Friday, March 26, 2021

Vier Kommentare zu Habermas’ "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie"

Trostlose Vernunft?

Vier Kommentare zu Jürgen Habermas’ Konstellation von Philosophie und Geschichte, Glauben und Wissen

von Burkhard Liebsch & Bernhard H. F. Taureck

(Felix Meiner Verlag, 2021)

247 Seiten


Philosophie spendet keinen Trost und garantiert keine Versöhnung, lehrt Habermas in seinem jüngsten Werk "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie". Bedarf derart ernüchtertes Wissen eines funktional komplementären Glaubens, wie es in Habermas’ Rückgriffen auf die Philosophiegeschichte den Anschein hat?

Habermas bekennt sich wie Hegel zur "prinzipiellen Trostlosigkeit" philosophischen Denkens, verzichtet aber auch auf Glücks-, Sinn- oder Erlösungsversprechen. Er legt einen weiten Weg der Ernüchterung zurück. Burkhard Liebsch und Bernhard H. F. Taureck gehen in vier historisch und sozialphilosophisch ausgerichteten, reichhaltigen Kommentaren den Stationen dieser Ernüchterung nach und verdeutlichen, welche Potenziale Habermas' eigentümliche Konfiguration von Glauben und Wissen, Philosophie und Geschichte opfert.

Inhalt [PDF]

Vorwort  [PDF]

1. Geschichtliche Perspektiven "heil"-loser Vernunft. Jürgen Habermas’ implizite Geschichtsphilosophie – und was sie vermissen lässt - Burkhard Liebsch

2. Philosophie und religiöser Glaube. Versuch weiterführender Überlegungen in Auseinandersetzung mit Jürgen Habermas - Bernhard H. F. Taureck

3. Rückhaltlos verweltlicht? Philosophie vor ihrer Auflösung oder Verwirklichung - Burkhard Liebsch

4. Beantwortung der Frage: Welche verborgene Rolle spielt Habermas’ demokratisches Projekt in seinem "Opus magnum" von 2019? - Bernhard H. F. Taureck

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Pragmatism and Epistemic Democracy

The new issue of "Raisons Politiques" (2021/1) features articles on "Pragmatism and Epistemic Democracy", edited by Annabelle Lever and Dominik Gerber:

* Introduction - Annabelle Lever, Dominik Gerber

* Pragmatism, Truth, and Democracy - Cheryl Misak & Robert B. Talisse

There is growing interest in deliberative democracy, especially the pragmatist version that argues that democratic freedoms and procedures are more likely to get us to the right view of what is true, just, or right. In this time in our history, a focus on truth is more important than ever. We (Robert Talisse and Cheryl Misak) have put forward a position on which we can justify democratic freedoms and procedures on the basis of epistemic reasons. Our very practices of belief and reasoning require that we regard each other as social equals and that the voices of all are taken seriously in our quest for truth. Lever and Chin, in a way that is broadly sympathetic to our general project, have expressed a worry that we are “wrong to suppose that epistemic considerations are better placed than moral considerations when justifying coercive power over others”. In response, we will first distinguish two sites where an epistemic justification of democracy might operate. On our view, the epistemic argument shows why we should be democrats, and the question of how democrats can justify the exercise of coercion is a different matter. We argue that the appropriate reasons we as a society give to justify coercive power over others will indeed be moral. Our point has always been that beliefs about what it is morally right to do must be responsive to reasons, if they are beliefs that are aimed at getting things right. Then the argument for democracy comes in: the best method for getting things right is, broadly speaking, a democratic one. But the reasons that will be in play will be reasons about equality, autonomy, utility, and so on.

* Democracy and Truth - Annabelle Lever

According to Misak and Talisse, we can get from the fact that we all take what we believe to be true, whatever our different and incompatible beliefs, to reasons to support democratic, as opposed to undemocratic, government. Hence, they claim that democracy is necessary, but not sufficient, for epistemically justified belief. This article clarifies and sceptically assesses these claims.

* The Pragmatist Demos and the Boundary Problem - Matthew Festenstein

The pragmatist argument that a democratic ethos and institutions are in some sense a form of inquiry remains one of the most powerful but elusive themes in its social and political thought. As a term and concept, democracy predates the modern state but the project of justifying democracy is paradigmatically a project of justifying it within and for the modern state. Drawing on Misak and Talisse’s important development of the inquiry argument, this article draws out how the pragmatist epistemic argument breaks with this traditional conception of democratic justification, and how its commitment to the removal of internal obstacles to epistemic inclusion provides general reasons to question political boundaries.

