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JURGEN HABERMAS: (Read 4230 times)
RonPrice
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JURGEN HABERMAS:
Feb 19th, 2011 at 10:34pm
 
In 1962 Jurgen Habermas(b. 1929-), a German man who became one of the most influential sociologists and philosophers in the world during the decades of his middle and late adulthood, accepted the position of extraordinary professor of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg.  That same year, he also published one of his now famous books on the nature of society. He was 33.  In 1962 I began my matriculation studies in Ontario and began my travelling-pioneering life for the Canadian Baha’i community.  I was 18.  I am now 66 and Habermas is 81.  

I have followed the career and the writing of Habermas since the 1990s when I was a teacher of sociological theory in Western Australia.  Like much writing in the field of sociology, the content of this eminent thinker’s work is dense and complex and most students find it a parched and arid wasteland.  But some catch an intellectual fire of enthusiasm for Habermas among one or more of the many wide intellectual currents and territories of sociology, as I did back in the 1960s and got a B.A.(sociology) in 1966.-Ron Price with thanks to “Jurgen Habermas,” Wikipedia, 15 August 2010.

It’s pretty turgid stuff for the average
person; it dried me out by the end of
my third year of university as many
other aspects of life took me to that
tether’s end like a dry dog-biscuit or
a frozen wasteland just surviving by
the skin of my teeth, little did I know
back then just what my problems were
for it is impossible to see the end in the
beginning: so many things take time as
those wheels of God grind very slowly.

But the fires of my enthusiasm for that
new science of groups was rekindled on
my way to Baffinland & then at the other
end of the Earth in Tasmania...they raged  
in my mental-set and they’ve been going
out and getting set on fire off-and-on now
for nearly 50 years….You were lucky that
those fires, Jurgen, kept burning, burning!

Ron Price  15 August 2010
Updated for: Australian Politics Forum
On: 19/2/'11
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married for 45 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 13, and a Baha'i for 53(n 2012).  I have 10 books on the internet and they are all available free of charge.
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Soren
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Re: JURGEN HABERMAS:
Reply #1 - Feb 19th, 2011 at 10:41pm
 
I am genuinely interested in what you have to say on Habermas.

I have always found him both banal and tugid. Extremely turgid and unreadable. But I could never ignore his good will. There is something compelling about his good will.

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RonPrice
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Re: JURGEN HABERMAS:
Reply #2 - Feb 20th, 2011 at 11:07am
 
Turgid he is, Soren. Banal he is not, at least from my perspective.  After nearly 50 years in the waters of sociology and philosophy I have found so much of these fields as you say, turgid. Wikipedia has an excellent overview of Habermas. I post below a story of my journey through sociology, hopefully for your reading pleasure. I thank you for your reply.-Ron
-------------------------

MY JOURNEY THROUGH SOCIOLOGY:

My experience these days of sociology, as a formal discipline, as just about entirely on the Internet. Occasionally I dabble, for I am retired now and I have made of dabbling an art-form; I dabble in this rich and variegated academic field which nearly fifty years ago I had just entered in the last year of my teenage life.  I remember well that first year of the formal study of sociology; it was a year which ended in early May of 1964, just before I got a job checking telephone poles for internal decay with the Bell Telephone Company of Canada.   In about February or, perhaps, March, a tutor joined the sociology staff.  He was able to explain the mysteries of the sociological theorist Talcott Parsons better than anyone. And at the time, Parsons occupied a position in the empyrean of sociological godheads.  It was an empyrean at the very centre of that introductory course in sociology.  If one wanted to pass that course in sociology one had to have a basic understanding of Parsons.   That was no easy task.

Everyone admired this tutor as if he was some brilliant theologian who had just arrived from the Vatican with authoritative pronouncements for us all to write down on our A-4 note paper to be regurgitated on the inevitable April examination.  He was an Englishman, if I remember, rather slim and a good talker. And Parsons, for all of us, was about as intricate and complex, as elusive and variable, as you could get and still stay in the same language and on the same earthly plane. I was able to pass sociology that year by the skin of my teeth.

For a year after that I had no contact with sociology, except for a short period of time toward the end of my second year at university. I got to know a young woman of 27 who had one son and who studied sociology.  I took her ice-skating in about February of 1965.  I can’t quite remember how I met her, but for two or three months I went to the occasional lecture with her in sociology.  She had a passion for helping Africans and I had a passion for her.  Our mutual passions interlocked nicely and it was this reciprocity that led us to join together in third year sociology.

I took six courses in sociology that year, 1966-7, enough to bring the dead to life, or is it the living to death or, perhaps more accurately, I should say enough to kill any of my enthusiasms for honours sociology in a 4th year.  In retrospect it was fortuitous that Canadian universities begin in mid-September with exams starting in mid-April. With the Christmas break, the week off for Easter and exam study--the student is left with only six months of lectures, reading and tutorials. That is about all I could stand of reading sociology. It was all I could stand at the time due to a number of factors not the least of which was some of the intricacies of my bipolar disorder.  The cold Canadian winters kept sociology all on chill: nothing like a brisk walk at 10 below zero to class in sociology 1A6 to examine the essence of Marxism, if there is/was an essence, or the complexities of functionalism and it had then, as it has now, many complexities especially the Parsonian brand.  From August Comte the founder of sociology, or one of the founders, to the 1960s in a quick hit, that was the core of the syllabus in sociology theory 3A6.  It was not as quick as I would have liked.  Part of me always wanted to take it seriously and part of me found it such a burden of words that my already incipient depression, the first complex episode of my life-long bipolar disorder, just got another kick-start on its way.

