File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0012, message 37

Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2000 00:35:01 +0100
Subject: HAB: Habermas & Freud: creation, discovery, genesis

I'm beginning to think that the problem is not so much to give some 
kind of credible account of what the central concepts mean in 
Habermas - 'knowledge-constitutive interests', 'communicative 
action', 'reflection', 'rational reconstruction' - but the size of the 
penumbra of ambiguity which surrounds them. Trying to understand 
him is a bit like saying one wants to understand the Encyclopaedia 
Brittannica: the intention itself is misplaced. There's an introduction 
of Alfred Schmidt somewhere to Horkheimer where he says 
something like this: it is not possible to 'understand' such an author. 
They reflect (that word again) the totality of the epoch in which they 
lived, so that 'trying to understand' such a person is not any 
different from our own attempt to understand both ourselves and 
our relation to the recent past. (In which case we're back to the 
question of what happened in Europe between 1914 and 1945.)

The secondary literature on KHI shows that one can read the book 
in two entirely different ways:

1) As a defence of psychoanalysis (PA) (and with it: what's left of 
individualism, democratic values) against its various  'positivist' 
opponents: against i.e. that coalition of scepticism, cynicism, 
commercialism, moral fundamentalism which - especially but not 
only in the USA - is threatening to scuttle the enterprise of PA for 
good. ('Freud Bashers', Feminists, behaviourists, 'hard science' 
advocates, main-stream psychiatrists). (At the 'object'-level, i.e. 
what it is that one argues about at the substantive level: 'trauma' - 
that catch-all phrase used to describe the psychological 
consequences of everything from child abuse to combat exposure 
and death camps.) Seen from this point of view, KHI is written by 
an Enlightenment thinker, an advocate and radical defender of 
individualism, and a public educator. Philosophically: a critique of 

2) As a new metaphysical system called 'communicative action' on 
the basis of which selected university and media stars called 'critical 
theorists' are able to find elaborate justifications for positions which 
according to sizable sections of public opinion are perfectly obvious 
anyway: that there should be more respect (and money) for 
women, minorities, post-colonialists, free choice, community spirit, 
child-care centers, just wars, equality of opportunity, democratic 
institutions and BSE-free hamburgers. In a word: it can be read as 
one more dogmatic system with not a testable proposition in sight, 
which in the hands of more than one follower has distinctly 
conformist aspects. Philosophically: a closed metaphysical system, 
one more 'philosophy of identity' (Adorno), or an 'objectivistic 
ontology'. (Theunissen)

I will try and get back, next week, to the specific psychoanalytic 

(I'll be away from my desk for the next weeks, which means I'll be 
able to read but not send mail via this address.)

best regards to the list.

Kenneth Mackendrick:
> Some notes on self-reflection

> Habermas introduces his discussion of Freud with the claim,
> "psychoanalysis is relevant to us as the only tangible example of a
> science incorporating methodical self-reflection" (Habermas, KHI,
> 214). Beginning with a comparison between the philology of Dilthey and
> the psychoanalysis of Freud, Habermas remarks that criticism "sets
> right" the mutilated "text" of tradition (Habermas, KHI, 216).
> However, psychoanalysis exceeds philology because the concerns of
> analysis are not restricted to a language in which conscious
> intentions are expressed. Psychoanalysis is a procedure which operates
> "behind the back" of the speaking subject, since the symbolic
> structures that psychoanalysis seeks to comprehend are corrupted from
> "within." 

The odd aspect of PA is that an understanding of its theories 
depends on having experienced it concretely in one's own life. 
Adorno speaks in this context of a 'logic of subsumption' as 
opposed to a perception of the 'object in itself'. 

> Unlike empirical or hermeneutic interests, psychoanalysis
> provides cognitive resources to extricate the Hegelian "causality of
> fate"

I've pondered this reference several times myself. Hegel at any rate 
was referring to 'macro'-events: antiquity/feudalism, middle 
ages/french revolution. i.e. not *individual*, biographic experiences 
of *this* or that client.

> and reverse or dissolve its determinacy. At the same time,
> psychoanalysis works with its subject matter in a concrete and
> therapeutic manner, simultaneously, in Habermas's view, rigorously
> scientific and (intersubjectively) self-reflective.

On this point there is at least some consensus: to say that PA is in 
any sense 'scientific' is possible only if we modify very considerably 
what the term means.

