‘natural realism’ is more successful in articulating a form of realism that, in taking its leave of an epistemic conception of truth, still manages to keep its distance from metaphysical realism.

from here

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Habermas in the prestigious "Routledge Philosophers" Series

Professor Leiter announces on his blog that a volume on Habermas is planned to be published in his prestigious Routledge Philosophers series in 2008. Professor Kenneth Baynes is preparing the volume. Something worth waiting for!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

In Defense of Posthuman Dignity

ABSTRACT. Positions on the ethics of human enhancement technologies can be (crudely) characterized as ranging from transhumanism to bioconservatism. Transhumanists believe that human enhancement technologies should be made widely available, that individuals should have broad discretion over which of these technologies to apply to themselves, and that parents should normally have the right to choose enhancements for their children-to-be. Bioconservatives (whose ranks include such diverse writers as Leon Kass, Francis Fukuyama, George Annas, Wesley Smith, Jeremy Rifkin, and Bill McKibben) are generally opposed to the use of technology to modify human nature. A central idea in bioconservativism is that human enhancement technologies will undermine our human dignity. To forestall a slide down the slippery slope towards an ultimately debased ‘posthuman’ state, bioconservatives often argue for broad bans on otherwise promising human enhancements. This paper distinguishes two common fears about the posthuman and argues for the importance of a concept of dignity that is inclusive enough to also apply to many possible posthuman beings. Recognizing the possibility of posthuman dignity undercuts an important objection against human enhancement and removes a distortive double standard from our field of moral vision.

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Communicative Freedom and Genetic Engineering

"The biotechnological revolution unleashed by both the prodigious advances in information systems and the convergence of science and technology over the last century, thus giving rise to what is now called “technoscience,” has raised a series of questions that pertain to our most fundamental beliefs about human nature. These questions have in turn cast doubt on the nature of political modernity. The biotech revolution has allowed us directly to intervene in the processes of the production of biomass and bioplasm. While most of humanity’s phylogenetic history has been lived as toilers of the land, growers of crops, always entailing an industry of breeding, cross-breeding, selecting, nurturing and preserving plant and animal diversity, it is only in the last century that what was haphazard and always at the mercy of the inclemencies of the chaotic patterns of weather could be industrialized. This industrialization of agriculture in the second half of the twentieth century was called the green revolution. This revolution, so pronounced the agro-business of the industrialized nations, would spell the end of famine and the beginning of an age of crop superabundance. No children would go hungry in the age of industrialized agriculture. In tandem, although not visibly related, the same century saw the trans-national use of medicine to eradicate pestilence, plagues, and epidemics. We forget that the last century’s human cruelty was matched by the blind and devastating fury of microbes and viruses, some of which were only eradicate by trans-national efforts (small pox, influenza, malaria, cholera, etc.). Societies became populations to be carefully tended to and monitored by the biopower of the health state; the state became the general doctor of society. Medicine became socialized, normalized, politicized, and highly scienticized, precisely because its benefits had to be maximized and its costs minimized. Both medicine and agriculture, and in concomitantly animal husbandry, have undergone unprecedented processes of scienticization and industrialization (i.e., techno-science) with the introduction of “bio-informatics.”"

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McCarthy free downloads

Political Philosophy and Racial Injustice: From Normative to Critical Theory


Vergangenheitsbewältigung in the USA On the Politics of the Memory of Slavery

Coming to Terms with Our Past, Part II: On the Morality and Politics of Reparations for Slavery

"On the Way to a World Republic? Kant on Race and Development,"

"Multicultural Cosmopolitanism: Remarks on the Idea of Universal History,"

Was Heidegger an Externalist?

Résumé / Abstract
To address the question posed in the title. I focus on Heidegger's conception of linguistic communication developed in the sections on Rede and Gerede of Being and Time. On the basis of a detailed analysis of these sections I argue that Heidegger was a social externalist hut semantic internalist. To make this claim, however. I first need to clarify some key points that have led critics to assume Heidegger's commitment to social externalism automatically commits him to semantic externalism regarding concept use. I begin by explaining the independence of those positions, arguing that social externalism answers the question of those concepts in a linguistic communilv are properly individuated, whereas semantic externalism makes a claim about what it takes for concepts to be properly individuated. Once these issues are distinguished, it is possible to see that Heidegger's interstthiectivist conception of language commits him to social externalism, while his conception of the oncological difference commits him to semantic inlernalism.

