Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A new "HabermasForum"

An updated website about Jürgen Habermas - with comprehensive bibliographies of primary and secondary literature, links to videos and publications (including online texts by Habermas), and to reviews of Habermas's "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie":


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Kant and the Frankfurt School (Habermas, Adorno, Forst)

A special issue of "Kantian Review" (December 2020) on "Kant and the Frankfurt School":

* "A Marxist Educated Kant: Philosophy of History in Kant and the Frankfurt School" - Hauke Brunkhorst

Abstract: "In a lecture that Habermas gave on his 90th birthday he ironically, but with serious intent, called a good Kant a sufficiently Marxist educated Kant. This dialectical Kant is the only one of the many Kants who maintains the idea of an unconditioned moral autonomy but completely within evolution, history and in the middle of societal class and other struggles. The article tries to show what Kant could have learned from his later critics to enable him to become a member of the Frankfurt School’s neo-Marxist theory of society."

* "Adorno, Kant and Enlightenment" - Deborah Cook

Abstract: "Theodor W. Adorno often made reference to Immanuel Kant’s famous essay on enlightenment. Although he denied that immaturity is self-incurred, the first section of this article will show that he adopted many of Kant’s ideas about maturity in his philosophically informed critique of monopoly conditions under late capitalism. The second section will explore Adorno’s claim that the educational system could foster maturity by encouraging critical reflection on the social conditions that have made us what we are. Finally, this article will demonstrate that Adorno links enlightenment to Kant’s idea of a realm of ends."

* "Private Autonomy and Public Autonomy: Tensions in Habermas’ Discourse Theory of Law and Politics" - Maeve Cooke

Abstract: "Habermas dialogically recasts the Kantian conception of moral autonomy. In a legal-political context, his dialogical approach has the potential to redress certain troubling features of liberal and communitarian approaches to democratic politics. Liberal approaches attach greater normative weight to negatively construed individual freedoms, which they seek to protect against the interventions of political authority. Communitarian approaches prioritize the positively construed freedoms of communal political participation, viewing legal-political institutions as a means for collective ethical self-realization. Habermas’ discourse theory of law and democracy seeks to overcome this competition between the negative and positive liberties. Doing so entails reconciling private and public autonomy at a fundamental conceptual level. This is his co-originality thesis, which seeks to show that private and public autonomy are internally connected and evenly balanced. I support his aim but argue that he fails to achieve it due to an unsatisfactory account of private autonomy. I suggest an alternative dialogical conception of autonomy as ethically self-determining agency that would enable him to establish his thesis."

* "A Frankfurter in Königsberg: Prolegomenon to any Future Non-Metaphysical Kant" - James Gordon Finlayson

Abstract: "In this article I press four different objections on [Rainer] Forst’s theory of the ‘Right to Justification’. These are (i) that the principle of justification is not well-formulated; (ii) that ‘reasonableness and reciprocity’, as these notions are used by Rawls, are not apt to support a Kantian conception of morality; (iii) that the principle of justification, as Forst understands it, gives an inadequate account of what makes actions wrong; and (iv) that, in spite of his protestations to the contrary, Forst’s account veers towards a version of moral realism that is prima facie incompatible with Kantian constructivism. I then evaluate Forst’s theory in the light of a distinction made by Sharon Street between restricted and unrestricted constructivism. I show that Forst has reason to deny that it is either the one or the other, but he is not able to show that it is both or neither. I conclude that the arguments Forst advances in support of his constructivist theory of the right to justification entail that it is a metaphysical and comprehensive conception in the relevant, Rawlsian sense. Forst’s theory of the right to justification therefore fails to fulfil one of the main stated aims."

* "Acting Irrespective of Hope" [paper] - Fabian Freyenhagen

Abstract: "Must we ascribe hope for better times to those who (take themselves to) act morally? Kant and later theorists in the Frankfurt School tradition thought we must. In this article, I disclose that it is possible – and ethical – to refrain from ascribing hope in all such cases. I draw on two key examples of acting irrespective of hope: one from a recent political context and one from the life of Jean Améry. I also suggest that, once we see that it is possible to make sense of (what I call) ‘merely expressive acts’, we can also see that the early Frankfurt School was not guilty of a performative contradiction in seeking to enlighten Enlightenment about its (self-)destructive tendencies, while rejecting the (providential) idea of progress."