> In this sense, self-reflection, for Habermas, equally includes two
> moments: the cognitive and the affective and motivational. These two
> aspects are necessary since "critique would not have the power to
> break up false consciousness if it were not impelled by a passion for
> critique" (Habermas, KHI, 234). With the aim of psychoanalysis to
> reverse the process of split-off symbols, the subject coes to be
> motivated by a passion for critique' along the lines of an  interest
> in self-knowledge (Habermas, KHI, 234-235) which further entails that
> the subject take moral responsibility for this internalized otherness
> (i.e. psychoanaysis is normative and scientific). Because analysis
> expects the patient to undergo the experience of self-reflection it
> demands "moral responsibility for the content" of the "illness."
> Indeed, the insight to which analysis leads is this: "that the ego of
> the patient recognize itself in its other, represented by its illness,
> as in its own alienated self and identity with it" (Habermas, KHI,
> 235- 236). By analogy, Habermas follows Hegel's dialectic of moral
> life here, where the criminal "recognizes in his victim his own
> annihilated essence" (Habermas, KHI, 236). In effect, we are
> constituted by the other' (autonomy can only be conceived, Habermas
> maintains, through mutual recognition). The "dissolving" of the
> patient's attachment, then, is not accomplished by bracketing his or
> her subjectivity, but precisely by its controlled employment
> (Habermas, KHI, 237). This idea picks up the Kantian theme whereby the
> subject self-reflective guides their autonomy through obedience to an
> autonomous rule structure which, Habermas argues, is presupposed in
> the logic of communication but given content only through practical
> forms of discourse - this does not lose sight, however, of the
> Hegelian critique of Kant which understands self-reflection to be a
> coming to self-knowledge that one must have known in order to "know"
> something else: "only something already known can be remembered as a
> result and comprehended in its genesis" (Habermas, KHI, 9).
> Psychoanalysis, by merit of its capacity to makes sense of internal
> corruptions, "unites linguistic analysis with the psychological
> investigation of causal connections" (Habermas, KHI, 217). As a depth
> hermeneutics, in contrast to philological hermeneutics, psychoanalysis
> charts the "internal foreign territory" of the subject which captures
> the alien and alienated character of something that belongs to the
> subject (Habermas, KHI, 218). The scientific character of
> psychoanalysis is preserved in its search for cause and effect, while
> its dialogical and self-reflective aspects are preserved in the
> therapeutic relation itself. As a science, psychoanalysis appropriates
> instrumental forms of action through the use of language integrated
> monologically, reconstructing the manipulation of signs according to
> autonomous rules, divorced from experience. As self- reflection,
> according to Habermas, psychoanalysis unites analytic technique with
> the self-formative processes of both the analyst and the analysand -
> then equated with Hegel's struggle for recognition.
> Habermas argues that the radically intersubjective experience of
> reflection induced by enlightenment 

That's one more of those terms which can mean everything to 
everyone. Since the 'Dialectic of Enlightenment' it has meant, first 
and foremost, a vision of the historic process in its entirety, in the 
course of which the principles of radical enlightenment - as 
advocated and fought for by the French Republic after 1798 - have 
turned into their 'opposite', namely a technocratic barbarism. 
Transposed to the mundane events 'on the couch' it means - 
greater insight, 'self-reflection', all the rest of it. The *same* term 
for both events? At its best PA sticks to managable experiences: 
dreams, desires, disappointments, fears. The 'macro'-events not 
only have no *place* here, they are counterproductive. It is *this* 
hesitation, *this* dream, *this* specific formulation, *this* silence or 
embarrassment. To integrate all this into a glorious macro-synthesis 
on God/the universe/ the human race/the future loses what is 
specific about the kind of empiricism which PA has developed. 
Benjamin called it 'micro-logic'.

>is precisely the act through which
> the subject frees itself from a state in which it had become an object
> for itself (Habermas, KHI, 247). Reading Freud's theory as a
> depth-hermeneutics which explicates the conditions of the possibility
> of psychoanalytic knowledge, Habermas argues that metapsychology
> unfolds the logic of interpretation in the analytic situation of
> dialogue (Habermas, KHI, 254). Habermas understands the transference
> situation 

We should at some point get back to our proposed discussion of 
the difference between the words 'transference' and 'validity claim'.

>as the condition of possible knowledge, which is at the same
> time is the vehicle for a comprehension of the pathological situation
> (Habermas, KHI, 254) [this, I think, is precisely what needs to be
> explored in more detail]. Metapsychology, establishing connections
> between language deformation and behaviourial pathology, thereby
> presupposes a theory of ordinary language. A theory of ordinary
> language, which remained to be adequately developed in Freud's day,
> has two tasks: to account for the intersubjective validity of symbols
> and the linguistic mediation of interactions on the basis of
> reciprocal recognition and, to render comprehensible socialization,
> the initiation of the subject into the grammar of language games, as a
> process of individuation (Habermas, KHI, 255). According to this
> model, the structure of language determines both language and conduct,
> where motives of action are comprehended as linguistically interpreted
> needs (shared by the collective). For Habermas, motivations are not
> instinctual impulses that operate from behind subjectivity but are
> subjectively guiding, symbolically mediated, and reciprocally
> interrelated intentions (Habermas, KHI, 255).
> To sum up a bit: Habermas identifies in Freud a route that positivism
> closes off, a line of inquiry which does justice to two moments of
> self-reflection: the rational reconstructive and the
> emancipatory-cognitive. Self-reflection, then, has several
> characteristics: discovery (the production of scientific knowledge),
> creation (the production of a new means of self-knowledge and
> self-identity within a larger community), and genesis (the question of
> origin and the thematic possibility of making meaningful distinctions
> between discovery and creation).
> ken

They seem to be two kinds of enterprises: (a) what does Habermas 
*mean*; (b) is what he *means* also *true*?

F. van Gelder

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