Fish Gets It

Given the last two posts and the comments, here is an interesting article by Stanley Fish where he notes, at least one, huge gap in Habermas‘ thinking. He is absolutely right–something indeed is missing. A quote:

Postmodernism announces (loudly and often) that a supposedly neutral, objective rationality is always a construct informed by interests it neither acknowledges nor knows nor can know. Meanwhile science goes its merry way endlessly inventing and proliferating technological marvels without having the slightest idea of why. The “naive faith” Habermas criticizes is not a faith in what science can do — it can do anything — but a faith in science’s ability to provide reasons, aside from the reason of its own keeping on going, for doing it and for declining to do it in a particular direction because to do so would be wrong.

This is quite an admission (regarding the naive faith) by one of the most prolific and respected philosophical defenders of the Liberal Enlightenment Project.

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2 Responses to Fish Gets It

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Hi. me again!

    For a Fish column, this is moderately interesting and coherent. I wouldn't assume that he represents Habermas fairly or accurately, so I can't comment too deeply (wiki is helpful, though). But I would guess that Habermas's position is that while religion isn't true and a bit infantile, etc., it is psychologically apparent that humans, and their collective societies in particular, require some shamanistic, ritualistic mechanism to keep everyone on the same page, in terms of zeitgeist, mood, inspiration, etc.. however one wants to put it.

    It is like the imperial presidency we have in the US. Rationally speaking, there is no need for all the to-do and pomp, let alone the concentration of power. But the American civic religion runs on this fuel, where the president sets the agenda, where his or her moods and caprices are studied closely and read like tea leaves, etc.. When left to run amok, it turns into a Stalinist or Roman cult of the emperor.

    So I don't believe that Habermas gives religion any epistemic ground, and nor of course would I.

    “As Norbert Brieskorn, one of Habermas’s interlocutors, points out, in Habermas’s bargain “reason addresses demands to the religious communities” but “there is no mention of demands from the opposite direction.” Religion must give up the spheres of law, government, morality and knowledge; reason is asked only to be nice and not dismiss religion as irrational, retrograde and irrelevant.”

    Well, I'd say it is a pretty good deal, all the same. The two are not equal at all, and assuming some kind of false equivalence would be intellectually dishonest. I sympathize with Habermas's setting of religious ritual, especially in the European environment, as a sort of comforting and unifying shamanism and nothing more. The platitude for today is in the same vein, actually.

    As for the quote you put up, I don't think anyone ever claimed that science was the source of our morals or other ideals. It is the way to determine truths about the world. Now it turns out to be a good way to learn about ourselves, in our psychological and sociological aspects, which is where these morals or ideals come from. So, actually, science is at last close to touching on these sources, and even in an almost normative way, as determining what we want as humans becomes as much a project of plumbing our psychological and neurological depths as asking what we want in the form of a questionare or ballot or choice of social organizations.


  2. Darrell says:

    In other words, you repeat yourself…


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