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Precis of Heidegger, Language, and World-disclosure

The book is a critical discussion of the conception of language as world-disclosure that Heidegger develops explicitly in his writings after the Kehre,but that has its roots in Being and Time. According to this view, our access tothe world, and to anything that might show up within the world, is structuredby language. This view of language allows Heidegger to criticize thementalism characteristic of modern philosophy and to articulate his new,hermeneutic approach. It lends plausibility to his contention that our primaryaccess to the world is not due to an allegedly neutral perception of entities butto our prior understanding of everything that can show up within the world assomething or other. Thus, the priority of understanding and interpretationover perception requires a hermeneutic transformation of philosophy. WhileHeidegger’s criticism of the subject–object model so characteristic of modernphilosophy is certainly plausible, his view of the role that language plays inour experience of the world leads to counterintuitive consequences. The mostnotorious of them can be found in Heidegger’s writings on language after theKehre, when he provocatively claims that ‘there is no thing when the word islacking’ or that ‘language speaks’ and thus is ‘the master of man’. It is in viewof these claims that the charges of linguistic idealism and of a rei cation oflanguage are a commonplace among many interpreters of Heidegger’s laterworks. Less common, however, seems to be the urge to transform this chargeinto an explicit analysis and criticism of the premise that underliesHeidegger’s linguistic idealism, namely, his claim that our experience withentities is determined by our prior understanding of their being (1). But if thisclaim is right, along with the claim that our understanding of the being ofentities is contained in our language (2), it is less than clear that Heidegger’sidealism, in spite of its counterintuitiveness, is actually wrong.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What is the analogy between truth claims and other validity claims?

“The analogy to the claim to truth consists in the demand for rational acceptability; the truth of descriptive statements can also come out and be confirmed only in rational discourses that are as comprehensive and persistent as possible.” (TJ: 229).

Friday, November 24, 2006

A reveiw of Habermas' Truth and Justification

Since the publication of Richard Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature in 1979 there has been a vigorous debate about how to elaborate a pragmatic position that can integrate the gains of the linguistic turn. Jürgen Habermas's Truth and Justification is a landmark intervention into this debate. Drawing upon his intricate theory of language, as well as by engaging the work of contemporary pragmatists like Rorty, Putnam, Brandom, and Apel, Habermas elaborates a position that he calls Kantian pragmatism. Habermas's penetrating advancement of this position is sure to take these debates to a new level of sophistication and subtlety.

Kantian pragmatism is meant to address a lacuna in Habermas's work that has stood since Knowledge and Human Interests, namely, the relative neglect of issues in theoretical philosophy. For while Habermas's formal pragmatics has obvious relevance for theoretical philosophy, its explicit purpose was to formulate a theory of communicative action which itself was meant to ground a critical theory of society and a discourse-theoretic conception of morality, law, and democracy (1). Kantian pragmatism, on the other hand, addresses two theoretical questions that arise in light of the linguistic turn: the epistemological question of realism and the ontological question of naturalism. The first question asks how we can secure the notion of an objective reality that is the same for all even if our access to the objective world is always mediated by language. The second asks how the normativity that pervades the lifeworld can be "reconciled with the contingency of sociocultural forms of life that have evolved naturally" (2). These two questions are most intensively taken up in the lengthy introduction and the first three chapters. The last three chapters of the collection attempt to show how Habermas's answer to these questions can be made consonant with his practical philosophy. For just as Kant had to restrain the pretension of theoretical reason to make way for the priority of practical reason, Habermas must formulate his Kantian pragmatism in such a way that it can make room for his stringently deontological discourse ethics. This requirement more then anything else determines the shape of Habermas's position.

