File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0012, message 31

Subject: Re: HAB: Slow reading KHI - part II
Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2000 10:54:41 -0500 (Eastern Standard Time)

On Sun, 24 Dec 2000 19:21:00 +0000 wrote:

I've participated in several 'slow' readings on line, very few of them have 
ever worked. But I'm willing to give this one a try, and I'll try to stay 
focused. I'll qualify this in two ways: first, I'm not a psychoanalyst and, 
second, I'll be reading along in english (although I have a copy of KHI in the 
origin, so please feel free refer to it), third, I tend to jump tracks so feel 
free to reel me in whenever I do so. Finally, I'm going to try to keep editing 
to a minimum.

> Habermas' *Knowledge and Human Interests* (KHI)

FvG> At the *object* level the discussion is admirably straightforward: the 
nature of *dreams*. Everyone remembers this or that dream, everyone knows that 
a dream can be puzzling, disturbing, vague, vivid, satisfying, 'beautiful' or 
whatever. No one denies ever having *had* a dream, although frequency and 
content varies surprising from one individual to another.

K's Comment: the object (dreams) first becomes relevant to us through the 
appearance of symptoms - more or less pathological behaviour / expressions 
(obsessive, hysteric...) which cannot fully be accounted for - symptoms are the 
scars of a corrupt text. In contrast to neurotic symptoms formulated within 
structures of communication, Habermas maintains that the dream is a 
non-pathological model of such a text (Habermas, KHI: 219).

K's Question: The Freudian point to be made here, contrary to Habermas, is to 
avoid a fetishistic fascination with the 'content' of the dream, which 
supposedly hides behind the dream form rather, the 'secret' to be unveiled is 
the secret of the form itself. Dreams, in other words, are entirely normal, and 
the essential constitution of a dream is thus not its latent thought, which can 
be formulated in language, but the constitutive work (condensation, 
displacement) which confers on it the form of a dream (Zizek, The Sublime 
Object of Ideology: 11-12). For Freud, then, dreams are the work of unconscious 
processes (desire). As Freud notes, "what is most overlooked in dream analysis 
is the distinction between the latent dream-thoughts and the dream-work. At 
bottom, dreams are nothing other than a particular form of thinking made 
possible by the conditions of the state of sleep. It is the dream-work which 
creates that form, and it alone is the essence of dreaming - the explanation of 
its peculiar nature" (Freud, Interp of Dreams: 650).

FvG> At the *methodology* level - how do we strive for something like 
scientific certitude on such a puzzling topic - the argument starts to get more 
complicated. Habermas does *not* say: a dream is like any other phenomenon: you 
start with individual observation, description, case studies, on the basis of 
which you form a tentative hypothesis, which you put out for discussion amongst 
your peers, and which you seek to validate or disprove on the basis of some 
kind of testing procedure. In the case of dreams it is not ridiculously 
far-fetched to suppose - as Freud did - that they have something to do with 
neuro-physiological processes and the working of the human mind. The word 
'psychoanalysis' *itself* has these very connotations: namely that the study of 
dreams and related phenomena is a way of coming to grips with the working of 
the psyche, and that the investigative and testing procedures upon which we 
have to rely in such an enterprise are no different from any *other* scientific 
project. Habermas claims the exact *opposite* of the above: if you stick to the 
ordinary, 'hypothetico-deductive' procedures in Psychology, you miss out on 
something essential to the whole process of *understanding* what a dream 'is': 
the process of *self-reflection*.

FvG> "Die Psychoanalyse ist fr uns als das einzige greifbare Beispiel einer 
methodisch Selbstreflexion in Anspruch nehmenden Wissenschaft relevant." (262) 
[Psychoanalysis is, for us, relevant as the only tangible example of a Science 
whose method is based on Selfreflection]

FvG> For Habermas, dreams have this very peculiar quality: they remain forever 
inexplicable if approached from what, in the days of Nagel, Popper, Parsons, 
Merton was mostly called the 'hypothetical-deductive method' and nowadays 
'evidence-based' medicine: the inductive, analytic, 'conjectures and 
refutations' approach to a problem. Habermas claims: it can be shown 
conclusively that what we call 'self-reflection' lies at the very heart of 
Freud's discoveries on the nature of dreams, and that this is *in principle* 
ungraspable if approached with 'positivist' assumptions on scientific 
objectivity. "Das wir Reflexion verleugnen, *ist* der Positivismus." (9) [That 
we deny self-reflection *is* positivism.]

K's Question: the idea that dreams are "self-reflection" is important. Is 
Habermas saying, then, that the "dream" is (roughly) analogous to an 
"undistorted speech situation." He does say that a dream is a non-pathological 
model. If this is the case, then the analogy would be precisely that. Dreams 
are to the psyche what discourse is to language... Is this a fair analogy?

