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

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

“Nostalgia for a redeemed future: Critical Theory”

John Cabot University is hosting an international conference on Critical Theory, which will be held at its campus in Rome, Italy – Via della
Lungara 233.

The conference will examine the importance and the actuality of the Frankfurt School by addressing both the philosophical tradition of the early stages of Critical theory – and in particular the works of Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse – as well as the application of their theories to our contemporary society. In order to reflect the wide range of topics addressed by Critical Theory, the conference will cover different aspects of philosophical reflection on politics, aesthetics, sociology, technology, literature and any other
relevant field of study.

The conference will be held at John Cabot University on the weekend of April 27-29, 2007. It will begin on Friday morning and end by early afternoon on Sunday. During the sessions, each speaker will have one hour, with about 40 minutes for presentation, followed by 20-30 minutes of discussion. All presentations will be made in English.

Keynote speakers:

Andrew Cutrofello, Loyola University Chicago
Andrew Feenberg, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
David Ingram, Loyola University Chicago (to be confirmed)
Douglas Kellner, University of California Los Angeles (to be confirmed)
Max Pensky, SUNY Binghamton
Stefano Petrucciani, University of Rome, La Sapienza
Francesco Saverio Trincia, University of Rome, La Sapienza

If you are interested in presenting a paper, please submit a 1-2 page abstract by December 15, 2006 (including name, eventual institutional affiliation and mailing address). Abstracts should be submitted by email. Decisions regarding the program will be made by January 15, 2007. The presented papers will be published in a book dedicated to the conference.

To submit an abstract, or for more information, contact:
Stefano Giacchetti – sgiacchetti(at)johncabot(dot)edu

Please feel free to forward this announcement to others whom you think
might be interested.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Habermas' theory of communicative action and the theory of social capital

I am bringing together two clusters of ideas I think are important. One is the thought of the German writer Jürgen Habermas, a prominent philosopher whose ideas are meaningful to many of our colleagues who are what I’ll call “planning academics,” that is scholars who teach planning in universities. The other is a cluster of ideas on social capital and social networks.

Habermas is a contemporary philosopher with a worldwide reputation. One of his best-known ideas is communicative action, in which actors in society seek to reach common understanding and to coordinate actions by reasoned argument, consensus, and cooperation rather than strategic action strictly in pursuit of their own goals (Habermas, 1984, p. 86). However, it’s not only his general fame that makes him relevant to social capital and networks. There are other reasons more specific to geography and regional science. One is that many geographers, sociologists, and
planning theorists appeal to his ideas in their work (though not many economists do). Prominent examples are scholars who apply Habermas’s ideas to a general (but not Marxist) critique of late capitalist societies, to analysis of mass movements, and to normative assessments of planning practice . . . ."

download full paper from here

Related post

Habermas' theory of communicative action

Abstract. The paper discusses the contribution of J. Habermas to the foundation of anew social paradigm in the form of the communicative action theory. The author firstgives a global survey of Habermas's intellectual development, starting from Marxthrough the critical theory to post-Marxism that Habermas finally left behind sinceoriented towards convergence and integration of the social action theory, the systemtheory and the symbolic interactionism theory.Unlike Marx's paradigm of production and social labor as the basic category Marxisttheory is built upon, Habermas has built a new paradigm of the communicative actionfocused upon the communicative mind, communication and rationality as well as thecommunicative community. The author critically points to the values as well as innerlimits of Habermas's theory that reduced a complex and controversial class nature ofthe society to the "communicative community" thus promoting idealistic worship of therole of the rational discourse.

download the paper for free from here

via here

Sunday, November 12, 2006

spontaneity as our innermost 'nature'

"The prospect of biogenetic intervention opened up by increasing access to the human genome effectively emancipates humankind from the constraints of a finite species, from enslavement to the 'selfish gene'. Emancipation comes at a price, however. In a talk he gave in Marburg in 2001, Habermas repeated his warning against biogenetic manipulation. There are, as he sees it, two main threats. First, that such interventions will blur the borderline between the made and the spontaneous and thus affect the way we understand ourselves. For an adolescent to learn that his 'spontaneous' (say, aggressive or peaceful) disposition is the result of a deliberate external intervention into his genetic code will undermine the heart of his identity, putting paid to the notion that we develop our moral being through Bildung, the painful struggle to educate our natural dispositions. Ultimately, biogenetic intervention could render the idea of education meaningless. Second, such interventions will give rise to asymmetrical relations between those who are 'spontaneously' human and those whose characters have been manipulated: some individuals will be the privileged 'creators' of others.

