Friday, December 10, 2010

thinking after Habermas

At least two motives cause me to begin this blog: The email discussion group is an antedated medium, and I want a cultural notion of The Conversation of Humanity that’s not fundamentally political.  

What’s “the” Conversation of Humanity?

I’m so unclear about my sense of “after”—an ambiguity of “in light of” and “beyond”—that I have to accept that my interest “after Habermas” is my own.

Here’s most of a posting to the Habermas group, Nov. 27, 2010, that I deleted from the group archive:
Occasionally, I have thoughts of wanting the site to turn into something new, but I don’t feel a good way to pose this. Who cares anyway? But I’m tired of intellectual tourism, which this [discussion] medium seems to be about.

Habermas’ work is not about Habermas. It’s about what his work is about, which is about a commonwealth of discursive inquiry, having a historicality to which he exemplarily contributes, thus may be seen to advance. But it’s not about him, though it’s intriguing to ask: What is being “Habermasian”? Generally: What are we to make of a singularity in philosophy: that there arises a philosophical mind with great singularity? The conditions for the possibility of a singularity of mind are bio-cultural and a lot of work, i.e., very difficult individuation. What are we to make of that, philosophically speaking?

I’m saddened by the fact that recent years have offered very little fidelity to details of Habermas’ work at the yahoogroups list (and I apply that to myself firstly, but not solely). Imagine a posting that introduces and links to a close reading of some part of his work—or a link to a detailed application of part of his work to some pressing issue. I recently posted interest in his recent essay on human rights, relative to the Obama administration’s explicit and progressive policy on human rights, and there was no response. Some years back, I linked to a listing that I composed of others’ work that seemed to exemplify good, accurate application of his work, and that caused no response. I have posed issues related to specifics of his work, and I get impulsive response, if any at all.

No doubt, the motivations of Habermas’ work (like that of any singular mind) is not best honored by scholasticism, i.e., by treating his work as having a foundational stature on which any other philosophical work would be relativized (i.e., essentialism or foundationism or ontologism). Indeed, I would argue that an accurate understanding of the conceptuality of Habermas’ work leaves one in an open field of evolving inquiry that should continue evolving beyond a singular inquirer’s opportunities, special interests, and finite achievement.

So, what is the nature of the work that Habermas is primarily advancing? Is it an exemplarity of integratable contributions to the evolving “unity of reason,” whereby he is one voice—a leading voice to a few (so few)—in a plurality? What is the nature of that plurality? What, for example, is Gadamer’s “Conversation of Humanity” after Habermas? (What is “the” Conversation of Humanity after Derrida? After Stephen Muilhall, who publishes a book titled The Conversation of Humanity, 2007?) What would be the definition of a discussion that most honors Habermas’ sense of the plurality (e.g., an integration of all his work relative to all his influences and all his primary interlocutors—how impossible!), given appropriate appreciation of Habermas’ contribution (which happens to be rare, I think: Not many persons understand what he’s doing accurately—an observation which is at least an invitation to bettering my own understanding, which I’m “dying” to have others do).

Perhaps, Habermas is best honored by promoting a list called “Conversation of Humanity,” done with tongue in cheek, since strong moderation would be required of such a nebulous pretense, and who can say what aptly implies a comprehensive attunement to the humanity of a conversation? What’s a good editorial board?

Actually, the interest is bogus. There is the planetary commons composing itself inestimably through uncountable conversations. Any sense of comprehensive comprehension is an emergence of particular sensibilities in play with each other. Love of The Concept is something to diagnose and relativize to our evolving, about which there are countless perspectives.

Does that imply an unstable, if not de-stabilizing, relativism? Not if we understand how relativity is not as such relativism, neither in physics nor in the growing singularity of planetary humanity. It is said that our population will top out at around 9 billion, as the carrying capacity of the planet is more or less determinable. Increasingly reliable predictions about our planetary future create an “Is” that implies an “Ought,” such that a singularity of The Conversation may increasingly embody the better arguments. Thirty years ago, James Lovelock’s hermeneutic of “Gaia” was considered eccentric. Now, Gaia theory is a branch of environmental studies in leading universities. The university itself is an increasingly singular, planetary organon. The multi-domainality of specialties lives globally. The future of philosophy, in Habermas’ sense of this (now over 30 years of age), is embodied in an evolving globality of inquiry—evolving mentability, I like to say. The “extended mind” is now a mainstream topic of cognitive science, and the material locus of the extension is one hyperNetted planet in a solar system younger than most others. The mental locus belongs to minds, which are literally made of individual, embodied comprehensions.

So, characterization of our singularity—ultimately imaginative in each instance—is also ultimately a generative profusion of variably-fitting constellations of characterization that may gain no voice (and die away) or gain variably-selective advantage in a generativity of our commonwealth of activity that tends to advance us, amid all our muddling.
That’s quite a strident statement, aptly deleted from the archive of postings supposedly on Habermas “as text, influence, adversary, exemplar.”

A lot can be said about that, obviously. I wouldn’t write that posting today (a mere two weeks later). It wasn’t a deliberate essay. I wrote more or less in the moment, then posted it to I-don’t-know-how-many (there are presently 221 subscribers and some 25 addresses bouncing; so, that makes about 195 sufferers.)

And a lot can be said about a calling of universities to contribute to “evolutionary engineering,” an intentionally-provocative rubric that covertly anticipates an extended discussion about the realism of social evolution, such as the engineering of development expressed in the “12 pillar” evaluation model of the World Economic Forum (and here’s a detailed discussion from 2010; also here's all 114 factors that make up the 12-pillar model) of the WEF Global Competitiveness Report.

It’s good to bear in mind that a philosophical pragmatism’s bridging of idealism and realism is (or should want to be) really realistic. Yet, also important to realize is that the bridging is ultimately philosophical, implying questions about what that can be after metaphysicalism (i.e., the evolutionary anthropology of onto-theological rhetoric?).

Though this blog was initiated today, Dec. 10, 2010, it will increasingly incorporate earlier material on Habermas (probably revised and noted as revised, but keeping original dates) going back to summer, 1997 (Aug. 24, to be exact), as well as the more-deliberative postings from the Yahoo! Groups site (cleaned up and revised), which can be made (I hope) into an integrated view of Habermas’s work.