* Democracy and Epistemic Egalitarianism - Dominik Gerber

Because of its non-instrumentalism, Cheryl Misak’s and Robert Talisse’s Peircean theory of democratic justification constitutes a unique and important variety of epistemic democracy. At its core is the claim that democracy is a constituent component of the Peircean epistemic ideal of inquiry. This article offers a relational egalitarian reading of this ideal and argues that Peircean epistemic egalitarianism fails to provide unambiguous support for our commitment to uphold politically egalitarian institutions. It cautions against using conceptual affinities between democratic equality, the self-reflexivity it enables among citizens, and worthwhile epistemic relationships as a basis for justifying democracy.

* The Paradoxes of Democratic Voting and the Peircean Justification of Democracy - Valeria Ottonelli

The Peircean defence of democracy purports to ground the appeal of democratic government on universal epistemic interests that we simply have qua individual epistemic agents. The problem with this view is that it seems to obliterate the distinctive way in which democratic deliberation and decision making socialise our knowledge and beliefs, making democracy a very special epistemic game, quite different from the games that we play as individual knowers in non-political, non-democratic contexts. The shortcomings of the Peircean defence of democracy fully emerge when confronted with the paradoxes of democratic voting, which can only be overcome if we model the democratic processes of deliberation and belief formation as deeply collectivised and socialised. Thus, the neglect of the distinctive way in which democratic deliberation and decision making socialise knowledge grounds the Peircean defence of democracy on an inaccurate account of democracy’s epistemology, and leaves it helpless before the paradoxes of majoritian voting.

* Epistemic Democracy Without Truth: The Deweyan Approach [Paper] - Michael Fuerstein

In this essay I situate John Dewey’s pragmatist approach to democratic epistemology in relation to contemporary “epistemic democracy”. Like epistemic democrats, Dewey characterizes democracy as a form of social inquiry. But whereas epistemic democrats suggest that democracy aims to “track the truth”, Dewey rejects the notion of “tracking” or “corresponding” to truth in political and other domains. For Dewey, the measure of successful decision-making is not some fixed independent standard of truth or correctness but, instead, our own reflective satisfaction with the practical results. I argue that this approach better reconciles epistemic democracy with traditional models of popular authority (“the will of the people”) and bolsters the defenses of the epistemic democrat against elitist alternatives.

See also:

"Pragmatist Epistemology and Democratic Theory" by Cheryl Misak & Robert Talisse (Journal of Political Philosophy, 22, 3 (2014), pp. 366-376.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

"The Historical Rawls" - new essays

A forthcoming issue of "Modern Intellectual History" features essays on John Rawls:

* The Historical Rawls: Introduction, by Sophie Smith, Teresa M. Bejan & Annette Zimmermann

John Rawls (1921–2002) and his work are now squarely a subject for history. In the more than fifteen years since his death, a rich body of scholarship has emerged which attempts, in different ways, to understand the nature, development, and impact of Rawls's thought from a variety of historical perspectives. With 2021 marking fifty years since A Theory of Justice (1971) was first published, this special forum examines what we here call the “historical Rawls.”

* Historicizing Rawls, by Sophie Smith

The opening, in 2004, of John Rawls's personal archive prompted a new wave of Rawls scholarship. This work has deepened our understanding of the development and impact of Rawls's ideas and of the broader contours of twentieth-century analytical political philosophy. This article places these recent archival histories, for the first time, in the context of the longer history of attempts to historicize Rawls, beginning with the publication of A Theory of Justice fifty years ago. Doing so does three things. First, it shows that early readers were more interested in how to think historically about Rawls than is sometimes assumed. Second, it reveals that partisan accounts of Rawls's place in history, popularized by those close to him, have sometimes made their way into the archival studies. Third and finally, it offers an opportunity to rethink how the twentieth-century history of political philosophy and political theory is often told.