At the most elementary level, this will affect our sexual identity. The ability of parents to choose the sex of their offspring is one issue. Another is the status of sex-change operations. Up until now, it has been possible to justify these by evoking a gap between biological and psychic identity: when a biological man experiences himself as a woman trapped in a man's body, it is reasonable that (s)he be allowed to change her biological sex in order to introduce a balance between her sexual and her emotional life. Biogenetic manipulation opens up much more radical perspectives. It may retroactively change our understanding of ourselves as 'natural' beings, in the sense that we will experience our 'natural' dispositions as mediated, not as given - as things which can in principle be manipulated and therefore as merely contingent. There can be no return to a naive immediacy once we know that our natural dispositions depend on genetic contingency; to stick to them through thick and thin will be as false as sticking to the old 'organic' mores. According to Habermas, however, we should act as if this were not the case, and thus maintain our sense of dignity and autonomy. The paradox is that this autonomy can be preserved only by prohibiting access to the contingency which determines us - that is, by limiting the possibilities of scientific intervention. This is a new version of the old argument that, if we are to retain our moral dignity, it's better not to know certain things. Curtailing science, as Habermas seems to be suggesting, would come at the price of widening the split between science and ethics: a split which already prevents us from seeing the way these new conditions compel us to transform and reinvent the notions of freedom, autonomy and ethical responsibility."

Full here

Habermas: An enemy of German nationalism

"Last month, the intellectual historian Alan Ryan, writing in the New York Review of Books, described Jürgen Habermas, Germany's leading political philosopher and a public intellectual of unrivaled influence, as the "philosophical conscience" of Gerhard Schroeder's Red-Green government. Judging from the intellectual trajectory of both Habermas, who has moved (roughly) from a radical critique of market society to a humanistic liberalism not unlike that of the late John Rawls, and Schroeder, the student agitator turned Third Way poster-boy, the characterization makes a good deal of sense. Yet if Habermas is indeed the Red-Green government's philosophical conscience, Schroeder and Joschka Fischer, the Green foreign minister who has overshadowed his Social Democratic counterpart from the start, have a lot to answer for.

Since the late 1950s, Habermas has been best known not for his dense theoretical works but rather for his forceful public interventions, the most memorable of which have focused on questions of German national identity. Despite having spent most of his adult life criticizing German evasions and hypocrisies, Habermas has been the country's most vocal and passionate defender of the values embodied in its post-war constitutional settlement.


Habermas, Schroeder's "philosophical conscience," has articulated a very different vision for Germany. He has long been an enemy of German nationalism, choosing instead to endorse a universalistic constitutional patriotism grounded in the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Basic Law. In this sense, he is, ironically for a man of the left, the last partisan of Adenauer's Bonn Republic. His is a better, more humane vision, one compatible with a diverse European federation that lives up to its humanitarian obligations, an imaginable utopia (if only just) that may or may not emerge in the years to come."

full here

Remembering Adorno

Remembering Adorno
John Abromeit


Philosophy in Germany

Simon Critchley and Axel Honneth

SC: Simply as a way of initially organizing our discussion, we both agreed to read a short article by Dieter Henrich that appeared in Merkur in his philosophy column, 'Eine Generation im Abgang' ('A Passing Generation').1 Henrich rightly claims that a change of generations is coming to an end in German philosophy, which is most clearly marked by the retirement of Jürgen Habermas in 1994 and the death of Hans Blumenberg in 1996. But we might also speak of a wider generational change that would include Karl- Otto Apel, Ernst Tugendhat, Michael Theunissen and Niklas Luhmann, as well as figures like Otto Poeggeler and Robert Spaemann. Almost all of this generation are now retired, and it is at the moment unclear who and what will take their place.

