File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0012, message 20

Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000 23:06:18 -0800 (PST)
Subject: HAB: Re: Habermas & Freud

K: ....the idea, developed in Habermas's reinterpretation of Freud,
> that language "is the only thing whose nature we can know," made in
> his Frankfurt inaugural address in 1965, "holds just as true for
> Habermas today as it ever has" (Whitebook 1995: 167; Habermas 1971:
> 314). 

G: But the implication of this is that psychoanalysis, read after the

> theory of formal pragmatics and cognitive development theory, IS a
> very different "thing". Whitebook's point supports my stance,
> than clarifying your disagreement.

K: Exactly... [There] is something about the unconscious, trauma for
instance, which 
fundamentally resists being drawn up into langauge. 

G: I disagree. But that's another issue (later). Whitebook's quote
above pertains to a continuity of epistemic perspective on language,
not a continuity of importance of Freudian psychoanalysis for
understanding Habermas (or for advancing the critical potential of
"emancipatory" processes, in which needs for cognitive *education*
prevail, in JH's thinking, I believe). 

Whatever the context of Whitebook's assertion, it's undeniable that
JH's analysis of language has been deepened and refined since his
*interpretation* of Freud (What would it mean to call it a
"reinterpretation", since interpretation belongs to the original
inspiration of psychoanalysis, long before the Frankfurt School
"discovered" Freud?). This deepening and refinement of the
understanding of language (formal-pragmatic based theory of
communicative action) happens within a discursive individuation that
has left behind further concentration on Freud. Thinking about
psychoanalysis *should* be cognitivized, so to speak--which indeed
happens in JH's mid-70s essay "Moral Development & Ego Identity". His
later work provides SO much resourcefulness for understanding that
which early-on suggested neo-Freudian perspectives that I can't find
practical a "systematic" (Frederik) focus on JH's reading of Freud. 

In fact, there's much reason to say that Whitebook's assertion above
is invalid: Not only is it not the case that JH's reading of Freud
was the venue in which he formulated his sense of the linguistic
relativity of knowledge, but even inasmuch as this sense of
linguistic relativity "holds just as true today as...ever" for JH,
the *way* in which it is true looks nothing like it did in 1965,
since JH's sense of anthropological deep-seatedness, lifeworld
"background", cogntivity of world relations, and more have altogether
transformed JH's sense of the "nature" that can be known--an
anthropological, social-evolutionary, cognitive-ontogenic nature,
anticipation of which is fundamental to JH's project and is, since
1980, very different from JH's view of linguistic nature in the

Consequently, the Whitebook quote above could be deemed
counterproductive, since it occludes the importance of development
*by* (of, in) JH's thinking, especially *about* developmental
processes (as part of that thinking). 

So, again...

K:  [There] is something about the unconscious, trauma for instance,
which fundamentally resists being drawn up into langauge.

G: And again, I disagree. I don't just disagree, though. I *know*
that the assertion above is false. The "talking cure" isn't about
*representing" the unconscious in language (inasmuch as we're talking
about the unconscious now--while psychoanalysis itself isn't
basically about the mediate goal of erasing unconsciousness);
long-term therapy is about working-through, in the richest cathartic
sense of this, and working-through centrally *includes*
language--includes linguistification of the sacred, linguistification
of "the Shadow", etc.--but *basically* working-through happens *in
the relationship*, the therapeutic alliance. This alliance does
*foster* "being drawn up into language," such that resistance to a
deeply mutual being-drawn may *also* be part of the working-through
of the alliance. I'm sure that you agree. But so would Habermas! He
does. He readily agrees that the phenomenality of experience is
irreducible to linguistification. BUT only *inasmuch as*
linguistification is possible can experience figure into
*communicative processes* and thus *critical* distantiation or
reframing or transformation into something *constructive*. 

K:  I'm arguing that the ego - individuation - *is a symptom* -
itself a defensive mechanism against being overwhelmed... 

G: Well, "the ego" is a very elusive thing. For Freud, it is merely
the "I" (not itself a concept of egoism). The cultural notion of the
ego is a very nebulous thing. To argue that the ego is a symptom
simply expresses a discursive interest. THE "ego" of someone's
lifeworld is a difficult thing to focus (like "self"), and defense
mechanisms can surely prevail. But to argue that "the ego...itself
[is] a defensive mechanism" is a special, if not extreme, interest in
defensiveness, not a tenable theory of ego (self, I) generally, i.e.,
relative to healthy ontogeny or ordinary lives considered all in all.

K:... it is possible to defend critical theory against the charge of
being a critical hermeneutics (since it isn't reducible to
interpretive inquiry)....

