Habermas’s Kantian Pragmatism

Pragmatism after the Linguistic Turn

There are two major current in twentieth century philosophy, i.e. after the linguistic turn:

Continental Analytic Kantian Pragmatism
Wittgenstein and Heidegger Quine and Davidson Putnam, Dummett, Apel and Habermas
Linguistic world disclosure: access to reality is always filtered and made possible by language/conceptual schemes Embraces an empiricist outlook Linguistic turn is not just a methodological shift but a paradigm shift.
Against: jeopardises the notion of objectivity, we are at the mercy of “Being” or the grammar of our language games Against: does so at the expense of doing justice to the participant perspective of language users since all normative social and linguistic practices are assimilated to observable events in the world (strong naturalism) Seeks to do justice both to the constitutive nature of language and to the objectivity claims of truth.
Both traditions limit themselves to the “semantic aspects” of language and treat pragmatics as secondary Humboldt goes beyond these two traditions: he argues that there are three aspects of language, world disclosure (hermeneutics), representation (formal semantics) and pragmatics
Missing an adequate account of the representational function of language, or reference and propositional truth Does not engage in cultural critique. Truth conditional semantics is too narrow for it privileges the representational dimension of language over its expressive and communicative dimensions Habermas remedies what is missing in Continental philosophy by drawing on the Analytic tradition, specifically Putnam: he stresses the sameness of reference is a formal pragmatic presupposition of communication, and this presupposition is independent of the specific – and possibly divergent – descriptions that two speakers may associate with a term or referent.

Humboldt…emphasises the possibility of cross-linguistic and cross-cultural communication and retains a notion of objective reference. (x)

Humboldt lays the foundations of the kind of Kantian pragmatism [Habermas] defends. (xi)

Indeed, for two speakers to disagree about the appropriate description of a referent presupposes that they are referring to the same thing. (xi)

Kantian pragmatism: how do we detranscendentalise Kant?

What follows, in other words, from understanding the transcendental conditions of possibility of experience as something in the world, or situating them in our practices? (xii)

Detranscendentalising Kant

Kant’s necessary subjective conditions of objective experience are transformed and given the “quasi-transcendental” role of intersubjective conditions of linguistic interpretation and communication. If taken too far, we end up with undesirable consequences, of which Hegel is the prime example: Hegel was right to historicise reason, but he subsequently went too far in the direction of an “objective idealism” according to which objectivity is ultimately reduced to intersubjectivity.
  When we give too much constitutive authority to e.g. lifeworlds or linguistic frameworks, the result is linguistic determinism and cultural or epistemological relativism, for if there are as many way of knowing as there are languages, and these languages, furthermore, are incommensurable, the concept of objectivity loses all its bite.
Even though Habermas would agree that we do not have unmediated access to reality, he rejects relativism in epistemology, just as much as in moral theory. Habermas will argue that the threats of objectivism and relativism stem from an insufficiently thorough pragmatism.

Habermas argues the above problems follow not from the project of detranscendentalisation per se, but from a (continued) privileging of the representational model of knowledge…which has traditionally gone hand in hand with the correspondent theory of truth. (xii)

All references are to the translator’s introduction in Truth and Justification


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