As Henrich explains, the oldest and the youngest of this generation are only separated by about fifteen years, and most of then came out of three philosophical schools - Bonn, Münster and Heidelberg. Gadamer's name, and his brand of urbane Heideggerianism, should also be mentioned in this postwar conjuncture, although he precedes the generation we are talking about. Before moving on to the question of how the contemporary philosophical scene looks in Germany, we might perhaps begin with Henrich's description of what the 'passing generation' had in common. First and foremost, despite their obvious philosophical and ideological differences, what they shared was a common context: the overwhelming presence of the trauma and catastrophe of National Socialism. Thinking of Habermas, if one reads a fascinating early piece from 1961 on 'Der deutsche Idealismus der jüdischen Philosophen' ('The German Idealism of Jewish Philosophers'), it reveals the postwar philosophical ambition to reconcile Jews and Germans.2 But Henrich puts the issue in the following terms:

With these considerations in mind one has really understood what the first task of young philosophers in postwar Germany had to be: essentially they worked in order to maintain or restore the worldwide credibility of thinking in the German language. Alongside music, philosophy was for a long time the most significant cultural export good of Germany. Since Kant, German philosophy has distinguished itself through a basic style of investigation that always ended in a synthesis in answer to questions of principle, limit and life.3
To this demand for synthesis, we might also add the requirement of universalism and the method of rational argumentation. So it would seem that it is through a rationally achieved synthesis with a universalist scope that German philosophy responds to the catastrophe of National Socialism; and this is combined with an overwhelming fear of relativism and irrationalism, which always seems to go together with the fear of reducing the wissenschaftlich ('scientific') character of philosophy, or the reduction of philosophy to what Henrich calls 'Literarisierung' ('making literary'). In your view, is this a fair characterization of German philosophy in the postwar period?

AH: Yes, I think it is to a certain degree, but maybe it is not broad or differentiated enough. As is indicated by the Habermas article you mentioned, there was not only the search for the restoration of a certain kind of credibility; there was also from the beginning among some of that postwar generation the ambition to address and clarify the moral disaster of National Socialism. There was therefore not only the attempt to regain the great German tradition in the sense of the Kantian heritage but also to regain or overcome the separation from the Jewish tradition, which was highly specific and extremely important for the whole of German philosophy at the beginning of the century. This was not only an enterprise of Habermas, but others too, who attempted to reconstruct the specifically Jewish element in German philosophy. If you take the example of someone like Michael Theunissen, he spent a lot of energy in his first major work - the book on the Other - reconstructing the work of Martin Buber, and that was intentional.4 It was meant to overcome the separation between the Jewish tradition and the German situation after the Second World War. This is something totally excluded from the picture given by Henrich.

The other thing that he underestimates is, let us say, the moral dimension of the early period of German philosophy after the Second World War, after the disaster or catastrophe. This is something best described by Karl-Otto Apel in a famous article which I strongly recommend.5 There Apel describes his own enterprise - namely, the search for a universal ground for moral principles of respect and autonomy - as a response to, and a clarification of, the moral dimension of the disaster. So there was also the moral dimension in that whole postwar period, and this is also not clearly enough indicated by Henrich. That is very closely connected with people in Bonn. I mean, if you take the three universities mentioned by Henrich, then one should be careful to differentiate between these places. For example, it is interesting that in Münster from very early on - the middle of the 1950s I think - there were several people trying to come into contact with Carl Schmitt. It is hard to explain why suddenly, in a group of younger people, there was this interest in the work of Schmitt when they were all aware that he had been deeply involved in the fascist juridical administration. These people were no longer connected to the fascist world; they were trying to be liberals, democratic liberals. I think one can explain this interest in Schmitt because he was the only one who participated in fascism who never publicly regretted having done so. This made Schmitt quite singular because all the others - Gehlen and even Heidegger - were either silenced by their involvement, or very quickly became converts to the new regime. So, to complicate Henrich's picture, this interest in Schmitt at Münster, which came out of the circle of Joachim Ritter, led to a very fruitful, although not unproblematic, relation to the prewar past. All I want to say is that Henrich's picture is not differentiated enough. I think it is rather simplistic to say that the main ambition of postwar German philosophy was to regain credibility; there were so many other motives, moral motives. There was also the motive of finding one's place in a culture increasingly influenced by the United States. One should not forget the continuation of the Heideggerian tradition to an incredible degree in the postwar period. In Bonn, where Habermas and Apel were students, the influence of Heidegger was striking. Habermas and Apel started as what we might call left Heideggerians. If one adds these additional elements to Henrich's picture, then I think it is basically correct.