G: But neither is critical hermeutics reducible to interpretive
inquiry--otherwise it wouldn't be *critical*! What makes literary
criticism *criticism* is that the *validity* of interpretation can be
tested, according to principles of coherence, assertoric claims,
evidentiary relevance, argumentative soundness, etc. Emancipatory
critique can be tested, according to processes of enlightenment,
lifeworld outcomes, efficacy of self-determined learning processes,
creative productivity, etc.   

K: In a way, Lacanian analysis helps us to see that critical theory
has a hermeneutic dimension which exceeds a philosophical
hermeneutics, and has a scientific dimension which exceeds
positivistic science. 

G: Habermas does it better. 

K: ... but I've argued ... that Habermas's defense of formal
pragmatics begs the question - he gets caught in a circular argument,
assuming precisely that which he needs to justify.

G: JH doesn't merely "defend" formal pragmatics; he *defines* it,
preliminarily explicates it, and greatly applies it in a theory of
social evolution, discourse ethics, philosophy of procedural
democracy, etc. His formal pragmatics is part of a fallibilistic
*research program* that, in part, *hypothesizes* what it *advocates*.
The tenability of this metatheoretical work depends on *knowledge"
about language--what research indicates about our linguisticality.
And let me tell you: a lot of research supports the tenability of 
linguistics having a cognitive basis. 


K: > > ....Habermas writes: "As can be shown through the example of
> > psychoanalysis, as interpreted in terms of communication theory,
> > the two procedures of reconstruction and of self-critique can
> be brought together within the framework of one and the same
> (Habermas 1987:300).

G: > Yet, this "one and the same" is the theory of communicative
> not a basically psychoanalytic reading of the communicative
> for learning and emancipation from distortions.

K: I read this to mean that a theory of communicative action
clarifies what is at 
stake in psychoanalysis....

G: JH's theory provides for a clarification that Freud's could not.
Isn't the point above that psychoanalysis provides AN *example* in
practice of what, in theory, *was not* brought together within a
framework  *prior* to JH's theory? It's not about Freudian
psychoanalysis (a cognitivist psychoanalysis makes a better example);
it's not even basically about psychoanalysis. It's about the *theory*
of reconstructive critique, which JH prefers to explicate in terms of
moral developmental research, by the way.  

K: ...the reconstructive (whereby the analyst draws on the
unconscious rule systems of a given methodology) and the
self-critical (the actual procedure of dialogue). 

G: How reconstruction works in psychoanalysis is, I think, a very
subtle thing, less concerned with the method of the madness (to be
coy) than with educing the integrative striving of the self to Live
On fruitfully--which dissolves the madness. IN dialogue, mutual
(allied) reconstruction of madness and precedent striving are brought
together into reflective Moments (which are often very intense) of
recognition and dissolution that releases one into their ownmost
potential for (re) constructing a life. In education "teachable
mooments" do things that can be quite dramatically consequential,
too. But transposition of such entwinements of reconstructive
recognition / reflection into *methodological* processes of
disciplinary and discursive fruitfulness is not a straightforward
mapping of the psychotherapeutic example into communicative life,
which JH has emphasized and re-emphasized. 

K....Habermas needs psychoanalysis or at least psychoanalytic
concepts to vindicate his claim that the unconscious is solely
derived from language

G: One shouldn't be surprised that psychoanalysis is the basis for
explicating a psychoanalytic concept. But he doesn't claim that "the
unconscious is solely derived from language," just as he doesn't
claim that systematically distortive processes in society are all
linguistic. But ONLY inasmuch as distortion can be *translated* into
articulations can its counterproductive (if not destructive) power be
eventually annuled.  

K: ...we should also note that Habermas's reading of Freud is likely
one that led to his insight about systematically distorted
communication, at least it is in his reinterpretation of Freud that
he makes 
the most sustained argument about this. 

G: May be. Maybe the insight was cumulative, coming from Nietzsche
(who was Freud's inspiration and as much the center of JH's analysis
in KHI as Freud) or Marx's false consciousness or Hegel's notion of
the slave morality or Kant's notion of compelling antinomies or
Socratic disabusing one of their common sense presumptions. What's
important is that distortive social processes that have taken on a
systematic character is a critical sociological notion that cannot be
derived from psychoanalysis. Even Freud's excursions into cultural
critique are not extrapolations from therapeutic practice (likewise
for Jung's notion of Collective Unconscious). At a point, Freud,
Jung, and Habermas are all social critics making claims about general
social processes, and there is no way that Freud or Jung would have
become Habermasians (had they found the Fountain of Youth). 