K's Second Question: this poses itself as highly problematic, because the dream 
is equated with linguistic grammar - however it is a *remarkable* innovation 
and analogy - and perhaps quite productive. Examining Habermas's analysis of 
dreams, Rainer Nägele notes that, for Habermas, dream language has no grammar, 
quoting Habermas, "The sequence of visual scene is no longer ordered according 
to syntactical rules because the differentiation linguistic means for logical 
relations are lacking; even elementary basic rules of logic are canceled. In 
the degrammaticized language of the dream, relations are constituted by fading 
over and by condensation of the material" (Habermas quoted in Nägele, Reading 
After Freud: 81). Nägele notes that Habermas's account is significantly 
different from Freud's. For Freud, the description of the possibilities of 
dream language point in another direction. Freud was not so much concerned with 
the "lack" of logical signs, what Habermas considers a degrammaticization, but 
emphasized that dreams present a problem of a different media of 
representation, and Freud uses the relationship between literature and a 
painting as a paradigm (Nägele RAF: 81). Quoting Freud, "The plastic arts of 
painting and sculpture labour, indeed, under a similar limitation as compared 
with poetry, which can make use of speech; and here once again the reason for 
their incapacity lies in the nature of the material which these two forms of 
art manipulate in their effort to express something. Before painting became 
acquainted with the laws of expression by which it is governed, it made 
attempts to get over this handicap. In ancient paintings small labels were hung 
rom the mouths of the person represented, containing in written characters the 
speeches which the artist despaired of representing pictorially." Painting, in 
other words, has its own order of representation, its own syntax or grammar. 
This syntax, as Freud discovers in the dream, is closer to the tropes and 
figures of rhetoric than to the syllogistic figures of logic. As such, it 
represents a kind of language that cannot be relegated to the exceptions of 
"poetic license" (Nägele RAF: 81). The dream, as it were, speaks its own 
language, but it is a language of images. In other words: the translation 
(reading) of a dream into language is fundamentally a distortion. The equation 
here must be this: a dream is to images what discourse is to language. What 
appears to be missing in Habermas's analysis is this: what is the 'secret' of 
the form: why dreams? why language? What do we start dreaming? Why do we start 
speaking? (why do we wake up? why do we stop talking?) What is the relevance of 
the form in regards to the content?

FvG> But the plot thickens. On the proof of the existence of phenomena *not* 
explicable with 'ordinary' inductive procedures of investigation - 
self-reflection - there rests a quite different line of thought. <SNIP>

FvG> (If instead of 'dreams' one says: 'language use' then it becomes clear 
that the argument is the same: in *both* cases - dreams and language use - we 
are dealing with experiences, competences and skills *not* explicable if we 
stay within a form of knowledge which expresses a 'technical cognitive 
interest' - the KHI formulation - or within an 'objectifying' orientation 
towards the world, the TCA formulation. In *this* respect, i.e. that the 
Habermas both of KHI and TCA draws our attention to experiences *not* 
explicable within the 'positivist' framework, the argument of KHI and TCA is - 
pace Gary - similar enough, although other assumptions have indeed changed.)

K's Question: It would seem, then, that both Nichols and Grunbaum (1984 - The 
Foundations of Psychoanalysis) [and perhaps Gellner?], who have argued that 
positivist frameworks can come to terms with dreams (and criticized Habermas), 
have misunderstood Habermas's objectives here. Thoughts? Also, there is, what 
appears to me, to be a glaring problem here: Freudian analysis isn't limited to 
the analysand. Freud's most famous analysis of psychosis is derived from a 
text, not an actual participant in dialogue. So how might Habermas respond to 
this in light of 'self-reflection?' What is at issue, it seems to me, is the 
idea of reconstruction as a science and reconstructive as a narrative 
(rhetoric). Jay Bernstein aruges that reconstruction is the creation of a 
narrative that the analysand can say "yes or no" to. This is not "knowledge" in 
the scientific sense, rather, "self-knowledge" and aesthetic.

FvG> On the *first* set of issues - the putative 'scientistic 
self-misunderstanding' of Psychoanalysis - Habermas' position does not change 
after KHI; on the second set set of issues - the relationship of psychoanalysis 
to critical theory - it does. This change is easy enough - as far as the texts 
are concerned - to localise: it is marked by the 1973 *postscript* to EuI - 
which in English is published separately as ?????? (There seem to be different 
editions around.)

The english postscript to KHI:

Habermas, Jürgen
     1973     "A Postscript to Knowledge and Human Interests" Philosophy of the 
Social Sciences 3: 157-189.

This is the only place I've found it. Yes, I agree, it is a shame that it 
wasn't published in the later editions of the english trans. of KHI (I checked 
the most recent edition, just to make sure, last week).

I think McCarthy summarizes the 'change' best: McCarthy, after summarizing the 
relation of psychoanalysis and critical theory in Habermas's work, agrees that 
there is a danger in a strict application of clinical analysis to political 
activity. In particular, he asks "What would correspond to ‘working through' 
and ‘transference' at the political level?" (McCarthy 1978 [The Critical 
Social Theory of JH]: 212). Perhaps, he notes, "we have taken the model too 
literally, and there is no need to find a correlate for every feature of the 
psychoanalytic situation" (McCarthy 1978: 212). In short, psychoanalysis 
"serves primarily to highlight the normative goals of enlightenment - 
self-emancipation through self-understanding , the overcoming of systematically 
distorted communication, and the strengthening of the capacity for self- 
determination through rational discourse - as well as the standards of 
validation for critical social theory - ultimately the successful continuation 
of self-formative processes on the part of the addressees" (McCarthy 1978: 
213). Although McCarthy is surely correct, as Gadamer and others have mentioned 
before him, that the Habermasian correlation of psychoanalysis to political 
activity is a problem, the gist of McCarthy's analysis suggest that 
psychoanalysis offers us nothing other than a nicely wrapped package of 
intuitive insights. If we follow McCarthy's suggestion, then psychoanalysis has 
nothing to offer critical theory that cannot be accomplished elsewhere ("take 
the psychoanalytic episteme and run!"). And this certainly seems to be the path 
that Habermas has chosen, aside from scattered passing remarks. This leads to 
an important question: what is so wrong with Habermas's interpretation of 
psychoanalysis, or psychoanalysis in general, that it need be cast aside?

My dissertation is seeking to provide a series of responses. First, that there 
is indeed something wrong with Habermas's appropriation of psychoanalysis. 
Second, that this problem can be traced back to Habermas's reading of Hegel 
which can be traced back to his reading of Kant. Third that if we read Freud 
via Lacan, then psychoanalysis can be seen to offer something quite different 
to Habermas's reading. And, finally, that such insights contribute meaningfully 
to critical theory as an indispensable resource.


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