SC: OK. But what about the desire for synthesis that Henrich talks about. Does this define the postwar period of German philosophy?

AH: Yes. I think what was still very important, and almost seen as self-evident in that period, is that any philosophical enterprise requires synthetic power. I wouldn't reduce that requirement uniquely to Kant's philosophy, as it is a very traditional idea of German philosophy that you have to construct your own system. You have to find your own theory, your own philosophical position. This was a requirement not explicitly formulated but deeply internalized. So it was true that almost all the main figures in the generation we are speaking of had the strong belief that they had to formulate their own systematic philosophical position during the next ten or twenty years. This was indeed as it has been in the prewar period, where you had Husserl or Nikolai Hartmann or Heidegger; where you not only had philosophical teachers and professional philosophers, but strong philosophical positions connected to specific persons. Each one stood for a whole programme, and you could describe the philosophical landscape with reference to persons who represented clearly demarcated positions, discrete forms of synthesis. It was clearly understood that in order to find your own synthetic position, your own new and original position, you had to rework the philosophical tradition. Originality was the requirement both before and after the war.

Published in Radical Philosophy

Friday, November 10, 2006

Habermas and insistence on the ultimacy of internal critique

“[The] call for self criticism, let us say, a self critical defense of the, achievements of Western modernity that signals both openness and a willingness to learn and above all overcomes the idiotic equation of democratic order and liberal society with unbridled capitalism. One the one hand, we must make it clear stand against fundamentalism, including Christian and Jewish fundamentalism, and, on the other, we must acknowledge that fundamentalism is the child of disruptive process of modernization in which the aberrations of our colonial history and failures of decolonization played a decisive role. We can at any rate make clear against such fundamentalist fixations that justified criticism of the West derives its standards from the West’s own 200 year old discourse of self criticism.”

full here

I wonder why Habermas insists that the West be judged according to its own standards only?? Why can't we have an external critique of the West?

Does weblogs and podcasting meet Habermas's ideal of the public sphere

The conclusion is:

Blogs do not meet Habermas' ideals but they are probably the closest thing to it. The barriers of use make the internet and blogging an activity that only a small number of socity can do. Within this small community there is a hierarchy and just because you can publish it doesn't mean it will be viewed. THe internet can encourage rational debate. However Habermas' ideals are fairly dated now, people would much rather see a picture of other peoples cats on MySpace or pictures of their last trip to europe on photobucket then discuss politics/news arts/culture and science technology.

full here

Habermas on feelings and desires

We should not understand subjective experiences as mental states or inner episodes, for we would thereby assimilate them to entities, to elements fot the objective world. We can comprehend having subjective experiences as something analogous to the existence of states of affairs without assimilating one to the other. A subject capable of expression does not “have” or “possess” desires and feelings in the same sense as an observable object has extension, weight, color, and similar properties. An actor has desires and feelings in teh sense that he can at will express these experiences before a public, and indeed in such a way that this public, if it trusts the actor’s expressive utterances, attributes to him, as something subjective, the desires and feelings expressed. (Reconstructing Historical Materialism, 147)

full here

Jürgen Habermas on the lagging process of European integration

"Jürgen Habermas has given a fiery speech in the town of Petersberg near Bonn on the lagging process of European integration, printed by the Kölner Stadtanzeiger. "The topic of Europe has been devalued, people would rather deal with their own national agenda. Here in Germany, grandfathers hug grandchildren, overwhelmed by the new feel-good patriotism. The assurance given by our salutary national roots is supposed to make our effete welfare-state population 'fit' for global competition. This rhetoric suits the current state of social-Darwinist world politics.""

