Thursday, May 17, 2007

Notes on Habermas and communicative reason

Theory of Communicative Action

Two kinds of reflexivity, insufficiently differentiated in Habermas's early, epistemological version:

(1) Neo-Kantian reflection by reason on its own conditions of employment.

(2) Emancipatory self-reflection, associated with the Kantian triptych of maturity, principled non-conformism, and freedom (in "What is enlightenment?"), transformed through Marx & Hegel.

An account of the limits of theoretical and practical reason is necessary to ground intelligible reflection on the socio-material conditionality of enlightenment and autonomy.

[??] Marxian ideology critique and Freudian psychoanalysis are understood to exemplify the critical cognitive interest (2) without the elaboration of the neo-Kantian communicative rationality (1) which they must presuppose.

Unavoidable cognitive interests --> basic structures presupposed by reason. For Kant, they are a priori. But for Habermas, they can only be disclosed by empirical inquiry, which must proceed hand-in-hand with detranscendentalised reconstructive science if it to avoid positivism disguised as fallibilism. [??]

The epistemological orientation of Knowledge and Human Interests depended on a philosophy of the subject.

The linguisttic turn focuses on how subjects are constituted in and through "their" social interactions.

[Difference between Habermas & Adorno's dialectic spirit is that Habermas's revisions are govrned by discrete periods of public feedback, whereas Adorno is concerned with the question of how the suffering subject can constitute himself in the public sphere in the first place without brutally suppressing the non-identical].

Emancipatory self-reflection depends on giving a rational reconstruction of the conditions of possibility of reason.

Reconstructive sciences elucidate the depth grammar of "pre-[reconstructive]-theoretical" knowledge. Cf. Chomsky's generative grammar.

Cf. Ryle's knowing how vs. knowing that, Bourdieu on habitus, Wittgenstein's rule paradox.

Theory of communicative action is a reconstructive science, "formal / universal pragmatics."

All human symbolic competence presupposes the species competence of communication.

Emancipatory critique does not rest on arbitrary norms which we choose. It is grounded in the structures of universal communicative competence.

[Suspicion here of accruing methodological convenience; i.e. the unlimited communication community has a dual character as intersubjective governance and an instrument which creates subjects capable of being governed, and decisions in a form adapted to the possibility of entering the condition of legitimacy.]

[Cf. Maricuse --> "norms" (needs?) must be chosen by the individual, but there must be an interim preoccupation with the false needs, which can only be diagnosed at the collective level, and which interrupt any individual's capacity to autonomously determine his or her real needs.]

[Cf. early CT: norms can be derived from the unrealised potential of the liberal democratic project -- freedom, equality etc.]

[Cf. dogmatic anthropology of utopian socialists. Install real needs in advance.]

[Cf. Adorno on organic composition of labour. Adorno contra Kant: the material element in ideality.]

The starting point of speech act theory is mutual reciprocal meaning.

Communicative action is oriented to understanding (cf. mimesis). Purposive-rational action is oriented to success.

Anyone acting communicatively must raise universal validity claims and suppose that such claims can be discursively redeemed.

[Cf. falsifiability vs. fallibilism].

[Cf. other minds problem.]

Types of validity claim:


[Could there be others? Theological, prosodic, aesthetic? E.g. discourse of "prosody" = melodious historical ad hominem to suggest the interlocutor's ear is out of tune?].

To resolve a breakdown in any of these dimensions, go to DISCOURSE, that is nonmanipulative, noncoercive argumentation. [Cf. BFN on the legal community, also De Tocqueville on the legal community.]

Aesthetic judgements too --> cognitivist thesis.

No dispute about a validity claim is fundamentally asymmetric.

Anticipation and emulaion of noncoercive and nondistortive discoures is built ino our everyday, heuristically-organised and folk-theoretic communicative interactions.

[Criticism: not an unlimited communication community which is the condition of possibility of communicative reason, but an unlimited identity abbatoir. That is, Habermas supposes the fact of communicative action, inasmuch as it is constitutively coercive in definite gradations, to entail and rely upon a hypothetical condition free of coercive activity. But the converse can be argued: that it entails and relies upon a hypothetical condition of maximum coercive activity, in which identity is infinitely manipulable by power. In this account, understanding is not the immanent telos of language, self-identity is. The "pretheoretic knowledge" structuring communicative coordination of action is the merely arbitrary totality of agents' judgements about the objective collocations of norms which surround them. Either account can explain discourse-avoidance. For Habermas, discourse does not occur either because the communicative context is pathological (in various ways ultimately attributable to the alternative mode of coordinating action), or because understanding takes place. Understanding is not conceived of as cognitive sharing but as a tacit commonality in the way the agents experience a counterfactual claim-redemptive discourse. In the other account, however, agents are identity-parsimonious: they avoid contesting validity if they think their current bundle of interrelated norms would suffer extensive revision. Thus I "understand" you not because I regard your validity claims as redeemable, but because I recognise "not understanding" as more costly in terms of identity effects. The distinction between communicative and strategic action is resolved at a deeper level, as an ensemble of identities which seek to replenish themselves out of one-another's normative repertoires. Cooperation arises out of "communicative" configurations inasmuch as identities minimise confirming themselves out of materials unavoidably associated with alien ingredients. Cooperation arises out of "strategic" configurations inasmuch as agents develop mediating institutions like money and administration which specialised to reduce the flow of information among the normative constitutions of agents.]