Kantian pragmatism finds its origin in the post-Hegelian movement towards detranscendentalizing the knowing subject (176). This takes the form of internally reformulating Kant's critical philosophy in light of the linguistic and pragmatic turns. The first 'turn' attempts to show that the categories of the understanding, which for Kant are rules by which a manifold is reduced to unity in a judgment, are in fact rules of inference. If all judgments are inferences, then theoretical reason in general can only be understood in the context of rule-governed inferential practices that are linguistic or semiotic. This move detrancendentalizes the categories, placing their disclosive function not in a reason conceived as standing over-against the world, but rather in the inter-subjective moves that are made in a historical language. The second (pragmatic) 'turn' involves situating this linguistic, specifically semantic, practice in the context of rule-governed behavior in general. Here, "intuitive and habitual know-how - the practical understanding of generative rules or of a practice - enjoys primacy over explicit knowledge of rules" (11).

In making these two turns, transcendental consciousness is brought "down to earth" (17). For Habermas, this does not require the abandonment of transcendental philosophy tout court. Instead of investigating the structures of pure consciousness, a reformed transcendental philosophy can now aim "to discover the invariant features recurring in the historical manifold of sociocultural forms of life" (12). But can this reformed notion of transcendental philosophy deliver the benefits of transcendental idealism, namely the ability to "allay doubts about the objectivity of cognition" (20)? Transcendental idealism can allay these doubts because it is able to secure the universality and necessity of the rules that govern intentional mindedness. In situating reason amongst the mundane practices of the lifeword, however, it becomes an open question whether we are lead to "historicism and contextualism, or whether a reason embodied in historical contexts preserves the power for immanent transcendence" (84).

As is well known, Habermas wants to preserve the immanent transcendence of reason through the formal pragmatic thesis that agents participating in communicative action necessarily make idealizing presuppositions that in fact transcend the limits of the immediate communicative situation. Vindicating this thesis is a difficult task, however, because on Habermas's view, historicism and contextualism are "built into the basic concepts of the linguistic paradigm just as skepticism is built into mentalism."[1] These results are delivered by two theses that are basic to the linguistic turn as Habermas understands it: first, that all "experience is linguistically saturated such that no grasp of reality is possible that is not filtered through language" (30); and second, that the languages that are the condition of possibility for grasping reality are both plural and temporal. Avowing these two theses, in turn, generates two problems: 1) whether the fundamental practices built into a language are invariant across languages and forms of life; and 2) whether these practices are contingent owing to the fact that they have a temporal origin. If these problems cannot be met, then the universality and necessity of the fundamental practices that govern our ability to access reality cannot be secured.

Here we can see the interconnection between the epistemological question of realism and the ontological question of naturalism. If one is to grant a type of universality and necessity to certain fundamental practices - as Habermas's weak transcendentalism wants to do - one cannot only focus on overcoming contextualism with the resources of formal pragmatics; one must also show that the genesis of these practices is itself rational. But how is one to do this if our fundamental practices have not only a normative, sociocultural history, but a causal history as well? If this causal genesis, which is in a sense the condition of possibility for the socio-historical development of a normatively governed form of life, cannot be accounted for except as a fully contingent happening, then Habermas's project of vindicating the rationality of our most fundamental practices would be hopeless.

In accord with his notion of post-metaphysical thinking, Habermas cannot address this issue by 're-enchanting nature' in the manner of a Schelling. Instead, he will attempt to 'solve' both the epistemological problem of realism and the ontological problem of naturalism with a single move, namely, by combining his normative pragmatics with a pragmatic theory of action and hence a pragmatic theory of learning. At the level of discourse, it remains the case that for agents to communicate with one another about things they must pragmatically presuppose the 'the world,' i.e., a "totality of independently existing objects that can be judged" (89). However, we are not only cognitive agents taking part in communicative action at the level of reasons, but also practical agents who act in the world through intelligent problem-solving. Because this type of behavior is internally connected to cognition, agents, through a type of controlled feedback, can learn from their practical confrontations with the world. Knowledge emerges from this economy. One thing that agents know, at first in an implicit manner, is the resistance that objects offer to their action. To ensure practical success, agents learn to anticipate this resistance. In this anticipation we find the origin of the pragmatic presupposition of a language independent world. When this presupposition is made explicit in discourse, agents not only assume an independent world; they also know that there is one.

