File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2001/habermas.0112, message 27

Date: Thu, 27 Dec 2001 09:17:11 -0800
Subject: Fwd: Re: HAB: Theory and Praxis

>At 05:30 AM 12/26/01 +0000, you wrote:
>>Dear List,
>>Re-read two essays from _T&P_ today...namely *Between Philosophy and 
>>Science* and *On Theory and Praxis*.
>>My intention was to try and clarify for myself Habermas's early 
>>understanding of the relation between theory and praxis. I am still 
>>unclear about this relationship in the following ways:
>>Is it a one-way & casual relationship between theory (cause) and praxis 
>Nope. For instance, positivistic science as well as historicist sciences 
>can uncover certain theoretical truths (that the earth is flat remains 
>true regardless if one is a socialist, liberal or conservative), but 
>remain ideologically blinded to their own (undisclosed) moralistic 
>perspective, w/positivsm and ideologically enclosed in pre-existing 
>meaning systems w/hermeneutics. Praxis is therefore not the effect of 
>theory, but the unity of theoretical and practical reasoning.
>>Do the practitioners of the emancipatory reason produced by the theorists 
>>engage with emancipatory reason in the same way?
>Nope. Emancipatory reason isn't a shirt that has been peeled off the back 
>of reality; the idea is captured in Habermas's understanding of the 
>"self-reflection of the sciences." Habermas isn't using it in a Platonic 
>or ontological sense. For instance, Habermas argues that self-reflection 
>has practical implications, not only in terms of legitimate insight into 
>one's own life history but also in terms of serving as a guide for 
>emancipated behaviour and action. Habermas cautions that this insight is 
>not prescriptive for political programs but merely the conditions for 
>legitimate and norm guided communicative behaviour
>>Isn't praxis unavoidably *theoretical* at some point, and theory 
>>production unavoidably an act of praxis? That is aren't the social 
>>actions of theory-producers in producing critical reason also not a form 
>>of praxis?
>In self-reflection, theory and practice are one; so yes, praxis is 
>theoretical at some point and theory production can be an act of praxis - 
>however - it does not seem to me that theory production is always 
>praxis... Habermas's earlier work singles out two disciplines which are 
>self-reflective: the critique of ideology and psychoanalysis.
>How about this:
>theory  --> practice = positivism
>practice --> theory = historicism
>theory + practice = self-reflection / praxis (the critique of knowledge)
>>Doesn't the theory/praxis distinction reflect too much of that nasty old 
>>mind/body dualism (object/subject dichotomy of the philosophy of 
>The dualism that Habermas supports in his early work has to do with 
>instrumental (external) and communicative (internal) reason; I don't think 
>his work supports a dualism between theory (knowing), practice (acting) 
>and praxis (acting and knowing). "Even if one admits that inherent within 
>reason is also partisanship in favor of reason, still the claim to 
>universality, which reflection as knowledge must make, is not to be 
>reconciled with the particularity which must adhere to every interest, 
>even that which aims at self-liberation" (TP, 15).
>>It seems to me to be a false dichotomy. The mere existence of 
>>communicative rationality provides no emancipatory guarantees. Why would 
>>a social actor seek to ensure the presupposed emancipatory potential 
>>embodied in the meaning generating structures of language are 
>>instantiated or protected etc?
>The "guarantee" is in the idealization; the impulse toward emancipation. 
>In TP Habermas argues that there can be no guarantee of a political 
>program in theory, practice or praxis.

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