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.

Full text

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!
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