To uphold this result, however, Habermas must solve the aporia that results from the fact that the fundamental practices of our lifeworld have both socio-historical and causal conditions. This aporia can be untied by combining the result arrived at above with "a single metatheoretical assumption," namely, that the learning processes that are undertaken within a sociohistorical form of life are "simply the continuation of prior 'evolutionary learning processes' that in turn give rise to our form of life" (27). This thesis does not enchant nature, nor does is reduce the normativity of the lifeworld to the objective processes of nature. Rather, it maintains a distinction between the internal perspective of the lifeworld and the external perspective of 'objective' nature, "connecting them at the metatheoretical level by assuming a continuity between nature and culture" (28). The point of assuming this continuity is to assure us that when we recapitulate the learning stages that have led up to our own, the previous stages acquire cognitive content. "This, in turn, explains why the contingent circumstances of its genesis need not detract us from the universality and necessity of 'our' view of the objective world" (29). This bestowing of cognitive content upon previous learning stages is not a form of idealism, for while the linguistically articulated lifeworld from which we approach these past stages has an epistemic priority, the language-independent reality which our practices confront has an ontological priority. Under this assumption, the human mind's cognitive endowment developed as "the intelligent solution to problems that itself developed under the constraints of reality. This pulls the rug out from under the very idea that worldviews are species relative" (29-30). Instead of idealism, we here have "a nonclassical form of epistemological realism" (22).

One can only agree with Habermas that attaching his formal pragmatics to a pragmatic theory of action and learning undermines the framework that generates contextualism and historicism. Indeed, from a pragmatic point of view, making explicit the practical dimension that underlies our ability to have representational knowledge so undermines both of these pitfalls that it is not necessary to call upon Habermas's weak transcendentalism at all. Because this criticism has been made on many occasions, I shall not dwell on it. What I want to examine instead is whether Habermas has exorcised anxieties about our ability to cognize an intersubjectively accessible yet language-independent world in the right way.

As I mentioned above, Habermas thinks a proper realism is served by maintaining a distinction between the epistemic priority of the lifeworld and the ontological priority of a language-independent reality. Habermas describes this difference by recalling the medieval debate about universals. Agents participating in the lifeworld are 'conceptual realists' (in the medieval sense) insofar as they behave in accordance with rules, while agents who objectivate the world through hypothesis testing are 'nominalists' who realize that the structure of their propositions (and hence concepts) should not be reified "into the structure of what there is" (33). Here we find another parallel with Kant: as it is illegitimate for metaphysics to make statements that have their ground beyond the boundary of possible experience, it is illegitimate to project the conceptual realism of the lifeworld onto the objective world. This is the basis of Habermas's critique of Brandom and Hegel. But Habermas does not offer a counter-proposal to answer the question of how the conceptual realism of the lifeworld relates to the nominalism of the objective world. Instead, he opts out of this area all together. It is true that Habermas integrates Putnam's direct theory of reference into his theory of learning. This latter move is an undeniable gain insofar as Putnam's theory explains how we are able to hone in on the same objects through time and through different descriptions. But this move is not a counter-proposal because it is grafted onto a reading that takes the distinction between the conceptual realism of the life world and the nominalism of the objective world to be methodological in nature (32). But this distinction is ontological and must be treated as such. The question at issue concerns the actual relationship between reasons and causes, between the order of norms and the order of the real. In not approaching this ontological question in a substantive way, Habermas's leaves a lacuna at the center of his thought.

Habermas upholds this distinction because it provides the metaphysical background for his view that in a disenchanted modernity only a post-conventional discourse ethics can have validity. Habermas thus wants to retain the pragmatic radicalization of the linguistic turn, yet reject the idea that this radicalization forces one to overrun the Kantian boundary between theoretical and practical reason. This is of course a difficult line to walk insofar as one of the founding insights of pragmatism is that this boundary, when drawn in an absolute manner, is artificial. Theoretical reason is constituted by practical norms, while practical norms have a type of truth-value. As such, for the pragmatist there is a continuum between judgments of fact and judgments of value, not an absolute break (214).

