Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jürgen Habermas on scientism and analytic philosophy

I don't agree with Jürgen Habermas, one of our great cultural critics, on everything but he, along with a number of those associated with the "Frankfurt School" have a legitimate and useful critique of modern rationalistic scientism and instrumental rationality. In fact, is he the last surviving member of that crew?

The Frankfurt School was a group of influential early-twentieth century thinkers (my favorite of whom is Max Horkheimer--his Eclipse of Reason is a masterpiece) who were themselves influenced by Marx. And although Marx's prescription is fatally flawed, much of his diagnosis of modern commercial culture is right on the mark.

Here's Habermas critiquing the science-envy of the analytic philosophers in Eurozine:
The hard, scientistic core of the analytical philosophy was always alien to me. Today, it comprises colleagues who take up the reductionist Programme of the Unified Sciences from the first half of the twentieth century under somewhat different assumptions and more or less regard philosophy as a supplier for the cognitive sciences. The advocates of what we might call "scientism" ultimately view only statements of physics as capable of being either true or false and insist on the paradoxical demand of perceiving ourselves exclusively in descriptions of the natural sciences. But describing and recognizing oneself are not the same thing: decentring an illusionary self-understanding requires recognition on the basis of a different, improved description. Scientism renounces the self-reference required to be present in every case of re-cognition. At the same time, scientism itself utilizes this self-reference performatively – I mean the reference to us as socialized subjects capable of speech and action, and who always find themselves in the context of their lifeworlds. Scientism buys the supposed scientification of philosophy by renouncing the task of self-understanding, which philosophy has inherited from the great world religions, though with the intention of the enlightenment. By contrast, the intention of understanding ourselves exclusively from what we have learnt about the objective world leads to a reifying description of something in the world that denies the self-referential application for the purpose of improving our "self"-understanding.
HT: 3 Quarks Daily

1 comment:

Old Rebel said...

Not so sure about this. People can make statements that echo those whose underlying thought is vastly different -- I, as a paleoconservative can't help but think of Jacob Hornberger and Ayn Rand -- so giving them approving quotations can be tricky.