File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0004, message 43


Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000 20:56:13 -0700
Subject: HAB: Re: On Habermas's Understanding of Language and the



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kenneth.mackendrick-AT-utoronto.ca wrote:

> Maybe I'm missing something rather simple
>      here.  It seems to me that this is a radical departure from Freud, no longer is
>      the unconscious conceived of in Freudian terms, rather, in structuralist (?)
>      terms.
>

Not to seem glib, but there's a quarter century of Habermas' development of
thinking, between the two passages you quote.  He was more linguistic-relativist,
in the late 60s. In the middle '70s, he turned more cognitivist. By the 1990s, an
"early" / "later" Habermas distinction, based in very different eras of work, seems
pertinent.


> In Knowledge and Human Interests, Habermas maintains,
>
> >>      The ego's flight from itself is an operation that is carried out in and
> with language. Otherwise it would not be possible to reverse the defensive
> process hermeneutically... the distinction between word-presentations and
> asymbolic ideas is problematic, and the assumption of a non-linguistic
> substratum, in which these ideas severed from language are "carried out," is
> unsatisfactory. In addition, it is not clear according to what rules (other
> than grammatical rules) unconscious ideas could be connected with verbal
> residues (Habermas 1971: 241).
>
> Joel Whitebook, in "Reason and Happiness" in Habermas and Modernity, commenting
> on Habermas's argument, writes,
>
> >>      Habermas wants to argue that, as inner nature is susceptible of
> socialization, i.e. "linguisticalization," it must in some sense already be
> protolinguistic; thus, he must deny the existence of the unconscious as a
> "nonlinguistic substratum" (Whitebook 1985: 156).
>
> I think this is clear from Habermas's argument in Knowledge and Human
> Interests, there is no "thing-representation" apart from "word-representation."
> For Habermas, "language is the only thing we can know" (as he noted in his 1965
> address).  As far as I can see, this holds just as true for his theory today as
> it did in 1965.
>
> However Habermas also wrote, in his reply to Gadamer "On Hermeneutics' Claim to
> Universality"
>
> >>      The genetic epistemology of Jean Piaget lays bare the language-
> independent roots of perational thinking.  To be sure, such thinking can reach
> full develoment only on the strength of an integration into the linguistic rule
> system of the cognitive schemata which originate prelinguistically in the sphere
> of instrumental action. However, there are ample indications that language is
> merely "superimposed" on categories such as space, time, causality, and
> substance, and on rules which govern the combination of symbols according to the
> laws of formal logic - both of which have a prelinguistical foundation. On this
> hypothesis, it would be possible to exlpain the monological use of language for
> hte organization of rational goal-oriented behavior and the construction of
> scientific theories: in such cases natural language could be seen as freed, so
> to speak, from the structure of intersubjectivity - as functioning, in other
> words, without its dialogical element and severed from [colloquial]
> communication, subject only to the conditions of operative intelligence
> (Habermas 1994: 300).
>
> I'm having some difficulty reconciling the two statements.  First, that the
> uncs is purely linguistic in character (which is a position that I think
> Habermas still holds) (or at least it is only relevant to us in and through
> language) and the idea that there is a prelinguistic "operational" dynamic
> underlying this linguisticalization.  Maybe I'm missing something rather simple
> here.  It seems to me that this is a radical departure from Freud, no longer is
> the unconscious conceived of in Freudian terms, rather, in structuralist (?)
> terms.
>
> thanks,
> ken
>
>      --- from list habermas-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu ---

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