Habermas counters this position by elaborating a theory of truth that flows from his non-classical realism. This theory of truth claims that the assimilation of truth to ideal assertibility - an assimilation that was the basis of Habermas's previous epistemic conception of truth - cannot account for the fact that truth is a "property of propositions that cannot be lost" (250). While there is an inner connection between truth and justification insofar as agents have nothing but justificatory reasons at their disposal to decide on truth claims, a theory of truth must make a place, at least conceptually, for a notion of truth that is justification-transcendent. Habermas, without irony, calls this a pragmatic theory of truth because he claims that the notion of unconditional truth has its origin in the certainty that pervades our everyday un-thematic coping. "To the realism of everyday practice, there corresponds a concept of unconditional truth, of truth that is not epistemically indexed - though of course this concept is but implicit in practice" (39). Because concepts implicit in practice circulate into discourse, this non-epistemic concept of truth can provide "a justification-transcendent point of reference from discursively thematized truth claims. It is the goal of justifications to discover a truth that exceeds all justifications. This transcending relation guarantees the difference between truth and rational acceptability" (39-40).

This is an ingenious theory. However, I don't think it necessitates the conclusion Habermas draws from it, namely, that there is an absolute distinction between the justification-transcendent truth of theoretical statements and the ideal rational acceptability of practical statements. For Habermas, we can draw this distinction because while both the rightness of moral judgments and the truth of theoretical statements are established discursively through argumentation in an ideal speech situation, the "meaning of 'rightness' consists entirely in ideal warranted assertibility," while truth refers to conditions "that must be met by reality itself" (248). Making this point is very important for Habermas because he thinks it grounds his claim that there is an unbridgeable divide between theoretical and practical reason. But does it?

Habermas takes it that the practice-certainty that generates this notion of truth comes from our everyday coping with the objective world. But don't we also have practical certainty with respect to our dealings with other people and the social world in general? Even though novelty and unpredictability pervade our lives in the social world (giving rise to reflective discourse), there is still a core of certainty that underlies our social being in the world. Why could we not say, mimicking Habermas's logic, that this certainty is the origin of a notion of practical or value-oriented truth, just as our implicit practical dealings with the objective world is the origin of our notion of theoretical truth? We could maintain a methodological distinction between these types of truth claims, but insist - insofar as they both have their origin in practical certainties - that they are ontologically continuous with each other and with claims that have less justificatory standing then those which are epistemically transcendent. This, of course, would complicate the picture required by post-metaphysical thinking and, as such, would complicate the notion that a deontological discourse ethics is the only one appropriate for the modern age. But that should be the goal for all of those like myself who think that Habermas has implicitly taken on - contravening his explicit self-understanding - the ontological picture that stands at the heart of his positivistic and strongly naturalistic enemies. In my view, this undermines Habermas's ability to redeem the legitimate claims of modernity. And that would surely be an ironic result for modernity's greatest defender.


[1]Habermas, "Richard Rorty's Pragmatic Turn" in On the Pragmatics of Communication (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998), 355. This important article, which was included in the German edition of Truth and Justification, was replaced in the English edition by "Norms and Values: On Hilary Putnam's Kantian Pragmatism." Both articles are essential for understanding the contours of Habermas' Kantian pragmatism.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Habermas and the pragmatics of communication: a Deleuze-Guattarian critique


The intention in this article is to explore, explicate, and, ultimately, critique Jurgen Habermas' communication theory. Drawing on the pragmatics of Deleuze and Guattari we will propose that Habermas' defence of the importance and priority of communicative action is problematic to the extent that it implicitly involves the issuing of an imperative order that cannot be accounted for within the normative framework that he envisages. In other words, we will be suggesting--with the help of Deleuze and Guattari--that Habermas, undoubtedly against his best intentions, precipitates, what we will call, a strategic levelling of communicative action.


Monday, November 20, 2006

History of Analytic philosophy site

heaps of seminal papers in the history of analytic philosophy to download for free

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Jürgen Habermas:Zu Gadamers "Wahrheit und Methode" (1967)

In kritischer Auseinandersetzung mit Wahrheit und Methode, dem hermeneutischen Hauptwerk seines Förderers Hans-Georg Gadamer, gelangt Habermas dazu, Grundlinien seines eigenen, ideologiekritisch gewendeten Konzepts von Hermeneutik zu skizzieren:

"[Sprache, Arbeit und Herrschaft]