The claim to reason is silenced, yet in "fantasies and deeds it develops a stubbornly transcending power," renewed in each unconstrained understanding [truth?], each moment of solidarity [sincerity?], each successful individuation [intelligibility?], each rescue [normative rightness?].

Diachronic dimension of reason.


(1) Empirical efficiency of technical means. RATIONALITY of means: requires empirical knowledge.
(2) Consistency of choice between suitable means. RATIONALITY of decisions: requires inner consistency of value systems.


(1) extirpating relations of force inconspicuously set in communicative structures.
(2) overcoming systematically distorted communication in which action supporting consensus regarding the reciprocally raised validity claims is sustained in appearance only.

Rationaliy debates demand sociological theory discriminate different forms of rationalization.

Wwe cannot conduct hermeneutic inquiry without evaluating the rationality of action and social action systems.

LIFEWORLD-prejudiced sociology: Weberian insistence on intentional stance (Dennett, cf. Bretano, "intentionality") and the creative role of social actors.

SYSTEMS-prejudiced sociology: Durkheimian insistence on social facts; interacting structures, systemic imperatives, dynamic forms of integration and breakdown.

Dialectical synthesis of competing orientations?

[Cf. overdetermination. Maybe --P Marx, both these forms are moments of the conceptual priority of emancipation?? Adorno --> individuated more and more, exclusively designated as moments of the productive apparatus, YET (AND THUS) their specificity is irreducible to their function ascription.]

Systems and lifeworld perspectives presuppose one another.

PARADOX OF RATIONALISATION --> rationalization of the lifeworld is the precondition of systemic rationalization, which progressively becomes autonomous vis-a-vis the normative constraints embodied in the lifeworld.

Rather than a dialectic of enlightenment (rationalisation), a distortive selectivity in the rationalisation process.

Purposive-rational rationalisation encroaches upon lifeworld -- explained by peculiar restrictions on communicative rationalisation originating in capitalist production.

NSMs --> defensive reactions to preserve the integrity of lifeworld communicative structures.

[Or: systemic imperative on the lifeworld traceable to system "recognising" its suffocation of lifeworld resource. Cf. Marcuse and containment; recuperation; Poulantzas vs. Miliband. Recuperation theses: (1) there is an area of sublimation for which idealism is the master concept. Destabilising influences play out harmlessly, especially as the symbolic reconciliation of mass affective wishes. Cf. real illusion. (2) Implicatedness of negativity in material reproduction: Hegelian dimension of Critical Theory. I.e., without concrete countervailing tendencies (not just "space" for them), society would crumble. How to theorise this dissolution? Cessation of autopoeitic maintenance; integration with anthropologial imperative (state of nature)? Or more parsimoniously, the idea that this happens all the time. That is, the system moves to the next-closest configuration which contains sufficient countervailing forces for stability. Cf. the hostis civitas.]

Weber's neo-Kantian differentiation of science, morality/law and art.

Suspicious, in good Critical Theoretical fashion, of neoromantic hope for new wholeness dissolving these spheres and reconciling Man with Himself and with nature, but also whether that cultural differentiation brings unresolvable reification as its inevitable corollary.

[In Adorno, pessimism and defeatism are not elided. Negativity and positivity are inseparable, and giving priority to the latter gives priority to the idealist moment over the materialist. Thought in a negaive mode must produce positivity out of materiality to work uon; thought in a positive mode has a correspondingly reciprocally-generative relationship with existing material negativity.]

[Heideggerean motifs unmistakeably pop up in Critical Theory's reworking of the subject at home in a world of equipment, encountering itself thrown in there yeah, thrown into a world which manifests a preponderance of identity.]

[MARX: 1844 alienation a pre-write of commodity fetishism? -- inasmuch as it stands in the same functional role with respect to anthopologically dogmatic utopianism [?]. Domination is an ineradicable qualitive aspect of the capitalist mode of production. It is not political domination. Sensuous immediacy is levelled out by the expectation of its loss into exchange value. With commodity fetishism, the emphasis is upon the social character of labour only appearing in the act of exchange. Value, which is mythic, cryptonormative, qualitative, & maybe even episodic / narrative / charismatic, is thus "disguised" as what it really is -- exchange value. Alienation is the conceptual unpacking of this paradox which commits "critical criticism," i.e. treats it as an illusion, not a real illusion.]

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