Monday, November 29, 2010

On Habermas’s Critique of Husserl

Matheson Russell
Over four decades, Habermas has put to paper many critical remarks on Husserl’s work as occasion has demanded. These scattered critical engagements nonetheless do add up to a coherent (if contestable) position regarding the project of transcendental phenomenology. This essay provides a comprehensive reconstruction of the arguments Habermas makes and offers a critical assessment of them. With an eye in particular to the theme of intersubjectivity (a theme of fundamental interest to both thinkers), it is argued that Habermas’s arguments do indeed show up deficiencies in Husserlian phenomenology and yet that they do not succeed in proving that we must abandon the methods and tasks of phenomenological research. On the contrary, it is argued that phenomenological methods may well be needed in order to investigate certain philosophical questions that Habermas’s theory of communication has thus far only partially addressed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Awareness of What Is Missing

Jűrgen Habermas et al.
An Awareness of What Is Missing
Trans. Ciaran Cronin. Polity, Cambridge, 2010. 96pp., £12.99 pb
ISBN 9780745647210
Reviewed by Tom Angier
This slim volume is the outcome of a discussion held in 2007 between Jürgen Habermas and philosophers from the Jesuit School for Philosophy in Munich. Since Habermas’ contribution occupies a mere twenty-one pages, the book is effectively even slimmer than it appears. Indeed, anyone interested in Habermas’ views on the relation between faith and reason will find little here that goes beyond his much more substantial collection of essays, Between Naturalism and Religion (Polity 2008). Nonetheless, the present volume is worthwhile reading, and this for two main reasons. First, it was inspired in part by Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address in 2006, which, besides upsetting many people in the Muslim world, was itself an attempt to elaborate the relations between faith and reason. And second, it represents an attempt to engage a section of the academic world – viz. philosophers in Catholic universities – who rarely appear on the radar of philosophers in mainstream, de facto (if not de jure) secular institutions. So despite what I will argue are severe shortcomings, especially from a left-political perspective, this collection of brief exchanges is valuable, if only as a brave attempt to challenge the self-imposed constraints of current academia.
Full review here

Monday, November 08, 2010

Leadership and Leitkultur By JÜRGEN HABERMAS

SINCE the end of August Germany has been roiled by waves of political turmoil over integration, multiculturalism and the role of the “Leitkultur,” or guiding national culture. This discourse is in turn reinforcing trends toward increasing xenophobia among the broader population.

These trends have been apparent for many years in studies and survey data that show a quiet but growing hostility to immigrants. Yet it is as though they have only now found a voice: the usual stereotypes are being flushed out of the bars and onto the talk shows, and they are echoed by mainstream politicians who want to capture potential voters who are otherwise drifting off toward the right. Two events have given rise to a mixture of emotions that are no longer easy to locate on the scale from left to right — a book by a board member of Germany’s central bank and a recent speech by the German president.

It all began with the advance release of provocative excerpts from “Germany Does Away With Itself,” a book that argues that the future of Germany is threatened by the wrong kind of immigrants, especially from Muslim countries. In the book, Thilo Sarrazin, a politician from the Social Democratic Party who sat on the Bundesbank board, develops proposals for demographic policies aimed at the Muslim population in Germany. He fuels discrimination against this minority with intelligence research from which he draws false biological conclusions that have gained unusually wide publicity.

In sharp contrast to the initial spontaneous objections from major politicians, these theses have gained popular support. One poll found that more than a third of Germans agreed with Mr. Sarrazin’s prognosis that Germany was becoming “naturally more stupid on average” as a result of immigration from Muslim countries.

After half-hearted responses in the press by a handful of psychologists who left the impression that there might be something to these claims after all, there was a certain shift in mood in the news media and among politicians toward Mr. Sarrazin. It took several weeks for Armin Nassehi, a respected sociologist, to take the pseudoscientific interpretation of the relevant statistics apart in a newspaper article. He demonstrated that Mr. Sarrazin adopted the kind of “naturalizing” interpretation of measured differences in intelligence that had already been scientifically discredited in the United States decades ago.
(full article here)
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