[...] Die Objektivität eines Überlieferungsgeschehens, das aus symbolischem Sinn gemacht ist, ist nicht objektiv genug. Die Hermeneutik stößt gleichsam von innen an Wände des Traditionszusammenhangs; sie kann, sobald die Grenzen erfahren und erkannt sind, kulturelle Überlieferungen nicht länger absolut setzen. Es hat einen guten Sinn, Sprache als eine Art Metainstitution aufzufassen, von der alle gesellschaftlichen Institutionen abhängen; denn soziales Handeln konstituiert sich allein in umgangssprachlicher Kommunikation. Aber diese Metainstitution der Sprache als Tradition ist ihrerseits abhängig von gesellschaftlichen Prozessen, die nicht in normativen Zusammenhängen aufgehen. Sprache ist auch ein Medium von Herrschaft und sozialer Macht. Sie dient der Legitiomation von Beziehungen organisierter Gewalt. Soweit die Legitimationen das Gewaltverhältnis, dessen Institutionalisierung sie ermöglichten, nicht aussprechen, soweit dieses in den Legitimationen sich nur ausdrückt, ist Sprache auch ideologisch. Dabei handelt es sich nicht um Täuschungen in einer Sprache, sondern um Täuschungen mit Sprache als solcher. Die hermeneutische Erfahrung, die auf eine solche Abhängigkeit des symbolischen Zusammenhangs von faktischen Verhältnissen stößt, geht in Ideologiekritik über.

Die nichtnormativen Gewalten, die in Sprache als Metainstitution hineinragen, stammen nicht nur aus Systemen der Herrschaft, sondern auch aus gesellschaftlicher Arbeit. In diesem instrumentalen Bereich erfolgskontrollierten Handelns werden Erfahrungen organisiert, die sprachliche Interpretationen offensichtlich motivieren und überlieferte Interpretationsmuster unter operationellem Zwang ändern können. Eine Veränderung der Produktionsweise zieht eine Umstrukturierung des sprachlichen Weltbildes nach sich. [...] Das läßt sich etwa an der Ausdehnung des Profanbereichs in primitiven Gesellschaften studieren. Gewiß sind Umwälzungen in den Reproduktionsbedingungen des materiellen Lebens ihrerseits sprachlich vermittelt; aber eine neue Praxis wird nicht nur durch eine neue Interpretation in Gang gebracht, sondern alte Muster der Interpretation werden auch 'von unten'durch eine neue Praxis angegriffen und umgewälzt. [...]

Eine verstehende Soziologie, die Sprache zum Subjekt der Lebensform und der Überlieferung hypostasiert, bindet sich an die idealistische Vorausetzung, daß das sprachlich artikulierte Bewußtsein das materielle Sein der Lebenspraxis bestimmt. Aber der objektive Zusammenhang sozialen Handelns geht nicht in der Dimension intersubjektiv vermeinten und symbolisch überlieferten Sinnes auf. Die sprachliche Infrastruktur der Gesellschaft ist Moment eines Zusammenhangs, der sich auch, wie immer symbolisch vermittelt, durch Realitätszwänge konstituiert: durch den Zwang der äußeren Natur, der in die Verfahren technischer Verfügung eingeht, und durch den Zwang der inneren Natur, der sich in den Repressionen gesellschaftlicher Gewaltverhältnisse spiegelt. Beide Kategorien von Zwang sind nicht nur Gegenstand von Interpretationen; hinter dem Rücken der Sprache wirken sie auch auf die grammatischen Regeln selber, nach denen wir die Welt interpretieren. Der objektive Zusammenhang, aus dem soziale Handlungen allein begriffen werden können, konstituiert sich aus Sprache, Arbeit und Herrschaft zumal. An Systemen der Arbeit wie der Herrschaft relativiert sich das Überlieferungsgeschehen, das nur einer verselbständigten Hermeneutik als die absolute Macht entgegen tritt." (S. 52ff.)

Jürgen Habermas: Zu Gadamers "Wahrheit und Methode", in: Karl-Otto Apel u.a.(Hg.): Hermeneutik und Ideologiekritik, Frankfurt/M. 1971.

from here

Imagination and Reason in Critical Social Theory

"In the following I shall be speaking about imagination and reason in critical social theory. I use the term “critical social theory” in a broad sense. Rather than restricting it to the “Left-Hegelian” tradition commonly associated with the Frankfurt School (that is, with theorists such as Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse and their successors), I use it to refer to any theory that looks critically at social arrangements from the point of view of the obstacles they pose to human flourishing (or that reflects on what it means to do so). Thus, my definition of critical social theory includes, for example, not just the theories of Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth, who position themselves in the Frankfurt School tradition, but also the poststructuralist social criticism of Judith Butler, or of Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau, and metatheoretical reflections on social theory such as those to be found in the work of Charles Taylor."