* "Towards an Unfettered Critique: Adorno’s Appropriations and Transformations of Kant’s Enlightenment" - Garmon D. Iago

Abstract: "Many recent commentators have noticed how Adorno, in his late works, borrows Kant’s definition of enlightenment to define key areas of his own critical practice. These discussions, however, have failed to notice how these late borrowings present an image of Kant’s enlightenment which is diametrically opposed to his previous discussions. By tracing the development of Adorno’s engagement with Kant’s essay, I discover Adorno deliberately sublating Kant’s definition as to enable its incorporation into his own works. Further, the article will examine some problems which appear to arise for Adorno when borrowing Kant’s definition of enlightenment in his late works, which coalesce around the topics of negativism and the prospects for societal change."

* "Freedom from Autonomy: An Essay on Accountability" - Brian O’Connor

Abstract: "Neo-Kantian philosophers see accountability as a key property of autonomy, or of social freedom more broadly. Autonomy, among those theorists, is, I contend, implicitly co-conceived with responsibility, producing a quasi-juridical conception of autonomy and a limiting notion of freedom. This article criticizes the connecting of freedom with accountability on a number of grounds. First, various conceptions of autonomy not only operate without a notion of accountability, but, in fact, would be impaired by an accountability requirement. Second, the neo-Kantians are unable to defend the freedom enhancing properties that are supposedly brought about by the giving of reasons for one’s beliefs and actions. Third, the project of accountability is indifferent to personal outlooks, not because it takes a holistic perspective, but because of its interest in social convergence."

* "Habermasian Constructivism: An Alternative to the Constitutivist Argument" - Dafydd Huw Rees

Abstract: "Jürgen Habermas’ discourse theory of morality should be understood, in metaethical terms, as a constructivist theory. All constructivist theories face a Euthyphro-like dilemma arising from how they classify the constraints on their metaethical construction procedures: are they moral or non-moral? Many varieties of Kantian constructivism, such as Christine Korsgaard’s, classify the constraints as moral, albeit constitutive of human reason and agency in general. However, this constitutivist strategy is vulnerable to David Enoch’s ‘shmagency’ objection. The discourse theory of morality, by classifying the constraints on the metaethical construction procedure (principles (D) and (U)) as non-moral, can avoid this problem."

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Robert Brandom's lectures on Richard Rorty (Fall 2020)

Robert Brandom has published videos, audios, representation notes and handouts from his seminar on "Anti-Representationalism as Neopragmatism and Global Expressivism" (Fall 2020).

The first part of the seminar is on Richard Rorty:

1. Rorty’s Critique of Enlightenment Representationalism, and (so) of Analytic Philosophy

Presentation notes [PDF] + Video [2 h, 10 m]

2. Rorty Finds His Pragmatist Voice

Presentation notes [PDF] + Video [2 h, 29 m]

3. Cheryl Misak’s Critique of Rorty’s Pragmatism

Presentation notes [PDF] + Video [2 h, 22 m]

4. Rorty’s Literary Kehre

Presentation notes [PDF] + Video [2 h, 33 m]

5. Rorty’s Political Kehre

Presentation notes [PDF] + Video [2 h, 25 m]

6. Assessing Rorty’s Pragmatism as Anti-Representationalism

Presentation notes [PDF] + Video [2 h, 18 m]

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

"Theory, Culture & Society" on Jürgen Habermas

The December issue of "Theory, Culture & Society" contains a special section on "Habermas at 90: Reflections on Philosophy and the Present Condition", edited by Rainer Winter:

* Moral Universalism at a Time of Political Regression (Interview), by Jürgen Habermas

"In the present interview, Jürgen Habermas answers questions about his wide-ranging work in philosophy and social theory, as well as concerning current social and political developments to whose understanding he has made important theoretical contributions. Among the aspects of his work addressed are his conception of communicative rationality as a countervailing force to the colonization of the lifeworld by capitalism and his understanding of philosophy after Hegel as postmetaphysical thinking, for which he has recently provided a comprehensive historical grounding. The scope and relevance of his ideas can be seen from his reflections on current issues, ranging from the prospects of translational democracy at a time of resurgent nationalism and populism, to political developments in Germany since reunification, to the role of religion in the public sphere and the impact of the new social media on democratic discourse."

