File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0005, message 60

Date: Fri, 26 May 2000 02:30:56 EDT
Subject: Re: HAB: RE: lifeworld and phenomenology


Could you please elaborate on the following comment?

>  My more general concern that is some unlucky person might come along, who
>  despite being well-versed in the relevant phenomenological writings, might
>  not be intimately acquainted with the writings of Talcott Parsons. Such a 
>  person might, just might, become confused about the range of philosophical 
>  issues that can be addressed fruitfully using Habermas's system/lifeworld 
>  distinction. :)
>  Best,
>  Joe Heath
>  University of Toronto

I'm inspired by your confidence regarding a knowledge of Parsons.  It does 
seem to be rare in this day and age.  I wouldn't want to claim such 
expertise--except perhaps in relative terms--and may very well be a person 
intended to bear the brunt of your comment above.  In any case, you would do 
this discussion list more justice by being forthright in your criticism.

On another note:
Grathoff, who edited the correspondence between Parsons and Schutz, suggests 
that the intersection of their two sensibilities (which he explicitly 
addresses in terms of functional vs. interpretive approaches; hmmm... sound 
familiar?) led to much confusion and misunderstanding between them, yet it is 
another issue whether such an intersection could eventually yield something 
worthwhile.  Hayek specifically asked Schutz to review Parsons's THE 
STRUCTURE OF SOCIAL ACTION, and that is where the exchange began.  Hayek 
instigated the dialogue perhaps because, despite his systems-theoretical 
biases, Parsons remained indebted to the Continental tradition from which 
Schutz also emerged.  (That is why Parsons himself later admitted that he may 
have been defensive about Schutz's comments.)  Parsons shared an 
understanding of Weberian sociology with Schutz (and a neo-Kantian 
background), even if Parsons was often critical of Weber and of German 
idealism in general (THE STRUCTURE OF SOCIAL ACTION [Free Press, 1958], 
Chaps. 16 and 17).  The fact that Parsons was unfamiliar with phenomenology, 
though, did not help, and was largely responsible for their misunderstandings.

Parsons's critique of Weber in THE STRUCTURE OF SOCIAL ACTION, especially his 
criticisms of Weber's treatment of rationality are >extremely< relevant to 
our earlier discussions of embodiment, field, and the like in relation to 

I welcome any comments that you, Joe Heath, might have along these lines, 
especially in light of your introduction and knowledge of Parsons.

Erik R. Davis

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