* John Rawls and Oxford Philosophy, by Nikhil Krishnan

Scholarship historicizing John Rawls has put paid to the view that his work was without precedent. This article sets out to find out why, then, A Theory of Justice stirred such philosophical excitement, even among British philosophers in a position to recognize its antecedents. I advance the view that his work is helpfully understood as fulfilling the promise of the “naturalist” revival in ethics begun at Oxford by Philippa Foot and Elizabeth Anscombe. After briefly surveying the development of analytic philosophy, I argue that Rawls's contribution was to reconceive ethics so that it was an investigation neither of an independent ethical reality nor of the logic of moral language. Rather, it was concerned with a class of facts about ourselves. Rawls's practice of ethics adopts as its central focus the ongoing human practice of justification. I place Rawls's turn from religious faith to justification between persons alongside similar shifts in Plato's Euthyphro and in the biographies of Kant and Sidgwick. I try to show the distinctiveness of Rawls's focus by contrasting his search for human self-understanding with the project of R. M. Hare, his most prominent non-naturalist critic, who charged Rawls with offering an inadequate account of the authority of ethics.

Conscription and the Color Line: Rawls, Race and Vietnam, by Brandon M. Terry

This article revisits one of John Rawls's rare forays into activist politics, his proposal presented to the Harvard faculty, calling for a denunciation of the “2-S” system of student deferments from conscription. In little-studied archival papers, Rawls argued that the draft both exposed “background” structural racial injustice and constituted a burdening of black Americans that violated the norms of fair cooperation. Rather than obscuring racial injustice and focusing exclusively on economic inequality, as Charles Mills has claimed, Rawls rejected the ascendant conservative views that naturalized black poverty or else attributed it to cultural pathologies in black families. Thus Rawls found nothing illicit in taking the position of a disadvantaged racial group as a relevant comparison when applying his ideal theory to nonideal circumstances. However, I contend in this article that Rawls's account of political philosophy as an attempt to find a consensus may be similarly ideological, leading him to displace the reality of conflict through begging descriptions, expressivist formulations, and historical romanticism.

* The Theodicy of Growth: John Rawls, Political Economy, and Reasonable Faith, by Stefan Eich [Paper, PDF]

Rediscovery of John Rawls's early interest in theology has recently prompted readings of his philosophical project as a secularized response to earlier theological questions. Intellectual historians have meanwhile begun to historicize Rawls's use of contemporary philosophical resources and his engagement with economic theory. In this article I argue that what held together Rawls's evolving interest in postwar political economy and his commitment to philosophy as reconciliation was his understanding of the need for secular theodicy. In placing Rawls in the intellectual context of a postwar political economy of growth as well as in relation to the history of political thought, including his reading of that history, I defend two claims. First, I argue that Rawls's philosophical ambition is best understood as providing a secular reconciliatory theodicy. Second, I suggest that Rawls's theodicy was initially rendered plausible by the economic background conditions of economic growth that were fractured and fragmented just as Rawls's book was published in 1971. This divergence between text and context helps to account for Rawls's peculiar reception and his own subsequent attempt to insist on the applicability of his theory under radically altered circumstances.

* “A Quite Similar Enterprise … Interpreted Quite Differently”? James Buchanan, John Rawls and the Politics of the Social Contract, by Ben Jackson & Zofia Stemplowska

A striking aspect of the initial reception of John Rawls is that he was embraced by leading market-liberal theorists such as Friedrich Hayek and James Buchanan. This article investigates the reasons for the free-market right's sympathetic interest in the early Rawls by providing a historical account of the dialogue between Rawls and his key neoliberal interlocutor, James Buchanan. We set out the common intellectual context, notably the influence of Frank Knight, that framed the initial work of both Buchanan and Rawls and brought them together as seeming allies during the early 1960s. We then analyze a significant theoretical divergence between the two in the 1970s related to their contrasting responses to the politics of those years and to differences over the importance of ideal theory in political thought. The exchanges between Buchanan and Rawls demonstrate that Rawlsian liberalism and neoliberalism initially emerged as entwined critiques of mid-twentieth-century political economy but could not sustain that alliance when faced by the new claims for civil and social rights that became a marked feature of politics after the 1960s.

Islam, Rawls, and the Disciplinary Limits of Late Twentieth-Century Liberal Philosophy, by Murad Idris

This article tells the archival story of how Rawls invented a hypothetical Muslim state that he called “Kazanistan.” It examines drafts of The Law of Peoples from 1992 to 1998, Rawls's notes, his personal correspondence, and the sources preserved in his archives. I track Rawls's gradual interest in Islam, which resulted in his invention of Kazanistan during the final revisions, in March 1998. Contrary to the aesthetics of rigor and simplicity in ideal theory's methods, Rawls's actual method in his incursion into “comparative philosophy” and Islam was circuitous and contingent. And contrary to ideal theory's self-presentation as emerging from an ahistorical conceptual realm, the idealized abstraction of Islam emerges from Rawls's own history, or from an ideologically limited set of texts, conversations, and political debates about Islam. The genealogy of Kazanistan illustrates how liberal philosophy extracts data from other disciplines to construct other peoples, without regard for the surrounding disciplinary politics.