[Originally published in "Leviathan" (open access), vol. 48 no. 1 (2020), pp. 7-28.]

* On the Contemporary Relevance of Jürgen Habermas’ Social Theory, by Rainer Winter

"This introduction discusses the contemporary relevance of Jürgen Habermas’ social theory following the publication of his recent work, Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie (2019). It deals with his key topics and interventionist style of thinking. The essence of Habermas’ critical theory is its unwavering commitment to the utopia of communicative reason."

* Faith and Knowledge: Habermas’ Alternative History of Philosophy, by Hans Joas

[Review of Jürgen Habermas' "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie" (2019)]

"Jürgen Habermas’ philosophical oeuvre so far contained only few references to thinkers prior to Kant. The publication of a comprehensive history of Western philosophy by this author, therefore, came as a surprise. The book is not, as many had anticipated, a book about religion, but about the gradual emancipation of “secular” “autonomous” rationality from religion, although in a way that preserves a normative commitment to Christianity. While welcoming this attitude and praising the achievements of this book, this text is also critical with regard to Habermas' understanding of faith and hints at several shortcomings of the historical argument resulting from this deficient presupposition."

[Originally published in "Süddeutsche Zeitung", November 14, 2019]

* A Genealogy of Faith and Freedom, by Hans-Herbert Kögler [Recommended!]

[Review of Jürgen Habermas' "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie" (2019)]

"The review highlights how Habermas reconstructs the historically constitutive function of religious thought regarding essential categories through which to appropriate our practical freedom. It articulates the three essential bifurcations taken along the way: to opt for Judeo-Christian dialogism versus other axial age world religions; for a Lutheran Kantianism of an unconditional normativity versus an empiricist naturalism; and for the hermeneutic discovery of a validity-oriented communicative agency versus a Hegelian metaphysics. Recognizing our normative indebtedness to religious roots in modernity is to enable the renewal of an unabashed commitment to 'rational freedom,' thus serving as a bulwark against currently fashionable scientistic worldviews. Such a hermeneutic genealogy may also provide one promising resource to reconstruct shared normative ideals in a cross-cultural dialogue."

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Reconceiving Religion in the Postsecular Public Sphere

 "Berlin Journal of Critical Theory", vol. 4, no. 2, 2020, is a special issue on 

"Reconceiving Religion in the Postsecular Public Sphere" [PDF]


Hans-Herbert Kögler - "Introduction": Challenges of a Postsecular Public Sphere

Andrew Buchwalter - "Religion in the Public Sphere. Habermas, His Critics, and Hegelian Challenges"

Rick Phillips - "The Prospects of Postsecular Religion: A Sociological Perspective

Joseph Hellweg - "Religion in – and as – the Public Sphere: A West Africa-Based Critique of Critical Theory of Democracy"

Hans-Herbert Kögler - "Tradition, Transcendence, and the Public Sphere: A Hermeneutic Critique of Religion"

See also Hans-Herbert Kögler's review of Jürgen Habermas' "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie": "A Genealogy of Faith and Freedom".

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Articles and books on Habermas 1961-1991

Updated bibliographies of secondary literature on Jürgen Habermas in English and German:

"Articles and books on Jürgen Habermas 1961-1981" [PDF; 99 pages]

"Articles and books on Jürgen Habermas 1982-1991" [PDF; 168 pages]

Friday, October 02, 2020

On Martin Jay's new book on the Frankfurt School

An interview with Martin Jay on his new book on the first generation of the Frankfurt School: "Splinters in Your Eye. Frankfurt School Provocations" (Verso, 2020):

* Interview with Martin Jay - conducted by Ryan Tripp [audio, 84 minutes], Newbooksnetwork

See also Martin Jay's conversation with Paul Breines [video, 65 minutes] (City Lights Bookstore).

