File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0011, message 56

Date: Sun, 26 Nov 2000 13:55:17 -0500
Subject: Re: HAB: Third rock from the Sun

I might still be out of phase with this discussion, and I might sound very
strange and out of the game, but nevertheless, I will contribute to it
because some statements have inspired questioning and let's get it out! And
please excuse my english wich is not as natural as it should be...

Ken wrote:

> If 
> it is acknowledged that this his about "the" moral point of view requires
> institutional support in order to ensure its proliferation then there are no
> grounds on which to priivlege moral argumentation as the foundation of those
> institutions In other words, the argument is circular (and trivial from a
> logical point of view).

I thought that it doesn't matter how much institutions stand far away from
argumentative discussion (in the serious sense) because no matter how
profound and deep you're in performative contradiction, you're still making
reference to ideal agreement in order to make sense of it all. No logical
circularity here in my humble opinion.

> Habermas is also proposing the creation of concrete
> institutional norms, but these same norms are said to provide the legitimate
> grounds of those very institutions.

Is this not interpreting Habermas in a positivistic sense? I thought that
for Habermas, it was in the way that we justify the norms that we find
grounds to build them. We are saying: we cannot make sense of any norms if
we don't rationally accept and warrant arguments for and against them. Now
for sure, some norms are already around when we say that, but it doesn't
follow from those norms that we develop this justifying procedure for them.
We may be already embedded in a particular form of life but this form of
life is never a prison, because we can extend it beyond its own
contradictions. We listen to counterarguments and provide new experience for
our form of life. Therefore, no prisons but the ones we build.

But this being said, I would agree that a floating point in Habermas'
thought makes interpretation difficult. He refuses Apel's transcendantal
justification in respect of normative standpoints for reason. Meanwhile, he
makes a similar move when he says that agreement is the telos of language.
This, he adds, is only an ideal pragmatic presupposition since we can fairly
suppose that our meanings always differ from time to time, and from one
individual to another. But aren't those last statements as infaillible as
Apel's transcendantal grounding? By saying that such statements are only
quasi-transcendantal, Habermas leaves this question unanswered, and lets a
very grave suspicion come in by the backdoor: could it be that a particular
form of life is getting a transcendantal ticket, and therefore that a
particular contingent and historical development is suspiciously slippering
in a so-called universal moral development?

By making a hard distinction betweeen moral and ethics, I think Habermas is
only aggravating his case.

Therefore, two options might help us out. The first would be to introduce
radical pluralism all the way up to the justification stance. This would
therefore put Habermas in Rorty's camp, and I find that unacceptable. But I
leave this question open : can radical pluralism overcome Rorty's
contradictions? In any case, the other way to overcome those tensions would
be to carefully differentiate a structural point of view, which allows you
to state a transcendantal grounding for making sense of argumentation (hence
the performative contradiction), from a particular form of life in which
those transcendantal groundings are expressed. When Habermas says that
agreement is the telos of language and that this differentiates moral from
ethics (ethics limits the agreement to one between us, morality extends it
ideally), then all Habermas would be doing is projecting a structure from
his own point of view. Ir order to make sense of his structure, we have to
make the same presuppositions. Hence, the metaphysical, or transcendantal,
or ideal, STRUCTURAL GROUNDING. No particular form of life has received a
transcendantal ticket, but those that excerpts themselves out of
performative contradiction can hop on (one of the multiple) bandwagons of

I hope, but cannot contend, that I have succesfully commented Ken's

> In short, lacking an ethical, culturally
> and historically contingent supposition about moral development, there is an
> unjustified privileging of the moral here - which *is* a metaphysical
> privileging (which is what I mean when I've discussed the question of moral
> priority). If this is the best we can do... then we can't call it
> postmetaphysical or postconvention. Just because we speak, and because
> language 
> has structures, does mean that cognitive development is a oneway street of
> hierarchical forms ending with a non-contingent and transcendental
> consciousness (if even in the weak sense).

Martin Blanchard

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