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