See a preview of Martin Jay's book here.

From the book blurb:

"Although successive generations of the Frankfurt School have attempted to adapt Critical Theory to new circumstances, the work done by its founding members continues in the twenty-first century to unsettle conventional wisdom about culture, society and politics. Exploring unexamined episodes in the school’s history and reading its work in unexpected ways, these essays provide ample evidence of the abiding relevance of Horkheimer, Adorno, Benjamin, Marcuse, Löwenthal, and Kracauer in our troubled times. Without forcing a unified argument, they range over a wide variety of topics, from the uncertain founding of the School to its mixed reception of psychoanalysis, from Benjamin’s ruminations on stamp collecting to the ironies in the reception of Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man, from Löwenthal’s role in Weimar’s Jewish Renaissance to Horkheimer’s involvement in the writing of the first history of the Frankfurt School. Of special note are their responses to visual issues such as the emancipation of colour in modern art, the Jewish prohibition on images, the relationship between cinema and the public sphere, and the implications of a celebrated Family of Man photographic exhibition. The collection ends with an essay tracing the still metastasising demonisation of the Frankfurt School by the so-called Alt Right as the source of “cultural Marxism” and “political correctness,” which has gained alarming international resonance and led to violence by radical right-wing fanatics."

In 2016 Martin Jay published "Reason after Its Eclipse: On Late Critical Theory" (University of Winconsin Press).

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Review of Katrina Forrester's "In the Shadow of Justice"

At "Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews", Samuel Freeman reviews Katrina Forrester's "In the Shadow of Justice: Postwar Liberalism and the Remaking of Political Philosophy" (Princeton University Press, 2019):

Review of "In the Shadow of Justice"

Excerpts from Freeman's review

"Katrina Forrester's book is an engaging history of John Rawls's intellectual development and the outpouring of work in political philosophy his ideas have engendered.  (....) Forrester does not openly reject the liberal egalitarian principles or institutions Rawls and others advocate, but she sees their theoretical approach as constricting. She contends that Rawls and philosophers of justice influenced by him have been fixated on formulating moral principles and rules, and that the "overwhelming focus" of these norms "was on questions of distribution and ownership." (....) One of the primary conclusions Forrester extracts from her history is that Rawls's theory of justice and the liberal egalitarian philosophy his work stimulated are largely irrelevant today. She says that the "tale of philosophical success" she recounts "is also a ghost story, in which Rawls's theory lives on as a spectral presence long after the conditions it describes were gone." 

"Rawls's critics charge that the difference principle effectively makes welfare state capitalism, with its considerable inequalities, a permanent element of democratic societies. But Rawls argues in his later works that no form of capitalism, even the capitalist welfare state, satisfies his principles of justice, because capitalism puts no restrictions on inequalities or concentrations of wealth, and inevitably results in the vast majority of people having no economic wealth or discretionary powers and prerogatives in their employment. Consequently, the capitalist welfare state undermines the "fair value" of equal political liberties, fair equality of opportunities, fair economic reciprocity, and disadvantaged citizens' sense of self-respect. Rawls already says in "Theory" [of Justice] that the economic system that satisfies his principles of justice is a "property-owning democracy" or liberal socialism. He understands property-owning democracy as a regulated market system in which capitalism's gross inequalities and concentrations of wealth are eliminated, shares of wealth are widely distributed among all society's members, and workers may exercise greater freedom, powers, and responsibilities within firms and their workplace." (....)

"To apply Rawls's principles to contemporary U.S. politics: there is something deeply unjust about a democracy in which concentrated wealth largely controls the political agenda, and political appeals regularly mobilize fabricated facts and racist, sectarian, and self-aggrandizing considerations that undermine the equal rights, liberties, opportunities, and basic needs of citizens, not to mention the rule of law itself. The integrity of democratic institutions has broken down."