K: In any event, it would be bad faith on Habermas's part to use a
psychoanalytic-inspired analysis as a critique of Foucault that isn't
at all related to or dependent upon any of the concepts of

G: Using critical concepts isn't the same as advocating one's
fundamental views. Foucault invites psychoanalytic forms of critique.
Kantians may invite Hegelian forms of critique by a Marxist or
Heideggerian. Derrida is a grand master of psychoanalytic language,
but he's not basically Freudian or even psychoanalytic (just as the
Heideggerian deconstruction of metaphysical subjectivity isn't
basically motivated by critique of metaphysics). Doing critique is a
matter of bringing to bear the most appropriate notions *immanently*
for the sake of moving discourse to a new stage of inquiry. In
education, one takes the stance of the next stage of learning,
relative to the student's present "zone of proximal development"
(Vygotsky). Critique is relative to its "object". 

K: In effect, the fact that he is using his reinterpretation of Freud
against contemporary social-theoretical frameworks is enough evidence
for me that it is "very much... to some degree" part of 
Habermas's critical social theory... 

G: But using psychoanalytical concepts is not the same as merely
using an interpretation of Freud. Making psychoanalytical concepts
part of critical social theory is itself part of a *philosophical*
project that is inconceivable from a psychoanalytic point of view.
But earlier, your "very some degree" was a claim about
Habermas' relationship to Freud, not his use of psychoanalytic
concepts in critique. And I said *that* is untenable. 


K: If critical theory is an attempt to contribute to a
communicatively productive social life, doesn't critical theory have
to know what a communicatively productive social life is or looks

G: No, since the success of critique is not to advance a particular
sense of the good life, but to broaden (and deepen) the community's
ownership in questioning and formulating, which includes
democratization of access to education and evoking effective
ownership in consequential social decision-making processes, etc. You
may disagree that this is what critique should aspire to do, but that
very disagreement is the *kind* of communicative actvity that implies
the critical values you'd be rejecting. 

K: And if that is the case, how did critical theory acquire knowledge
about this life? 

G: Isn't that like asking how a child acquired interest in learning?
If the child doesn't know, is the desire to learn thereby undermined?
*Critical Theory* acquired this "knowledge" as the history of
philosophy acquired this knowledge, you know JH claims. 

K: As far as I can see, simply because enlightenment posits a telos:
autonomy, solidarity and so on, doesn't 
mean it would be a 'good thing' to achieve it. 

G: And freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. 

K: The 'dream' of the enlightenment is autonomy and happiness... 

G: Ah, sooo right.

K: ...but this dream is a dream - a wish-fulfillment. 

G: No, it's a lot of work. 

K: Fundamentally, it is unrealizeable. 

G: Since you can "fundamentally" only speak for yourself, let me
happily hope that, fundamentally, you're wrong. As for the rest of
humanity, hope is ultimately all we have. Less than ultimately, we
have lots of resources. We need leadership (Christien? Bush?). We
need Time (Hurry on, educational reform! Hurry on, constitutional
democracy! Hurry on, health sciences! Etc.) [Hurry on, bioscience! I
want to be productive beyond 100!]

K: Habermas, in KHI calls for an 'exact fantasy' - this is precisely
what we need to talk more about. One of the chief characteristics of
fantasy is that we do everything in our power to avoid its
fulfillment - 

G: "We". 

K: That's what makes it a fantasy: the idea that we can't have it. 

G: No, no. What makes it fantasy is simpler: that it expresses
unfulfillED desire, much of which IS attainable. You're not
distinguishing degrees of prudence in fantasy.You might fantasize as
a kid that you'll one day be a great scientist by 40, and this can at
least result in being a very good scientist by 30. You wanna be
great, too? 50% sweat, 45% luck. And the gamble's all the fun (and

K: And whenever we have reached it, we've ended up with a high degree
of violence and destruction. 

G: So many bulls in china shops. But there is progress! Crime is not
an inevitable correlate of a good economy (rising waters do raise a
lot of boats, even if never enough); war isn't an inevitable aspect
of modernization ("Democracies" don't declare war on each other--or
turn to civil war in contested elections--though fairness is never

K: Gary, thanks for your instructive thoughts. They are warmly

G: Great! Thanks for saying that. For me, constructive disagreement
is nearly as appealing as consensual collaboration--not that I care
much for generally disagreeable styles of interaction. 

Anyway, high levels of disagreement can be sublime learning
experiences (Response is not mere re-presentation, but
articulation!). Discursive disagreement *can* be very constructive.
Even contentiousness can be a Gadamerian play of light on water. 




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