File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0005, message 18

Date: Fri, 05 May 2000 21:02:32 -0700
Subject: HAB: re: reflexive theory (part 2, beyond #17)

Continuing from earlier today (May #17)....

Bourdieu writes:

> "To practice reflexivity means questioning the privilige of a knowing
> 'subject' arbitrarily excluded from the effort of objectifications.

Habermas' communicative approach to inquiry is premised on kinds of relations
to the world that *always already* include subjectivity (as a dimension of
understanding, distinct from social and objectivational relations) which must
be part of "true" (wholly valid) reflection. More than a matter of
"privilege... arbitrarily excluded" (more urgent to Pascal than science
currently), reflexive practice involves methodic attention to epistemological
issues in research design.

> [Reflexive practice] means endeavouring to account for the empirical
> 'subject' of scientific
> practice in the terms of the objectivity constructed by the scientific
> 'subject' - ....

In doing this, one must not simply reduce the scientific subject to a
sociologized construct of objectivating processes, but rather appreciate the
difference between the inquirer *socialized* into scientific practices (the
social dimension--at risk of overbearingness as sociocentrism) and the inquirer
individualing himself (herself) as an agent (or subject) who can make original
discovery (capable of working outside of the box, if you will). Sociology of
science cannot account for insight, innovation, and discovery, without becoming
psychology. The difference between the social inquirer and the psychological
inquirer is vital to science.

> particular by situating [the scientific 'subject'] at a determinate
> point in social
> space-time -....

--which easily risks socially objectivating the subject, i.e., "excluding" the
scientific subjectivity of inquiry (individually achieved competences in
critical modeling, experimental design, evaluation, extrapolation, etc.)

> ...and so acquiring a more acute awareness and a greater mastery
> of the constraints that can be exerted on the scientific 'subject' ...

--the ordinary competence of field independence, which a cognitive approach to
reflection is much, much better situated to articulate than social theory of
constraints. Habermas' sense of discursive reconstruction in theory and
practice seeks to ensure a balance between social and cognitive factors in
reflection on constraints. Does Bourdieu?

> ...through the links which bind him to the empirical subject, his interests,
> drives,
> and presuppositions, and which he must brake in order to constitute himself

How does this constitution happen?  Habermas' work implies formal pragmatic
dependencies of cognitive development, which invites integration of his
decidedly social-political work with cognitive-development work. I believe that
reflexive practice is regressive if it does not attend to the
cognitive-development as well as the social-political nature of "binds" (which
are also constructive *bonds* of always-already partially valid world
relations). Does Bourdieu?

> [listen to this next passage, carefully]
> "How can one fail to recognize that the 'choices' of the 'free' and
> 'disinterested' subject gloried by tradition ...

This is not very pertinent to scientific practice; rather to ideologization of
the results of scientific practice, particularly prior to the 1960s. I believe
it's a minor problem in science currently, precisely due to the successes of
critiques of behaviorism, positivism, and scientism in academic life over the
past quarter century. Some writers, though, are still invested in the glory
years of "New Left" stridency. Habermas has moved beyond this.

> ....are never totally independent
> of the mechanics of the fields ....

"Mechanics" seems hardly an especially fruitful notion--more like something
*Pascal* was idealizing, rather than the more organic modelling that, say,
field theory in psychology has employed (Goldstein, 1930s) or the biological
modeling the ecological anthropology has employed (ethnomethodology) or the
hermeneutical background approaches or lifeworld approaches that
phenomenological sociology has employed; or, finally, the cultural cognitive
approaches that current cognitive science employs--all of which are, I believe,
very consonant with Habermas' "social evolutionary" sense of the background of
our communicative form of life. What about Bourdieu and fields?

> and therefore of the history of which it is
> the outcome and which remains embedded in its structures and, through them,
> in the cognitive structures, principles of vision and division, concepts,
> theories and methods applied, which are never totally independent of the
> position he occupies within the field and the associated interests?" 119-120

A passage which begins with concern for practice wraps itself in embedded
structures, not processes, activities, dynamics, contrary to an approach to
reflexivity based in notions like *lifeworld* (_TCA_), *individuation*
(Postmetaphysical Thinking), and "moral-cognitive *development*). Does Bourdieu
understand structure dynamically or reduce dynamics to structures "applied"
embeddedness in structural fields? Reflexive practice must be enactive (leading
to processes of enlightenment, emancipation, discovery), rather than in
structuralist models of field positions. Of *course*, I'm probably overreading
a short passage extracted from a larger discussion. But how *does* Bourdieu
recommend himself (tacitly), relative to a query about Habermas?

> Here, Bourdieu talks about a subject that is constituted by a field. This
> latter is actually a central concept in his work. To a field corresponds a
> habitus, or practices that are conditioned by that field.

Yet, inasmuch as practices are *basically* understood as *conditioned* and
conditioned by a field, there is no basis for recognizing (let alone fostering)
processes of inquiry which lead to something *new*: insight, discovery,
innovation, which is, again, vital to the character of the scientific

> This [field-constitutivity] is what the
> book __Homo Academicus__ explores, the relationship between the culture of
> the academy, the structure of French society, and the habitus formed and
> congealed around, within the horizon of that field.

So, how is relationship as such understood in reflexive practice by Bourdieu?
How does reflexive practice avoid reducing socio-cultural structure to
structuralism that has no basis for conceptualizing evolution?

> You will note the similarity to Foucault's work inmediately. And he is in
> fact neither entirely innocent nor pure of Foucauldian influences. But in
> essence what we have is an archeaology of scientific reason, or what Paul
> Rabinow calls a cultural anthropology.

Yet, the *philosophically* cultural anthropology one may get from Habermas is
*deeply* anthropological (in conception, at least, if not in detail). And
Foucault himself was moving toward Habermas' position on rational enlightenment
when he died.

> At the center of this archeology, or
> cultural anthropology of scientific rationality, is the idea that reason is
> always historical, ....

Yet, Habermas provides a profounder emplacement of historicality within
anthropological evolution (as cultural anthropology tends to not do; and Paul
Rabinow's fascination with enframing biotechnology is partly motivated by the
horizon of *resourcefulness* that biological anthropology is gaining through
genomics, which offers a biocultural dimension to inquiry which looks
increasingly astounding, as shown in cognitive science).

> ...[an historicality of reason] that is conditioned by the material context
> of its
> production, and enactment.

But reflexive practice should get beyond notions like materiality of
production, if inquiry is not to find itself embedded in sociocentrism and
economism that has no way to recognize new potentials for constructiveness and
paths to constructive cultural, educational, and political practices,
comparable to Habermas' approach to the democratization of "post-conventional"
processes of procedural reflexivity.

> So, when [Bourdieu] means theoretical reflexivity, he
> means, inasmuch as I understand, to commend to us that we question and
> reflect on the ways in which what can be thought is determined by where we
> think it from.

Yet, it seems that Habermas is more promising here. So, I want to suggest--as a
partisan of Habermas' work--that Jeremias Blaser not be too glad to read of
Habermas' incomparability, for it may *really mean* Habermas' incomparability,
relative to Bourdieu.

Gary Davis

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