File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0004, message 23

Subject: HAB: Re:reflective judgment
Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2000 12:48:37 +0100

Dear Vic,
thank you for your letter, it is a treasure of interesting remarks. I am
afraid I will not be able to follow your arguments very closely, since my
knowledge of Habermas philo is small for the moment; I'll do my best
although I'm hoping that I can count more on you than on me to be sure
that we are more or less talking about the same problems. But I can say,
as a general statment, that it sounds as if I'm looking for something
(reflective judgment) that doens't seem formulated in Habermas political
philo (and when it is, it's actually about determinant judgment that he's
talking about! (sic). Maybe the example you gave, was a translation
distraction, no?). Why it isn't, and how Habermas could justify that,
would be more or less the aim of my ponctual research.

>In some 1982 essays translated in _Moral Consciousness and Communicative
>Action_, Habermas confronts what he calls the "hermeneutic objection"
>"[t]he principle of discourse ethics, like other principles, cannot
>regulate problems concerning its own application."  Thus the application
>the rules justified in moral discourses would seem to require a
>prudence" that is extraneous to moral discourses and which relativizes
>applications of morally justified norms to particular ethoi.  That's the
>objection he states there (and Warnke and McCarthy have made strong
>versions of it, and last week I heard Putnam make a version of it,
>his was marred by many shocking basic misunderstandings of Habermas--and
>I'm not being idiosyncratic or overly picky when I say that).

Regarding the "hermeneutic objection" why is it that the philosophers you
evoke, use it? In what degree would it be a pertinent critic to Habermas
political philosophy? If this sounds too general, don't answer, and I'll
try to be more specific next time.

In that essay ("Discourse Ethics"), Habermas does not have an adequate
reply, but
>he insists that impartiality and learning processes play a role even at
>level of the application of moral norms.

Impartiality: In Arendt's political philosophy, impartiality can be
reached (at least in a ideal way)  thanks again to a kantian concept, the
"enlarged thought". Enlarged thought is this mental attitude that
consists in placing myself in a point of vue of somebody else, or as much
as elses as I can. Enlarged thought and the use of  reflective judgment
are the two elements of the method that allows the legitimation of the
political order, or the consensus regarding it. Habermas would consider
that the pratical principle that legitimates the political order would be
ethical. Arendt sees this pratical principle as aesthetical. Again,
Habermas is concerned with the search of political truth, and Arendt
elaborates her aesthethic model because she considers that politics
aren't about truth but about opinion. But in a way, there is some
proximity between the aesthetic model (reflective judgment and enlarged
thought) and Habermas political philo: indeed, political truth, for
Habermas, is never given, but anticipated, thanks to discussion. The
problem with the aesthetic model, is that there doens't seem to be much
to discuss about: you agree or you don't, in a direct way, and not
through the mediation of the logical force of rational arguments. So, my
point is that Habermas also creates a model where the same dialogical
attitude supposes what somebody else could say in an ideal situation of
communication, but he cannot subscribe to the aesthetic model because a
given opinion cannot avoid confronting itself to truth and to the
universal rules of rational argumentation, and the aesthetic model of
politics seems to avoid this.

But I would say, and this would be some kind of personal tesis, that the
aesthetic model can also respond to the need of finding a universal that
is not already given (or in a habermassian point of vue: the need of a
political truth that is never given but only anticipated, thanks to
discussion). Indeed, in Kant's judgment of taste, which would be the
paradigm for reflective jugdment, I try to convince other people that my
judgment has a universal validity and I can share it in a intersubjective
way. In other words, it is not true that in the aesthetic model there is
nothing to discuss about, on the contrary, everything can be discuss
again an again. But here, I'm dangerously conceding too much field to
relativism. But it is important to realise that the aesthetic model is a
common practice not only in ordinary situations, but also in very
rationalised fields, such as in law: in some cases, the particular case
to which a tribunal judge can be confronted, it may be that he has to
invent the right or the rule that will allow him to fit the particular
empirical case into a universal not given.
>Of course, Kant recognized what Habermas called the "hermeneutic
>when he wrote in the First Critique that "General logic contains, and
>contain, no rules for judgment."  Instead, what is needed is a "peculiar
>talent" that "cannot be taught" but is a "mother-wit" (shades of Plato's
>kolakeia here).  This is the intuitive faculty that I claimed in my last
>post does no justificatory work (after all, I'm confident that I'm a
>phronimos--one who by definition consistently makes correct practical
>judgments--but I'm not sure anybody else is!).

Yes, this last remark seems to be almost a definive refutation of the
utility of the use of reflective judgment to reach political consensus,
since we can never be sure we're sharing the same judgments if we don't
go through the process of rational argumentation.And when we know that in
Arendt's philosophy the correctness of reflective judgment rests on
common sense, which rests on tradition, we are right to be very skeptical
about it's utility in helping us reach a consensus that would legitimate
the political order, and in particular, a democratic regime. The only
alternative would be to use reflective judgment as the capacity to create
sense, using our imagination to invent new meanings, since tradition in
our days, doens't have much importance, and so common sense isn't
something shared, but this alternative could lead us just about anywhere.
I would like to say, however, that if reflective judgment doens't seem to
be able to do any "justificatory work" (although the meaning of this
expression is not clear to me), nevertheless, doens't intersubjectivity
presuppose subjectivity, and if it does, then can't we consider that
reflective judgment could have a constitutive role in the process that
leads to rational consensus? Reflective judgment would be this capacity
that allows us to "say" the political problems, to say them even for the
first time, when the first person realises that something not just has
happen. And the second moment would be the intersubjective process that
leads to rational consensus.

I am not sure of what we gain with this, and if it makes much sense.

>I wonder why Habermas has avoided employing the distinction between
>determinant and reflective judgment--I suspect he might view the
>distinction as ultimately unhelpful.

I don't see clearly why. And I ask myself if this non-distinction doens't
affect his philosophical anthropology of lack of realism.

That is, and I'm going out on a limb
>here, viewed statically, his model of judgment (i.e., of application of
>norms to cases) looks determinant, insofar as norms (which are taken a
>simply given from the perspective of application discourses) are reasons
>warrants for action (such that if an act falls under the scope of a
>there is reason to do or not do it.

I understand.

 But viewed dynamically, as a process
>within application discourses of selecting the appropriate norm in
>conjunction with interpreting the circumstances of the situation, and
>as a process between application discourses where extant norms are not
>applied but amended and justification discourses where proposed norms
>tested, elements of reflective judgment are clear.

But as clear as to take them in consideration when building a political
philosophy that wants to legitimate democracy?

Best regards,

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