from here

see Die Erweiterung des Horizonts

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Haberams Foucault debate: A note on resources

For Habermas’ intervention in the debate see PDoM. For Foucault's brief and indirect response see his Waht is Enlightenment in Foucualt Reader.For For an overview of the debate see Thomas McCarthy and David Hoy eds. Critical theory (Oxford, UK ; Cambridge, Mass., USA : B. Blackwell, 1994), Thomas McCarthy, Ideals and illusions : on reconstruction and deconstruction in contemporary critical theory (Cambridge, Mass., : M.I.T. Press, c1991), / Michael Kelly ed. Critique and power : recasting the Foucault/Habermas debate (Cambridge, Mass : MIT Press, c1994), Samantha Ashenden and David Owen eds. Foucault contra Habermas : recasting the dialogue between genealogy and critical theory / edited by (London : SAGE, 1999), Maurizio Passerin d'Entrèves and Seyla Benhabib eds; Habermas and the unfinished project of modernity : critical essays on The philosophical discourse of modernity. (Cambridge : Polity Press, 1996), Axel Honneth, The critique of power : reflective stages in a critical social theory ; trans. Kenneth Baynes, (Cambridge, Mass., : M.I.T. Press, 1991).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A reveiw of Habermas' "The future of Human Nature"

By Joel Anderson for free download here

Many other relevant papers by Joel Anderson related to Habermas can be downloaded from here

Monday, November 06, 2006

Whose Discourse? A Comparison of the Foucauldian and Habermasian concepts of discourse ...


The concept of discourse is of high importance for non-positivist research in information systems. At the same time there are different concepts of discourse that are used simultaneously and often without clear recognition what their choice entails.This paper therefore aims to clarify the conceptual basis of working with discourses in IS research. In order to do this it describes and compares the notions of discourse as we find them in two of the most influential discourse theories, namely those by Michel Foucault and Jürgen Habermas. A comparison of the two from the point of the IS researcher argues that the most important feature that Foucault's and Habermas's discourse theories have in common is their critical intention. From this point of view, both concepts have strengths and can be used to complement each other despite their fundamental differences.

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Intersubjectivity – interactionist or discursive? Reflections on Habermas’ critique of Brandom

Piet Strydom
Department of Sociology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

This article argues that there is a marked ambivalence in Habermas’ concept of intersubjectivity in that he wavers between an interactionist and a discursive understanding. This ambivalence is demonstrated with reference to his recent critique of Robert Brandom's normative pragmatic theory of discursive practice. Although Habermas is a leading theorist of discourse as an epistemically steered process, he allows his interpretation of Brandom's theory as suffering from objective idealism to compel him to recoil from discourse and to defend a purely interactionist or dialogical position. It is argued that the ambivalence in question is related to Habermas’ incomplete theorization of communication as a process of structure formation that unfolds sequentially through time on different levels. His architectonic of communicative intersubjectivity is marred by a missing concept. His characteristic concept of coordination is insufficient and must be complemented by a concept of synthesis at the discursive level.

Key Words: Brandom • communication • coordination • discursive • synthesis • Habermas • Luhmann • objectivism • process • sequentiality • structure formation • time

from here

The Habermasian Moment

AMONG SPOKESMEN FOR THE Post-Marxist Left, Jürgen Habermas
(1923–) may be the most prominent and, in his own country, the most
honored. An advocate of “militant” democracy since the 1950s, he
has defended his persuasion in the international press, in multiple
books and articles, and as an academic lecturer.
Habermas proclaims himself the proud heir of the American
reeducation of the Germans that took place after World War I.
Despite his rise in the Hitlerjugend, a distinction shared with other
scholars who have been equally intent on breaking with the German
past, Habermas had moved into the anti-German Left by the early
1950s. He regarded what the Germans had suffered during and after
the War as fully deserved, and spoke of his country’s unconditional
surrender as a “liberating experience.

for full go here

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Between Hope and Terror: Derrida and Habermas Plead for the Im/Possible

Between Hope and Terror: Derrida and Habermas Plead for the Im/Possible,” Epoche 9:1 (2004) 1-18. In Lasse A. Thomassen, ed. The Derrida-Habermas Reader. Edinburgh UP, 2006, 278-296.

free download from here

Singular Existence and Critical Theory

Radical Philosophy Review 8/2 (2005) 211-223.