Rawls's Teaching and the “Tradition” of Political Philosophy, by Teresa M. Bejan

This article explores Rawls's evolving orientation to “the tradition of political philosophy” over the course of his academic career, culminating in Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (2001). Drawing on archival material, it argues that Rawls's fascination with tradition arose out of his own pedagogical engagement with the debate around the “death of political philosophy” in the 1950s. Throughout, I highlight the significance of Rawls's teaching—beginning with his earliest lectures on social and political philosophy at Cornell, to his shifting views on “the tradition” in his published works, culminating in the increasingly contextually minded and irenic approach on display in Political Liberalism (1993) and Justice as Fairness. This neglected aspect of the “historical Rawls” offers insight into how Rawls himself might have read “John Rawls” as a figure in the history of political thought—and reveals that he spent a lot more time contemplating that question than one might think.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

William Rehg on Habermas' new book

William Rehg reviews Habermas' book "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie" (Suhrkamp, 2019) in "Constellations" (early view):

"Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie" (Book review)


"Habermas offers a genealogy of postmetaphysical thought  as it emerged through the discourse over faith and reason. (....) In centering the analysis on faith and reason, Habermas assumes we cannot understand contemporary forms of postmetaphysical thought as issuing from a learning process if we do not understand their development within, and eventually away from, religious traditions - with which Western philosophy was deeply intertwined for more than a millennium. Indeed, to understand the prospects for a holistic philosophy today, we must attend to the ways in which religious traditions have shaped - and might still speak to - reflection on the kind of questions posed by Kant. [What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope for? What is a human being?]

In the Christian West, that influence is clearest in the emergence of universal, equalitarian ideals in ethical-political theory and practice. The existential ambition driving Habermas’s genealogy, then, aims to show how that Christian legacy offers resources for holistic, but secular philosophical reflection on the meaning of today’s world for our lives “as contemporaries and individuals”. 

Over the course of the genealogy, however, the question of hope takes on a distinctive significance, for without a secular answer to that question moral progress lacks an important motivational resource. For Habermas, that resource lies in the possibility of a global, intercultural dialogue on principles of international justice. In beginning with the Axial Age, he aims to ground that possibility by showing how incipient ideas of universal equality are not merelyWestern, but are found in all the major religions and belief-systems that simultaneously arose across China and India through the Middle East to Greece. [.....]

Deconstructing normativity as a socially functional illusion, Hume approached morality and faith as objects of psychological observation. By contrast, Kant reconstructed basic moral concepts from a participant perspective and drew on religious doctrine to address a deeper problem of moral motivation: on what basis can we expect people of good will always to give priority to the binding force of moral obligations? In response, he translated Christian ideas - the immortality of the soul, the Kingdom of God on earth - into secular grounds for encouraging people to act morally for a better world. (.....) Indeed, Kant represents a decisive figure in the story, for in him Habermas sees the most enduring secular translations of the rational potentials found in religion - not his pragmatic arguments for immortality and God, but rather his transposition of imago Dei and the Kingdom of God into ideas of equality, moral autonomy, universal human rights, and a cosmopolitan world order. [.....]

Habermas closes his genealogy in chapter 10 with four “Young Hegelians,” broadly defined – Feuerbach, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Peirce - who strove to work out the implications of a non-idealist, communicative concept of reason in history. Each of these thinkers focused on some aspect of reconciling human agency and emancipation with the linguistic, social, and life-historical contexts on which human self-understanding and action depend—whether that aspect was culture (Feuerbach), opaque socioeconomic forces (Marx), the individual’s unique historicity (Kierkegaard), or the linguistic pragmatic conditions of cooperation in inquiry, moral deliberation, and politics (Peirce). Those analyses, Habermas asserts, anticipate all the problems of 20th-century postmetaphysical thought in the Kant-Hegel tradition, as well as challenges for social integration posed by global cooperation, digital communications, and genetic engineering."

