File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0006, message 26

Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2000 12:09:52 -0700
Subject: HAB: On Brandom 

Dear list:

I want to correct, i.e. take back, a statement I made earlier concerning
the review by Habermas on the German version of Brandom's book _Making it
Explicit__. I said something to the effect that it was elemental. Well, I
re-read with greater care the review, and it is far from elemental. There
are many substantive points that Habermasians really can sink their teeth

For one, let me remind you that Habermas compared Brandom's book to Rawl's
_A Theory of Justice_. In fact, this is the first line from his article on
Brandom in his book _Wahrheit und Rechtfertigung_. In fact, if you check
the paperback edition of the book, they have put the first paragraph as a
blurb, and it reads: 

"Making it Explicit is a landmark in theoretical philosophy comparable to
that constituted in the early seventies by a Theory of Justice in practical
philosophy. Drawing upon the resources furnished by his intricate theory of
language, Brandom succeeds in offering a thoroughly convincing description
of the practices within which beings capable of language and action express
their rationality and autonomy. The exceptionally significant character of
this work is due to its rare combination of speculative momentum and
philosophical staying power."

Now, in the review from the Frankfurther Randschau, 141/2000 (June 21,
2000), p. 22. We have:

Analytical philosophy takes posession of Hegel. "Expressive Reason" Robert
Brandom's path from Wittgenstein through Kant to Hegel.

Selected sentences, loosely translated:

The pathos of the presentation of a complex thought of speculative power
reminds us of the intellectual discipline of Edmund Husserl....

Brandom has commanded all the means of logic and semantic in order to
rescue on the way to a theory of discourse the concept of objective spirit,
which to this day has remained foreign to anaytic philosophy..

Then more encomiuns. 

...From the beginning pragmatism constituted a bridge between German and
American philosophy. But the direction of the current of exchange of ideas
has changed. While Peirce and James, Mead and Dewey still looked to
Germany, it is us who today learn from their american students. The
uniquely innovative accomplishment by Brandom I see in that he seemsly
brought together Wilfried Sellars's proposal for an inferential semantic
with the pragmatics of a validity claims oriented praxis of understanding.

The review ends with the use of some idiomatic expressions which I am not
sure I can translate well, but here it is:

...Along with his American colleagues Robert Pippin and Terry Pinkard,
Brandom shares a deflationary understanding of Hegel's "absolute
knowledge." We should be attentive on whether his next book about Hegel
will remain on the soil of pragmatism --or whether he will be carried and
listed by his metaphysical impuls. Brandom reminds one of the affirmation
by his teacher Rorty about Wilfried Sellars work: it was there where the
spirt of Hegel was laid to rest with Carnaps chain. Brandom himself flirts
with the idea of the taking by the hand Rorty's spirit on its way from
Wittgenstein through Kant to Hegel. I hold that to be a more reasonable
alternative to the prevailing symbiosis of the late Wittgenstein and the
late Heidegger.

Now, some quick remarks. First, I know now what I have to read next.

Second, it sounds like Habermas thinks that Brandom has articulated
philosophically what he only achieved sociologically in the _TCA_  As he
says, the singular most important accomplishment of Brandom is to have
brought together Sellars inferential semantics with the pragmatics of a
praxis of understanding oriented/guided by a validiy claims..., i.e.
Habermas (Apel, Searle, etc.)

Eduardo Mendieta
Assistant Professor
Philosophy Department
University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117-1080

Tel: (415) 422-6313
Fax: (415) 422-2346

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