File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0003, message 10

Subject: HAB: Hab:political rationality and reflexive judgment
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 09:07:57 +0100


Thank you both Ulrich Gaehler and Demetrios Douramanis for your
information regarding Habermas and individuality. Although I would like
to tell Ulrich that, unfortunatly, I don't read german.

What follows will probaly be too general for most of you, since I haven't
read much of Habermas, I have just started. Nevertheless, I have a few
doubts that I would like to clarify with you, if you have the patience to
help me orient in this new continent of Hab's philosophy. For this I will
compare some aspects of Hab's and Arendt's respective political

1) Hab's realism
Compared to Arendt's conception of politics Habermas seems to me more
realistic, when he reminds us that politics is not an autonomous sphere
of rationality and action, separed from the other systems (economy,
bureaucracy; money and power). Indeed, politics is also a tecknč, guided
by a strategic-instrumental rationality. To neglect this aspect can only
provoke the eclipse of politics or an idealistic conception of it. For
Arendt, tecknč is violence, and politics isn't about violence. For Hab,
there is a dialectic between tecknč and praxis, and this dialectic is
constitutive of politics.

2) Consensus
Consensus, for Arendt, is the result of  "opinion". Indeed, if the
political institutions have can be legitimal, this rests on opinion,
meaning, an "agreement of many". This is problematic, because opinion can
be false. For Hab, opinion must be related to truth, otherwise, the
legitimity of political power cannot be defended. For this, the free
consensual expression of public opinion has to be related to a demand of
truth and soundness. The norm of truth is the possibilty of universality,
this universality being possible only by public discussion and rational
argumentation. But truth here doens't mean theoretical and objective
truth, it is an intersubjective and pratical truth.

3) Consensus again
So, for Arendt, consensus is reached by opinion. And how is this opinion
formed? Thanks to commun sense (possible trough tradition, commun symbols
that make a culture). Commun sense is what allows us to use our judgment
and the agreement with others'judgments. Well, this agreement is
consensus. And consensus is not only what legitimates the political
power, but also what allows praxis, political action.

4) Separation opinion/truth and aesthetics
In fact, this separation leads Arendt to look for an asthetic model for
her political thinking. She sees in Kant (third critique) a model for her
political phil. She is probably forgetting that if Kant had recognized
the political and moral implications of his aesthetics, then his moral
and pratical questions would not be able to reach truth, and Kant is very
concerned with truth. But, indeed, Arendt's use of Kant's reflexive
judgment and enlarged thought (which imply a use of the imagination) does
make some sens.  Reflexive judgment is a political power, it allows us to
orient ourselves.

5) Finally, I still haven't talked much about Habermas, and this letter
is already too long. For those who are familiar with Habermas critiques
of Arendt, maybe they could help me answer to this question: what would
be in Habermas political rationality, the room left for the use of
reflexive judgment (reflexive jugment is a method: for kant it implies a
use of the imagination, making possible the search for a universal
without concept), faculty that belongs more to a expressive sphere than
to a search of political truth through rational argumentation? How
constitutive of political public spaces the use of rflexive judgment
would be for Habermas? Thank you for giving biblio advise.

With sympathy,

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