See also Brian Kogelmann's review of Katrina Forrester's book here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

On Habermas' essay "30 Jahre danach"

In today's "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (September 30), three German historians - Ute Daniels, Andreas Rödder and Andreas Wirsching - comment on Jürgen Habermas' essay "30 Jahre danach: Die zweite Chance" in "Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik" 9/2020:

Die neue Übersichtlichkeit


Andreas Rödder:

"Dreißig Jahre nach der Wiedervereinigung sieht Jürgen Habermas die historische Chance, zwei zentrale Versäumnisse zu beheben: die dysfunktionale Europäische Währungsunion durch Schuldenvergemeinschaftung zu korrigieren und den Antikommunismus durch ein Bündnis gegen „rechts“ zu überwinden. Es geht ihm darum, „den Prozess der deutschen Einigung zu vollenden, indem wir unsere nationalen Kräfte für den entscheidenden Integrationsschritt in Europa bündeln“. Denn „ohne europäische Einigung“ würden wir „weder die einstweilen unabsehbaren ökonomischen Folgen der Pandemie noch den Rechtspopulismus“ bewältigen.

Problematisch ist an dieser kühnen Mischung vor allem die pauschale Moralisierung nach dem Muster: Wer nicht für die Vertiefung der EU ist, ist gegen Europa, oder: Links und rechts gleich gut und böse. Was die deutsche Demokratie und die Europäische Union aber brauchen – das ist die eigentliche Lehre der Wieder-vereinigung ebenso wie der europäischen Integration –, sind nicht moralisierende Gewissheiten, sondern ergebnisoffene Debatten. (.....)

Scharf schießt er gegen die „Diskriminierung der Linken“ und die Totalitarismus-theorie. In der Realität hat freilich bis heute keine Polemik den Umstand aus der Welt gebracht, dass sich die Hufeisentheorie immer wieder bestätigt: Anmaßung von Wahrheit und die Unterdrückung des Dissenses sind linken und rechten Gegnern der offenen Gesellschaft zu eigen, identitätspolitischer Cancel-Kultur ebenso wie identitärem nationalistischem Ressentiment.

Pauschalisierungen helfen nicht weiter, wo Differenzierung geboten ist. Gegenüber Extremismen gibt es klar bestimmbare Grenzen des Zulässigen. Dazu braucht es keine Volksfront „gegen rechts“, sondern einen handlungsfähigen Rechtsstaat. Diesseits dieser Grenzen jedoch ist die Aufgabe einer demokratischen Ordnung die Integration."

Andreas Wirsching

"Lernen es die Deutschen in der Pandemie-Krise endlich, beherzter als zuvor in Europa zu investieren; und vermögen sie damit zugleich ihre innere Einheit zu vollenden? Der Artikel von Jürgen Habermas enthält mehr, weniger und anderes, als es diese so wichtige und von ihm neu gestellte Kernfrage nahelegt: mehr, weil Habermas treffend das Fehlen einer politischen Öffentlichkeit in der DDR, ostdeutsche Befindlichkeiten und die hieraus folgenden Dichotomien für das wiedervereinigte Deutschland analysiert; weniger insofern, als er die europäische Integration aus einer letztlich sehr deutschen und damit reduzierten Perspektive betrachtet; schließlich auch anderes, denn sein weiter Ausflug in die Geschichte der „Vergangenheitsbewältigung“ verrät zwar biographisches Engagement, hat aber für die gestellte Zukunftsfrage nur begrenzte Relevanz. (.....)

Innenpolitisch ermöglicht es das Bewusstsein der Krise, europapolitische Maßnahmen ohne Beispiel durchzusetzen. Auch deren notorische Gegner in CDU und CSU akzeptieren zumindest das Prinzip. Ein wichtiger Grund hierfür – da hat Habermas ganz recht – liegt in der Existenz der AfD. Mit ihren antieuropäischen Feindbildern spaltet sie das Land, wovon sich die Union um ihres Überlebens willen abgrenzen muss."