"Major statement on Habermas’s Kyoto Award speech in November 2004. This paper is part of the Review Forum on my Jürgen Habermas: A Philosophical-Political Profile , with two preceding papers by David S. Owen, Critical Theory and Learning from History (187-195) and Max Pensky, Jürgen Habermas: Existential Hero? (192-209)"

download for free here

Habermas’ turn?

Martin Beck Matutík
Philosophy Department, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

How a thinker comes to adopt or change a view may be regarded as either a strictly theoretical or biographical issue. First, looking backward at my completed philosophical-political profile of Habermas, I elucidate how biographical methodology can yield a coherent yet dynamically evolving profile rather than a static portrait. Second, examining Habermas’ thinking after 2000, the year my published biography of him ends, I venture a biographical-philosophical hypothesis that in what appears to be Habermas’ turn after 11 September 2001, or in his decisive self-choice, he is faithful to the basic motives and core intuitions that brought him to critical theory.

Key Words: biography • cosmopolitanism • critical theory • existentialism • Jürgen Habermas • Søren Kierkegaard • 9/11 • religion • terror • UN

full here

Martin Beck Matustik, Jurgen Habermas – A Philosophical-Political ...

A review here

Friday, November 03, 2006

Habermas, Zizek and Language.

"Firstly, he [Zizek] opposes Levinas' theorization of the other for being one sided and thus on its own terms the most grotesque violence against the other. He argued that the politicization of our society is as "the fear of the neighbour" - the neighbor is the homely face under which lurks an evil, (uncanny) spectre. Fear of the neighbor is related to proximity - the global village, and communication. More communication, more epistemic proximity between societies which are traditionally seperated by a gulf of a thousand miles, means more conflict between them (....). Alianation is sometimes useful - alianation maintains the abyssmal gulf between the self and the other. Habermas, others, argue language is the essential structural tool of unity - it is through language that we can understand each other, and even in conflict, conflict through language presupposes that we comprehend each other to some extent. Zizek flips this: Language is perhaps not the greatest tool of unity, but the greatest divider. It's because of language that it is easier to communicate with a Mongolian's dog than with the Mongolian person. Language makes it possible for us to be much more divided and in conflict than animals."

from here

A new philosophy blog

in German, here.

Habermas, the Public Sphere, and Democracy: A Critical Intervention

"Jurgen Habermas's The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere is an immensely rich and influential book that has had major impact in a variety of disciplines. It has also received detailed critique and promoted extremely productive discussions of liberal democracy, civil society, public life, and social changes in the twentieth century, among other issues. Few books of the second half of the twentieth century have been so seriously discussed in so many different fields and continue, almost forty years after its initial publication in 1962, to generate such productive controversy and insight. While Habermas's thought took several crucial philosophical twists and turns after the publication of his first major book, he has himself provided detailed commentary on Structural Transformation in the 1990s and returned to issues of the public sphere and democratic theory in his monumental work Between Facts and Norms. Hence, concern with the public sphere and the necessary conditions for a genuine democracy can be seen as a central theme of Habermas's work that deserves respect and critical scrutiny.

In this paper, I will first explicate Habermas's concept of the public sphere and its structural transformation in his early writings and then will note how he takes up similar themes in his recent 1990s work within the context of a structural transformation of his own work in his linguistic turn. After setting out a variety of critiques which his analysis has elicited, including some of my own, I attempt to develop the notion of the public sphere in the contemporary era. Hence, my study intends to point to the continuing importance of Habermas's problematic and its relevance for debates over democratic politics and social and cultural life in the present age. At stake is delineating a concept of the public sphere which facilitates maximum public participation and debate over the key issues of the current conjuncture and which consequently promotes the cause of participatory democracy."

full here
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