Thursday, April 22, 2021

Symposium on "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie"

The new issue of "Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie" features articles on Jürgen Habermas' "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2019):

Robin Celikates - "Einleitung" [link] [preview]

Jürgen Habermas - "Rückblick eines Autors" [preview]

This essay is a reflection on what I hoped to achieve with a project that was in the making for more than ten years. The account probably illustrates the aims that I believe I should have pursued in the project looking back upon it today rather than what I actually achieved within it; in any case, what one has actually written is only revealed after the fact from the critical responses of attentive and sensitive readers.

Axel Honneth - "Säkulare Vernunft? Eine kleine Rückfrage an ein großes Buch" [preview]

In my contribution I ask whether the version of secular reason Jürgen Habermas characterises as “post-metaphysical” can really provide us children of modernity with a comprehensive self- and world-understanding. I begin by asking what it means to claim that secular reason is “post-metaphysical” (1). There are various possible ways of understanding this characterisation, some stronger than others; but there needs to be clarity on this issue to address my second question: What would secular reason really have to achieve in order to make good on its claim that it can still provide us with a comprehensive understanding of our relation both to ourselves and to the world? I will split this question along two dimensions: from a theoretical standpoint we should explore how reality has to be understood in order to allow us to attain a consistent understanding of self and world; from a practical standpoint, we need to ask which attitudes we would actually have to adopt towards reality in order to find in it the kind of orientation that Habermas believes his version of secular reason holds in store (2). In a third step, I follow up on these practical considerations by asking whether, at the level of everyday praxis, an orienting conception of self and world in this day and age does not in fact demand more than Habermas seems to have in mind (3). Finally, and returning, albeit indirectly, to the meaning of “post-metaphysical”, I cast some doubt on the Habermasian thesis that secular reason can survive only in the form of a tradition that reaches back either to Kant or to Hume; I want to question whether this division is exhaustive and briefly bring a third alternative into play (4).

Peter E. Gordon - "Gibt es ein Asymmetrie-Problem in der Genealogie der nachmetaphysischen Vernunft?" [preview]

This essay places some conceptual pressure on the model of a “learning process” in Jürgen Habermas’s Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie, and it asks whether this model introduces a subtle asymmetry into the relationship between religion and secular philosophy. Such an asymmetry would seem to obtain insofar as religious tradition is granted a privileged or unique status as the source of normative insights that are then available for rational scrutiny and translation into secular life. The essay also draws a comparison between Lessing and Habermas: Lessing, like Habermas, saw revelation as a source of instruction for humanity, and affirmed that religion could thereby play a role in the Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts. But Lessing was careful to say that no valuable normative contents are found in religion that could not also be derived by secular reason alone. Habermas’s genealogy of post-metaphysical thinking does not seem to confirm Lessing’s idea; instead, it appears to confirm an asymmetry in the relation between religion and secular philosophy.

Regina Kreide & Tilo Wesche - "Warum moralisch sein?" [preview]

In his latest book, Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie, Jürgen Habermas attempts nothing less than a reconceptualisation of the history of human reason. Why, according to the central question that runs through the book like a red thread, can we, in the face of all social adversities and psychological obstacles, still be morally motivated to stand up for overcoming injustice in the world? This almost classic question about what I can hope for undoubtedly bears Kantian traits. And yet Habermas clearly goes beyond Kant. We argue that this becomes visible, first, in his post-metaphysical conception of motivation, which links individual and collective moral learning processes. The enormous explosive power of this conception comes into its own, secondly, especially against the background of some additional assumptions (trust, grief, open future). Nevertheless, thirdly, the question arises to what extent the Habermasian narrative of progress does not have a blind spot because it is in some sense not dialectical enough. The negative side of reason, which Adorno and Benjamin emphasised, are not included in the progress narrative, or only indirectly, which makes the conception of moral motivation seem weaker than it ought to be.

Jürgen Habermas - "Replik" [preview]

With these comments I try to explain why I am not quite convinced by the objections of four colleagues who touch on relevant issues of great weight. Axel Honneth claims that I failed to take into account the systematic weight of the Aristotelian tradition which I pursue only up until Thomas Aquinas (1). Peter Gordon points to an asymmetry in the presentation of the discourse between faith and knowledge that allegedly calls into question the independence of what philosophy developed, by its own standards, from an appropriation of semantic contents of religious traditions (2). Regina Kreide and Tilo Wesche explain the central intention that in fact guided me in this book, but criticise the one-sidedness of an undialectical account of learning processes, in whose shadow the victims tend to be neglected (3).

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