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Opening up Fortress Europe

Jürgen Habermas on immigration as the key to European unity

As a student, I often looked from the other side of the Rhine over here to the seat of the four high commissioners. Today I enter the Petersberg for the first time. The historic surroundings recall the deep roots that the old Bundesrepublik sank into the Rhine and Ruhr landscapes. I was always proud of a homeland characterised by a civil spirit, a certain Rhine-Prussian distance from Berlin, an openness to the West and the liberal influence of republican France. From here, the Bundesrepublik achieved its goal of sovereignty only in conjunction with the political unification of Europe; we only achieved national unity within the European framework.The genius loci invites us to consider the irritating fact that this benedictory European dynamic is flagging today.

In many countries, the return of the nation-state has caused an introverted mood; the theme of Europe has been devalued, the national agenda has taken priority. In our talk-shows, grandfathers and grandchildren hug each other, swelling with feel-good patriotism. The security of undamaged national roots should make a population that's been pampered by the welfare state "compatible with the future" in the competive global environment. This rhetoric fits with the current state of global politics which have lost all their inhibitions in social darwinistic terms.

Now we Europe alarmists are being instructed that an intensification of European institutions is neither necessary nor possible. It is being claimed that the drive behind European unification has vanished and for good reason, since the objectives of peace between the European peoples and the creation of a common market have been met. In addition, the ongoing rivalries between nation states are said to demonstrate the impossibility of a political collectivisation that extends beyond national boundaries. I hold both objections for wrong. Allow me to name the most urgent and potentially risky problems that will remain unsolved if we stay stuck along the way to a Europe that is politically capable of action and bound in a democratic constitutional framework.

The first problem, which has long since been identified, is a result of this half-heartedness: the European member states have lost democratic substance as a result of European unification. Decisions, ever greater in number and importance, are being made in Brussels and simply "applied" at home through national law. The entire process takes place beyond the political public of the member states, even though European citizens can only place their votes here – there is no European public space. This democratic deficit can be explained by Europe's lack of an internal political constitution. The next problem is European's inability to present themselves to the world as one.

Since the government in Washington has gambled away its own moral authority, the international community is turning to the European Union with expectations that it cannot fill unless it has a united foreign policy. While in the Near East, diplomacy can, for the first time since 1948, count on a third party with a robust UN mandate, the European governments, envious of each other, prefer to press ahead on their own rather than strengthen their chief diplomat Solana with a shared agenda. Sixty years after the Nürnberg trials, torn Europe's largest failure is the long overdue reform of the UN. If anyone, it will be the Europeans that will prevent their American allies from continuing to damage the only legitimate conception of world order that they themselves initiated: namely, the further development of classic international law to a politically defined world community.

Likewise the third problem, the progressive undermining of acceptable social standards, can no longer be solved by national governments alone. The justified criticism of the inconsistencies of neo-liberal orthodoxy cannot hide the fact that the obscene combination of rising share prices and mass layoffs rests on a compelling economic logic. Little can be done about this within the national context alone, because the relationship of politics to the market has gotten out of balance on a global scale. It would take a European Union with a cogent foreign policy to influence the course of the world economy. It could drive global environmental policy forward while taking first steps towards a global domestic policy. In so doing, it could provide an example to other continents of how nation-states can be fused into supra-national powers. Without new global players of this kind, there can be no equilibrium between subjects of an equitable world economic order.

The fourth pressing problem is the fundamentalist challenge to cultural pluralism in our societies. We have approached this problem from the perspective of immigration policy for far too long. In times of terrorism, there is a threat that it will only be dealt with under the heading of domestic security. Yet the burning cars in the banlieues of Paris, the local terror of inconspicuous youths in English immigrant neighbourhoods and the violence at the Rütli School (more) in Berlin have taught us that simply policing the Fortress of Europe is no real answer to these problems. The children of former immigrants, and their children's children, have long been part of our society. But since they are simultaneously not a part of it, they pose a challenge to civil society, not the Minister of the Interior. And the challenge we face is to respect the different nature of foreign cultures and religious communities while including them in national civil solidarity.

