File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2001/habermas.0101, message 17


Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2001 23:32:41 -0800 (PST)
Subject: HAB: Balancing practicality & self formativity



Ken (Re: HAB: Linking Theory & Practice, 8 Jan),

I appreciate, I believe, your interest in the importance of
“aesthetic-imaginary moment[s],” since this is very important for me,
too. But the context of practice pertinent to realistic
(client-centered or other-centered) interests in emancipation and
education is very different from the self-centered (in the healthy
sense) interest of aesthetization (a luxury impertinent to needs of a
not-yet-practical-enough life, which motivates an emancipatory
interest). 

On the one hand, there is an ambiguity in the aims of education,
which are developmental “and/or” emancipatory, striving to produce
practically constructive, at-least-moderately rewarding lives,
relative to prospects for decent community, worklife, etc. On the
other hand, there’s an ambiguity in the notion of enlightenment that
is educational and/or high-cultural (This high culturality is the
preferred zone of academic life and/or theorization--interactions
*here*). The difference between ambiguous education and ambiguous
enlightenment seems to be, in practice, very, very challenging. 

It seems to me that you tend to aesthetize trauma, confusing
high-cultural theorization with the modest aims of education that are
pertinent to normative life and our social-systemic kind of
metropolitan life. 

The context of my exchange with Frederik yesterday--in particular the
comment you cite--pertains to *his context* of difference between
practice and theorization (my comment is a practical, interaction-
immanent comment). FvG is making points about theorization of
professional practice and turns aesthetical at the end
unconstructively, it seems. You’re using my comment out of context as
an occasion for aesthetic response, reflecting in a way what you
assert, i.e., aesthetizing the practice of theorization (as I can,
too--and did in “a little creative license” yesterday).  But
aesthetization *presupposes* a high stance of theorizing, while the
practical context of emancipatory and educational *needs* (theorized
by us, but itself quite individualized or lifeworldly) is about
getting and sustaining an at-least-modestly constructive and
productive life. Romanticization of trauma is a luxury that the
clients of educationa (and therapy) do not need (nor *yet* need to
desire--not yet need the specialist to educe). This is why I do try
to not confuse my own preferred discursive values (aesthetic and
less) with what for which good social practice (which is
client-centered, student-centered, other-centered) calls. 

So, your intervention in my comments to Frederik doesn’t get to
“precisely the problem” at all, though your view is, as always, good
reading (I confess I haven’t kept abreast of your long presentations
recently to Frederik, and I suspect that your comment today is a
footnote to those dissertative sketches, so what can I say).

> GD: ... On the one hand, aestheticization of educational issues is
not connoted by Habermas' work in any way...

K: Agreed. But this is precisely the problem....

G: No. Habermas can love aesthetics (poetic writing) as well as
anyone else (I would argue that the brilliant, homologous coherence
of his discursiveness from work to work is a beautiful thing).
Aesthetization of the psychoanalytic scene just occludes the
practical aims of the emancipatory interest and confounds issues of
the theorization of therapeutic efficacy (which Frederik wants to
focus on). Had we entered into an exchange about the aims of
*education*, then other kinds of differences would be more to the
point, involving the ambiguous sense of enlightenment (not
therapeutic efficacy) that education embodies--and the self-formative
potential that education can serve (education, after all, is a public
service aiming to serve the interests of individual
learning--maturation--and self formation).

So, you’re speaking for the aesthetic, but displacing questions of
the relationship of (a) the *emancipatory* interest in Habermas’
early work (and the psychoanalytic example) to (b) the interest in
enlightenment in *Habermas*’s work. Bluntly put: You’re intervening
in a context (theorization of psychoanalysis) where intervention *in
practice* (in psychoanalysis) is *highly* elusive to theorization
(and usually unwise). “Precisely the problem” is to *understand* the
other--especially the other’s context--in psychoanalysis, as well as
critique (and in textual exchanges). It is *most important* to not
aestheticize trauma and educational issues pertaining to gaining a
healthful, practically efficacious life (which is the proximal aim of
the downtrodden, the chronically de-motivated, etc.) for the sake of
standing up for oneself, taking responsibility for one’s own
prospects, constructive participation in growing decent community,
self-managing one’s career, voting intelligently, participating in
social change processes, etc.--in short,  working toward (or to
sustain) a decently fair, constructive life.

K: ...Tradition is tradition only insofar as we constitute it as
such....

G: This looks like a subjectivistic stance which occludes the
enormously *inherited* aspects of cultural life, through ordinary
familial maturation and social education--what I like to call the
Lemarckian dimension of our evolutionarity (which is constituted
historically through intergenerational bonds and local engagements). 


K: ...In other words, we view our 'past' through the eyes (the Other)
of our future....

G: I like this thought. But it pertains to *us* and to a
postconventional achievement that *presumes* the educational
enlightenment (or high adulthood) that an emancipatory interest (and
standard educational interest) *idealizes*. The context of
*educational* enlightenment--or emancipatory enlightenment--is *how*
to get *to* the way of life where futurity leads (or realization of
one’s potential is one’s ethical light). The emancipatory interest in
particular serves a *practical* interest, even *if* the practical
result of emancipatory processes is to reveal a self-formative
interest that was (is) primordial all along (since the emancipatory
interest will dissolve in the practical efficacy of “enlightenment”,
disclosing one’s primoridal self-formativity, I would argue).
Confusing the practical interest and the self-formative interest is
not good for emancipatory processes (This fosters unhealthy
narcissism). But not *actively* appreciating potential for
self-formativity is worse (This fosters “well-adjusted” conformity).

So, I can agree that “it is the aesthetic moment inherent to idea of
education that makes it appealing (beautiful),” but not to “begin
with”. To begin with--so profoundly prior to any need for
emancipation--the baby loves learning in a way that expresses our
nature so potentially continuously, potentially so deeply and
broadly--to such a differentiated scale of worldliness that “the
aesthetic moment” seems to sentimentalize this love that is so
evolutionary. 

How to find--how to foster--a balance...how to understand (or
conceive) an ethic giving self-formativity the lead--*appropriately*,
though--with fair attention to practicality. After healing, the
problem of balance remains, as an existential challenge, an appeal of
creative potential--yet a luxury of leisure. 

Best regards,

gary






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