Anyway, I got through my third year and found myself with a BA bracket sociology end-of-bracket. I did not get my degree until November because, when the transcript came out in June, I found sadly that I was four or five marks short of a passing grade, 60%.  I had to pay a visit to the Head of the Department, a gentle spirit who frequently imbibed a white wine, a beer or was it a claret?  He taught me sociological statistics. This was the most mysterious of all arts in this youthful discipline which by 1963 was about 100 years of age with roots going back into the dawns of time in the western intellectual tradition.  I remember, yes, as if it was yesterday, sitting in his class writing down as much as I could in the hope of unravelling it leisurely at home in a quiet evening where I lived over a restaurant in the small town of Dundas. Dundas was 15 minutes away on a good hitch-hike---and good hitch-hikes were important at 10 below zero with a cold wind blowing.  Of course I never did, unravel it I mean; night after night I’d ponder these mathematical symbols in the hope that sincerity and effort would pay off.  In this case they did not and here I was eight weeks after the end of the year asking him for a few marks.  He came to the party, probably because it was late afternoon and by then he’d already had a few and he was one of those drinkers who got friendlier after knocking back that few.

I had periodic dalliances with sociology...more if desired...no more room in this post.
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married for 45 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 13, and a Baha'i for 53(n 2012).  I have 10 books on the internet and they are all available free of charge.
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Karnal
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Re: JURGEN HABERMAS:
Reply #3 - Feb 20th, 2011 at 5:02pm
 
What Habermas showed is that we are all seeking consensus. Everything we do, say and think is an act of communion - an act of seeking mutual agreement. This is what we want. This is what we seek in everything we do.

Of course, we mostly want people to agree with us, and not the other way around.

Through the rise of the individual as a social/political unit, we've come to be carried away with an overblown sense of our own importance. And this is our fundamental mistake.
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RonPrice
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Re: JURGEN HABERMAS:
Reply #4 - Feb 20th, 2011 at 7:58pm
 
Karnal has hit on one of the central features of Habermas' "position" which has interested me for some time. His analysis of advanced capitalistic societies and democracy and the rule of law in a critical social-evolutionary context is another focus of interest to me.  He is also a thinker who utilizes several other sociological and philosophical areas of emphasis: American pragmatism, structural functionalism, and even poststructuralism. This very diversity of approaches has brought him into my interest and focus. But, still, his writing has a turgid quality that requires some time to get "into." I've been "into" him for some time, but I can only read several pages of his work at any one time. I then have to put him down and rest my brain.-Ron
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married for 45 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 13, and a Baha'i for 53(n 2012).  I have 10 books on the internet and they are all available free of charge.
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Re: JURGEN HABERMAS:
Reply #5 - Jun 29th, 2011 at 4:20pm
 
Because many of us 'normal' people, demonstrate [when unrestrained] that we are 'normal' human beings who are vain, selfish, lecherous, greedy, violent creatures, when we are without restraint.
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RonPrice
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Re: JURGEN HABERMAS:
Reply #6 - Jun 29th, 2011 at 5:24pm
 
Yes, nidayede1, there is little doubt that Habermas would want those unrestrained qualities to which you refer, namely: vanity, selfishness, lecherousness, greed, and the tendency to violence---to be dealt with in the context of his 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'.

Habermas's theoretical system is devoted to revealing the possibility of reason, emancipation, and rational-critical communication latent in modern institutions and in the human capacity to deliberate and pursue rational interests. Therefore, those 'unrestrained qualities' would be dealt with in a framework which rests on the argument called universal pragmatics, namely, that all speech acts have an inherent telos (the Greek word for "end") — the goal of mutual understanding, and that human beings possess the communicative competence to bring about such understanding.

This is enough for now on this complex subject.-Ron Price, Tasmania Cool
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Re: JURGEN HABERMAS:
Reply #7 - Jul 4th, 2011 at 9:58pm
 
This may well be so for broadminded western philosophers who have grown up with the Greek attitude of cultivating their minds and their relationships with their fellow citizens in the name of mutually understood and appreciated reason.


http://piercework.typepad.com/.a/6a00e54f11b8be88340147e1a2c396970b-pi


It is evidently not so when it comes to the non-Western mind and traditions of unreason, both in the way they relate to their own person/mind and to their fellow citizens in their kingdoms of unreason.

The rational/critical mental attitude is anathema to Islam, just to give the most obvious example.

