File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0007, message 25

Subject: Re: HAB: #2: Autonomy as dogma
Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2000 18:00:39 +0300 (EET DST)

I'll try to reply to some of Ken's comments on autonomy.

> Kant holds that as human beigns we are part of nature, which means that
> we are 
> entirely, internally and externally, subject to the laws of causality. So our 
> freedom is limited not only from the 'outside' but from the 'inside' as well. 
> We are no more free 'in ourselves' than we are 'in the world.' Logically 
> speaking, it is possible, at least in principle, to explain any act of the 
> subject with respect to cause and motive - purely mechanically.

Agreed, in part. We have to be precise about the
inside/outside-distinction. For Kant, we are 'in the world' as real
psychological subjects. In so far as we belong to the phenomenal world,
we are subject to (deterministic) causal explanation. Considered as
subjects for the phenomenal world, that is, as transcendental subjects, we
belong to the noumenal realm, for which the category of causality is not
applicable. What the precise relationship between transcendental and
empirical subjectivity is I'll leave for Kant experts to worry about -
Foucault and Habermas among others have argued that the split is not tenable.

> The defining feature of a 'free act' is precisely that it is entirely foreign 
> to the subject's inclinations. It could be said, with Kant, that the 'self' 
> does not really'live at home' since the foundation of subjective freedom 
> resides only in some 'foreign body' - we are strangers in our own houses. 

I'm not sure if we agree or disagree here, but clearly Kant considers 
inclinations, wants, desires etc. as _given_, something with regard to
which the self is passive, something that comes from the outside. The
self is at home on the realm of rational thought.

> Approached this way Habermasian ethics is essentially an ethics of alienation, 
> since it forces us to reject that which is most truly ours and to submit 
> ourselves to an abstract principle that does not take our private 
> (non-generalizeable) interests into legislation.

I can see where you're going, but it doesn't straightforwardly follow
from the above, not even for Kant. The question is precisely what is
most truly ours - is it desire, with regard to which we are passive, or
(say) conviction, which we have actively formed? Instinctive inclination
to feel fear or disgust for people who look different or the considered
belief that people have a right to cut their hair or pierce their body
parts the way they want to?

> What we know, as subjects, of freedom, according to Kant, revolves around the 
> notion of guilt.

[skipping, don't really disagree]

> Habemas's formulation above entails an extraordinary paradox: "human beings
> act 
> as free subjects only insofar as they obey."

Well, this is as old as moral thinking (you'll find something like it in
Plato or Aquinas or whoever). As Kant might put it, insofar as we act at
all, we follow a rule (we do not make random body movements); this rule
is either given by ourselves, if we are autonomous (self-legislating),
or by someone or something else. What Habermas says would be better
phrased as "human beings act as free subjects only insofar as they obey

> But this isn't just blind obedience since only "those laws they give themselves 
> in accordance with insights they have acquired intersubjectively" are binding. 
> However, thinking with Kant here, those things which have been acquired 
> intersubjectively are, at least to some degree, foreign. 

Yes, and this is where Habermas parts ways with Kant. Our true self is
not a transcendental one, not an inner core that nobody can touch, but
something intersubjectively formed. A self is not private property, as
he puts it (in Postmetaphysical Thinking, the article on Mead).
Interaction with others does not contaminate the self from outside, but
rather forms it in the first place.

Unfortunately, I have to end here today. 

Back later,


     --- from list ---


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005