A revised version of my thesis abstract is posted below. I am looking for prospective examiners at this stage. Any suggestions welcome (leave as comment or email me, thanks).
The dissertation is structured as an interpretation of Habermas’ concept of transcendence from within. The interpretation is focused on Habermas’ claim that his enterprise aims to go beyond transcendenceless empiricism and high flying idealism. Habermas has used the term transcendence from within increasingly in his recent writings. However there is no systematic analysis of the concept to be found in either primary or secondary literature. The present dissertation is meant to fill this gap.
The focus on the theme of transcendence from within can help us understand Habermas’ project as that of going beyond the dichotomy (but not the distinction) between detranscendentalisation and transcendentalism rather than treating it as a patchwork of the two themes.
The topic of transcendence from within has enormous significance for Habermas’ project as well as for general philosophical and cultural trends of our times. The theme of weak naturalism has surfaced with a new vigour in Habermas’ writings. He has consistently argued for a detranscendentalised reason that does not forget its ultimate roots in nature at large. However he has also intensified his crusade against strong naturalism which he sees as a threat to the Kantian tradition of autonomous thought, freedom and responsibility. In the context of his discussion of religion he has talked about going beyond two fundamentalisms, religious fundamentalism that does not take detranscendentalisation seriously, and scientism (which Habermas sees as the basis of strong naturalism) that is bent on sacrificing all traces of the transcending powers of reason. A systematic reconstruction of the concept of transcendence from within can provide the basis for understanding how Habermas aims to combine naturalism and detranscendentalisation with a firm belief in the transcending powers of reason and the possibility of free and autonomous thought.
The approach taken is to reconstruct Habermas’ conception of transcendence from within in detail. At the start a thesis is introduced that Habermas aims to preserve the overall continuity between human beings and their environment by adopting pragmatism and detranscendentalisation. However he also aims to preserve essential distinctions between human beings and their environment while upholding overall continuities between the two. Detranscendentalisation (far from being seen as the opposite of transcendentalism) is thus seen as the way to preserve the transcending powers of reason and preserve the distinctions essential to a transcendental idealism (such as the distinction between causality of nature and causality of law, unconditionality of rational claims etc.) without, however, espousing a two world metaphysics inherent in such an approach.
Although the dissertation is focused on a detailed reconstruction of Habermas’ conception of transcendence from within, in brief concluding comments I raise some doubts about Habermas’ approach in terms of its huge baggage of assumptions as well as in terms of its weakness in the face of its abandonment of the traditional conception of truth.