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Re: JURGEN HABERMAS:
Reply #8 - Jul 4th, 2011 at 10:24pm
 
I would be cautious about painting all of Islam with the brush which is deserving of the fundamentalists. How can we account for the extraordinary reserves of power, both aggressive and defensive, in Islam? This is a question which one is bound to ask when faced with the Islamic revival, or recrudescence, of recent years. Fifty years ago, Islam seemed a subject religion. Only four Islamic countries—Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, and Arabia—remained politically independent, and their independence owed more to the balance of Christian power than to their own strength. Today almost all Islamic countries are politically independent. Some of them, through no virtue of their own, are grotesquely rich. To gain this independence, and this wealth, they imitated their Western conquerors, borrowed Western science, Western ideas. Kemal Ataturk in Turkey, the Pahlevi shahs in Persia, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan, all, openly or secretly, disdained Muslim ideas. Their successors have returned to those ideas, some of them aggressively. In Persia, Pakistan, and Libya we see a revival not only of Muslim religion but also of Muslim law, customs, social organization. The secular West is declared to be “sick”: in Islamic fundamentalism lies the hope of the future--so these fundamentalists keep saying.

Sadly, as you say, "The rational/critical mental attitude is anathema" to these fundamentalists in Islam. Islam was once at the heart of the world, the source and centre of sciences and arts, the wellspring of great inventions and discoveries, the rich mine of human virtues and perfections.

Today the challenge of modernity has become the inescapable preoccupation of populations throughout the planet, not least the peoples of the Islamic world. The meaning of modernity and the features of that rising flood of cultural revolution are now being explicitly identified: constitutional and democratic government, the rule of law, universal education, the protection of human rights, economic development, religious tolerance, the promotion of useful sciences and technologies and programmes of public welfare.  The temporal and material apparatus of civilization in the West is not what is wanted in Islamic countries. They are not proposing a simple and credulous imitation of the West. On the contrary. In uncompromising language, these countries often portray European society as drowning "in the sea of passion and desire", trapped in a materialistic perception of reality that could bring in its wake nothing but disillusionment. Can this nominal civilization, they ask, unsupported by a genuine civilization of character, bring about the peace and well-being of the people or win the good pleasure of Allah? Does it not, rather, connote the destruction of man's estate and pull down the pillars of happiness and peace?
------------ENOUGH FOR NOW-----Ron Price, Australia
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Re: JURGEN HABERMAS:
Reply #9 - Jul 4th, 2011 at 11:59pm
 
RonPrice wrote on Jul 4th, 2011 at 10:24pm:
I would be cautious about painting all of Islam with the brush which is deserving of the fundamentalists. ...

Sadly, as you say, "The rational/critical mental attitude is anathema" to these fundamentalists in Islam. Islam was once at the heart of the world, the source and centre of sciences and arts, the wellspring of great inventions and discoveries, the rich mine of human virtues and perfections.



The 'fundamentalists' speak for Islam. It is an uncontroversial fact, readily acknowldeged by 'non-fundamentalist' Muslims that questioning Mohammed and the Koran are unislamic. Not un-fundamentalist but unislamic.

That islam was the source and centre of sciences and the arts is a huge overstatement. To say that islam wasn't always as extraordinarily closed minded as it has been for the last 500 years is not the same. The closing of the islamic mind in the 13th century happened, after all, on the basis of islamic theology.

Anyway, this is not the thread for this discussion.

Habermas values the rational/critical mental attitude and his ideas can function only in that milleau. But the attitude is alien to the non-western mind. It is alien not just to Islam but to Aborigines, Chinese, Africans and Melanesians. They can all learn it, of course, but my point is that the rational/critical mental attitude is not an attitude that all cultures lead to or even accept as somehow fundamentally human. It is as peculiarly Western as the Dreamtime is peculiarly Aboriginal.

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Re: JURGEN HABERMAS:
Reply #10 - Jul 5th, 2011 at 12:05pm
 
Two points:

Firstly: Hugh Trevor-Roper, the British historian made the point that the torch of civilization had been passed to Islam by the 9th and 10th centuries. According to most historians, the modern scientific method was pioneered by the Islamic scientist Ibn Al-Haytham (known to the west as “Alhazen”); Alhazen helped shift the emphasis on abstract theorizing onto systematic and repeatable experimentation, followed by careful criticism of premises and inferences. Robert Briffault, in The Making of Humanity, asserts that the very existence of science, as it is understood in the modern sense, is rooted in the scientific thought and knowledge that emerged in Islamic civilizations during this time.

Muslim scientists and scholars have subsequently developed a spectrum of viewpoints on the place of scientific learning within the context of Islam, none of which are universally accepted. However, most maintain the view that the acquisition of knowledge and scientific pursuit in general is not in disaccord with Islamic thought and religious belief. That the fundamentalists are not scientific in any sense is a similar problem that fundamentalist Christians have. The religion gets skewed in a non-scientific direction.

Secondly: to get back to this thread, as you suggested, and not diverge into the issues in relation to Islam, I totally agree with your point, namely, that "Habermas values the rational/critical mental attitude and his ideas can function only in that milleau." This attitude is very difficult to put into action for millions of people. We can all learn it, as you say, but the rational/critical mental attitude is not one that people can put into action easily.  Bias, emotions, the non-rational, indeed, a whole range of problems militate against genuine and effective communication as we all know only too well.-Ron Price, Tasmania
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