Thursday, August 23, 2007

Inconsistency of ultimate description of "the universe'

Habermas in a recent essay quote the following great passage from Martin Seel.

"It is precisely the idea of a transcendent, final, ultimate description of ‘the universe’ that is inconsistent. It is the fiction, on the basis of which—and only on the basis of which—our sense of freedom becomes, as viewed from the outside, a fiction. As soon as one sees that the capacity for participating in justificatory practices is essential for all knowledge—and for every intelligible conception of knowledge—this construction collapses."[Teilnahme und Beobachtung: Zu den Grundlagen der Freiheit. Neue Rundschau 116 (4): 141–53, here, 151]

In the footnote to this passage Habermas writes the following:

"In his well-known book The view from nowhere (1986), Thomas Nagel starts out from the similar problem of ‘how to combine the perspective of a particular person inside the world with an objective view of that same world, the person and his viewpoint included’; and he develops, within the domain of ethics, a similar critique of what he calls ‘excess objectivity’:‘If we push the claims of objective detachment to their logical conclusion, and survey the world from a standpoint completely detached from all interests, we discover that there is nothing-no values left of any kind: things can be said to matter at all only to individuals within the world’ (Nagel 1986, 146). Since Nagel sticks to the mentalist opposition of first- and third-person perspectives, I won’t go into his otherwise quite compelling critique of objectivism." (Language game of responsible agency, p. 46).

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