File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0005, message 33

Subject: HAB: One Word for Matthew
Date: Fri, 12 May 100 01:30:24 +0300 (EETDST)

> This crude physicalist semiotics is mainly about remembering the materiality 
> of our language events. Everything just described is a physical or material 
> process, and my point is simply that a re-cognition of this i-m-o urges a 
> material positivism in discussion of  things like 'the truth' or theories of 
> linguistic meaning.


There's my one word for Matthew, and I wouldn't like to say much more,
as I am only beginning (if the powers-that-be grant so) a research
project into normativity and naturalism. To put the basic, almost banal
point in Wittgenstenian terms, the meaning of an expression in not
determined by statistical _regularity_ of responses in a given speech
community, but is rather given by a _rule_, which tells when we use the 
expression right and when wrong. While nobody in semantics speaks of 
'positivism' today, there are many notoriously problematic attempts to 
specify meaning in terms of a causal relation between the referent and the
(physical) event (not act, I would emphasize!) of producing a linguistic token.
All of these, I believe, fail in coming to terms with normativity, of the 
sorting out the _appropriate_ relation in each case. But if this 
challenge could be met with a fairly dogmatic assertion like this, I 
would not be interested in studying it further (I'm thinking of digging
into Kripke and Brandom next). With reference to Habermas, what Matthew
wrote bears a resemblance to the early stages of Mead's dialectic of the
birth of linguistic meaning from the 'conversation of gestures'. In the
first part of TCA, as no doubt most of us know, Habermas devotes quite a
lot of space for this, and similarly criticizes Mead for his inability
to account for the normativity of meaning from a Wittgenstenian point of view.

Truth, likewise, is something more than actual collective assent or
whatever Rorty would call it today. Even if we all bought the assertion
that Gary is the moderator of this list, that would not make it true.
(As far as I know, it is false - which is not to say he wouldn't make a
good moderator if one was needed.) Thus, truth cannot be identified with
the reactions prompted by the stimuli produced by reading these (true, I
hope) sentences.

Last, I would like to apologize for list members and others possibly
reading who have tried to contact me during the last six months or so.
In addition to working, I finally finished my MSSc thesis, 'Ethics in   
the Second Person - Habermas and the Sources of Normativity'. It
featured sections based on discussions on this list with Ken, Gary, Vic,
and others - I'd like to hereby thank all those who have kept me
interested in Habermas over the years by disagreeing with me.


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