At first glance the integration problem has nothing to do with the future of the European Union, since every national society must deal with it in its own way. And yet it could also hold the solution to a further difficulty. The second objection of Euro-sceptics is that there could never be a United States of Europe, because the necessary underpinnings are lacking. In truth the key question is whether it is possible to expand civil solidarity trans-nationally, across Europe. At the same time, a common European identity will develop all the quicker, the better the dense fabric of national culture in the respective states can integrate citizens of other ethnic or religious origins. Integration is not a one-way street. When it is successful, it can inspire strong national cultures to become more porous, more sensitive and more receptive both domestically and abroad. In Germany, for example, the more a harmonious coexistence with citizens of Turkish origin becomes a matter of course, the better we will be able to understand other European citizens – from the Portuguese winegrower to the Polish plumber. In opening up domestically, self-contained cultures can also open up to each other.

The integration problem hits a raw nerve in European nation-states. These developed into democratic constitutional states through the forced creation of a romantically inspired national consciousness that absorbed other loyalties. Without the moving force of nationalism, the Bavarians and the Rhinelanders, the Bretons and Occitanians, the Scots and the Welsh, the Sicilians and the Calabrians, the Catalans and the Andalusians would never have merged to become citizens of democratic nations. Because of this tightly-knit and easily combustible social fabric, the oldest national states react far more sensitively to the integration problem than immigration societies like the USA or Australia, from whom we can learn a great deal.

Whether we're dealing with the integration of gastarbeiter families or citizens from the former colonies, the lesson is the same. There can be no integration without a broadening of our own horizons, and without a readiness to tolerate a broader spectrum of odours, thoughts and what can be painful cognitive dissonances. In addition, Western and Northern European secular societies are faced with the vitality of foreign religions, which in turn lend local confession new significance. Immigrants of other faiths are as much a stimulus for believers as for non-believers.

The Muslim across the way, if I can take the current situation as an example, confronts Christian citizens with competing religious truths. And he makes secular citizens conscious of the phenomenon of public religion. Provided they react sensibly, believers will be reminded of the ideas, practices and attitudes in their Church that fell afoul of democracy and human rights well into the 20th century. Secular citizens, for their part, will recognise that they have taken matters too lightly by seeing their religious counterparts as an endangered species, and by viewing the freedom of religious practice as a kind of conservation principle.

Successful integration is a reciprocal learning process. Here in Germany, Muslims are under great time and adaptation pressure. The liberal state demands of all religious communities without exception that they recognise religious pluralism, the competence of institutionalised sciences in questions of secular knowledge and the universal principles of modern law. And it guarantees basic rights within the family. It avenges violence, including the coercion of the consciences of its own members. But the transformation of consciousness that will enable these norms to be internalised requires a self-reflexive opening of our national ways of living.

Those who denounce this assertion as "the capitulation of the West" are taken in by the silly war cry of liberal hawks. "Islamofascism" is no more a palpable opponent than the war on terrorism is a "war". Here in Europe, the assertion of constitutional norms is such an uncontested premise of cohabitation that the hysterical cry for the protection of our "values" comes across like semantic armament against an unspecified domestic enemy. Punishing violence and combating hatred require calm self-consciousness, not rabble-rousing. People who proclaim against their better knowledge that the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Orhan Pamuk is proof of an unavoidable clash of civilizations are themselves propagating such a clash. We should not follow in the footsteps of George W. Bush in militarising the Western spirit as well.

In Germany, the tensions between Christianity and Islam that have been mounting since 2001 recently set off an exciting, high-level competition among confessions. The subject at issue is the compatibility of faith and knowledge. For Pope Benedict XVI, the reasonableness of belief results from the Hellenisation of Christianity, while for Bishop Huber it results from the post-Reformation meeting of the Gospel with the post-metaphysical thinking of Kant and Kierkegaard. Both sides however betrayed a bit too much intellectual pride. The liberal state, for its part, must demand that the compatibility of faith and reason be imposed on all religious confessions. This quality must not be claimed as the exclusive domain of a specifically Western religious tradition.

from here

Original here

Thomas Gregersen
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