See my links to reviews of Habermas' book here.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

John Rawls at 100

John Rawls was born on February 21, 1921, and he published his "A Theory of Justice" in 1971. In celebration of these 100th and 50th anniversaries:

* DE: Stefan Gosepath, Otfried Höffe & Susan Neiman (SWR1, audio, 44 minutes)

* UK: Teresa Bejan, Jonathan Floyd & Rupert Read (BBC, audio, 48 minutes)

* DE: Otfried Höffe (Deutschlandsfunk, audio, 30 minutes) 

* DE: Otfried Höffe (Frankfurter Rundschau)

* DE: Otfried Höffe (Philosophie Magazin)

* DE: Rainer Forst (Die Zeit)

* DE: Dirk Lüddecke (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

* DE: Stefan Gosepath (Der Tagesspiegel)

* DE: Armin Pfahl-Traughber (HPD)

* DE: Mathias Risse (

* UK: Lawrence Solum (Legal Theory Blog)

* UK: Jon Mandle & Sarah Roberts-Cady (OUP Blog)

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Interview with Habermas in "Libération"

A new interview with Jürgen Habermas in the French newspaper "Libération" (February 1, 2021):

"La pandémie met à l’épreuve notre degré de civisme"


Comment percevez-vous la montée en puissance d’un complotisme radical?

Ce nouveau type de mouvements protestataires, réunissant des adeptes de l’autoritarisme et des conspirationnistes de tous poils, des hooligans et des gens de la droite radicale prêts à recourir à la violence, est à mes yeux le phénomène véritablement inquiétant. Ce n’est pas la politique sanitaire étatique qui a généré ce potentiel de violence même si celui-ci connaît une pleine visi bilité depuis la pandémie. Dès l’année 2017, la mouvance QAnon se faisait déjà entendre, et bruyamment. De façon tout à fait grotesque, ses partisans s’érigent en défenseurs des droits et de la liberté. A première vue, le mélange d’éléments autoritaires et d’éléments libertariens-égocentriques ne cadre en rien avec le schéma classique de l’antagonisme gauche-droite. Le fait que ces personnes à l’évidence avides de provocations et se mettant volontiers en scène aient largement participé le 6 janvier dernier, lors de l’assaut le Capitole, à Washington, doit nous faire réfléchir – bien que le trumpisme, aux Etats-Unis, ait naturellement de tout autres racines. Je crains que ce type de protestations, et pour lequel à ma connaissance aucune explication convaincante n’a été jusqu’à présent apportée, ne soit pas un phénomène éphémère mais le signe qu’aux actuelles apories sociales répond un nouveau profil psychologique – qui n’a pas encore été saisi avec justesse. Ce n’est pas la psychologie sociale du conspirationnisme qui est le problème fondamental, mais la question suivante: quelles sont les causes qui génèrent un tel mélange de phénomènes faisant à ce point contraste?

Comment qualifiez-vous ce danger qui menace le régime américain?

Les premières enquêtes d’opinion montrent que le noyau dur des fanatiques de Trump est allé trop loin en occupant le Capitole, y compris aux yeux de très nombreux sympathisants de l’ancien président, dont le sens civique a été heurté. D’un autre côté, le fait que 73 millions de personnes aient voté Trump constitue un signal d’alarme fort, qui doit attirer l’attention sur des tendances structurelles extrêmement malheureuses, vieilles de plusieurs décennies, et que Joe Biden ne pourra corriger du jour au lendemain, quelle que soit sa bonne volonté. [.....]

Le système politique américain a connu dès les années 90 un processus de polarisation consistant à aiguiser l’inimitié entre groupes, et cela de façon parfaitement intentionnelle, à l’initiative des républicains et sous la direction du député Newt Gingrich. Quant au système médiatique américain, qui est entièrement privatisé, il est incapable – et pas seulement depuis que la sphère publique est fragmentée par les réseaux sociaux – de faire naître à l’échelle du pays entier des débats dignes de ce nom. Le paysage politique de ce pays aux disparités sociales révoltantes et dont l’infrastructure publique tombe en ruine ne s’agence plus en fonction d’une perception et d’une évaluation rationnelles des intérêts en présence, et c’est pourquoi les confrontations politiques y sont dominées par les affects. 

[.....] Une culture politique libérale doit se régénérer par elle-même. Ce n’est pas la polarisation croissante des débats publics qui me semble être le problème fondamental, mais le fait que l’on n’examine pas à fond les alternatives politiques, qu’on ne les formule pas assez clairement et qu’on ne les étaye pas suffisamment. 

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."