Technology and Justice: The Philosophy of Authenticity and Democratic Theory
4: The Ramifications of Modern Thinking and the Condition of Spirit
4.1 The Concept of Freedom
"But I am not guilty," K said, "It's a mistake. How can a human being ever be guilty? We are all human beings here after all, each the same as the other?"
We have analyzed at length the nature of knowledge/power in the modern age as manifested and maintained through language. Yet we have characterized this, in the title to this segment, as Spirit. What is meant by the employment of this term, and how does this use of the term differ from classical understandings of Spirit? To understand the contemporary notion of Spirit, and hence, much of Western thinking in the modern era, we must turn briefly to the idealistic philosophy of Hegel.53
Hegel's philosophy traces the development of Spirit towards absolute self reflection, absolute being, through the dialectical scaling of history and time. Spirit is Being idealized as thinking; however, it cannot be understood separately from the dialectical process, because to attempt to grasp Being prior to understanding its becoming is to understand it only in part, abstractly. Becoming is a process both positive and negative in character, with the past disappearing, but doing so by being absorbed within the future.
"Nothing, if it be thus immediate and equal to itself, is also conversely the same as Being is. The truth of Being and of Nothing is accordingly the unity of the two: and this unity is Becoming."54Dialectic, as understood by Hegel, is a type of subsumtion. The subsumtion of knowledge to knowledge in consciousness is transformative—and according to Hegel this process of becoming is only fully realized by the ultimate renunciation of an abstract individuality in favor of realizing one's place within the reasoned order. Thinking is considered to be purposive, with the subsumtion of contradiction and difference through dialectic the root of progressive becoming. The movement of unfolded becoming can be traced through thinking from the particular and merely immediate, to the absolute and universal, to use a narrowed terminology. Hegel expressed the aim of this philosophy best in the rightly famous preface to his Phenomenology of Spirit.
"What has been said can also be expressed by saying that Reason is a purposive activity. The exaltation of supposed Nature over a misconceived thinking, and especially the rejection of external teleology, has brought the form of purpose in general into discredit…the realized purpose, or the existent actuality, is movement and unfolded becoming…the task of leading the individual from his uneducated standpoint to knowledge has to be seen in its universal sense, just as it was the universal individual, self-conscious Spirit, whose formative education had to be studied."55
It is noteworthy that Hegel commences the Phenomenology, and thus the scientific system as a whole, by discussing the disrepute of external teleology, a topic we not coincidentally have already considered in some detail throughout the preceding chapters. However, Hegel's aim is not to dismiss the internal as unimportant in favor of a purely external power which provisions purpose. Nor is it to establish a nascent existentialist concept of a purely self-directed being, the existent being preceding the essential one. Rather, Hegel attempts to regard the entirety of Spirit's history as progressing from originally abstract conceptions of freedom, as characterized by processes such as the famous master-slave dialectic, to a concrete and more fully realized idea of the individual as a member of a family, then a community, and ultimately, the state. At all these stages, Hegel wrestles predominately with the Kantian conception of freedom and morality, as structured around the notion of a purely rational actor who acts as the highest moral legislator willing universal law. Kantianism being the predominant philosophy of the time, much of Hegel's thinking is concerned, not with refuting wholesale, but realizing Kant's concepts more fully, both practically and rationally.
Freedom, to Kant, was perhaps the most fundamental and basic of human problems. According to empirical observations premised on the Newtonian model of nature, all things were bound by a mechanistic and linear model of time, in which the unfolding of events preceded inevitably according to set causal chains. This rigid determinism seemed to Kant empirically irrefutable, even with relation to seemingly independent human beings. Humankind felt that it was not bound by the laws of nature, but rather, acted according to a self directed free will which was not causally determined. While such a view might appear unscientific at best, Kant had a great deal of sympathy for the idea in no small part because of metaphysical liberty's fundamental relationship to morality. If freedom did not exist, and necessity appeared the sole, dominating feature of existence, how could one judge an action to be moral or immoral? If necessity, as commonly understood, governed the order of the universe, what place was there for qualitative distinction?
It was this seeming contradiction that led Kant to develop his theory of the unbound rational actor and the famous categorical imperative. Far from existing as a mere abstract ideal, the categorical imperative reflected Kant's lifetime of thinking on the relationship between time, understanding, and freedom. Linear, bound time, as an essential element of Newtonian mechanics, made possible the understanding of mechanistic causal relationships, as between one moment and the next. To understand humans as being free, according to the Newtonian paradigm, was therefore to think of them outside of time, or at least time as traditionally understood. The rational subject was unbound by causality as a being capable of realizing itself outside of temporality, due to being that being which imposed time categorically on experience. Time, as a subjective category of understanding, has no bearing on things in themselves, including the inward individuality of the human being.
"Now this active subject would, in its character of intelligible subject, be subordinate to no conditions of time, for time is only a condition of phenomena, and not of things in themselves. No action would begin or cease to be in this subject; it would consequently be free from the law of all determination of time—the law of change, namely that everything which happens must have a cause in the phenomena of the preceding state. In one word, the causality of the subject, in so far as it is intelligible, would not form part of the series of empirical condition which determine and necessitate an event in the world of sense."56
Kant was aware, however, that this rational conception of freedom was highly abstract and represented one side of an antinomy of thought. This antinomy was that empirical reason suggested that human beings were bound by causality while rational reason suggested the possibility that they weren't. Kant was conscious of both the practical and even the emotive difficulties of this contradiction, but felt, like Kierkegaard, that the priority of morality made it essential to both hold to the paradox, acknowledge its impenetrability, and none the less act morally.
"This is because the moral law, included and thought in this concept, and no other object, determines the will as required by the principle of autonomy. This order of concepts of the determination of the will should not be lost sight of, for otherwise we misunderstand ourselves and believe we are contradicting ourselves when everything really stands in the most perfect harmony57."
While Kant saw this contradiction as a fundamental feature of moral law, it is precisely this "unrealized" concept of freedom that Hegel attempts to move past. The Kantian concept of the autonomous rational legislator he saw as an essential passage from purely abstract right to a universal concept of morality. However, it was far from the fully realized concept of right; indeed, grounded as it still was in the individual subject, even the rational subject, Hegel saw Kantian ethics as remaining ultimately subjective in nature.
In the Philosophy of Right, Hegel traces the development of the ethical spirit from the abstract right of Hobbes to the moral imperative of Kant, whose rationalism he saw as contradicting the positivism of statism. Typically, Hegel characterized this contradiction as a necessary historical and intellectual passage in the development of Spirit, whose full realization would re-emphasize the community while concurrently avoiding the nihilism and crass, materialistic utilitarian calculus of the English positivists and liberals.
Morality fully developed became re-formalized into the concrete laws of the state. The state was the realized ethical spirit or ethical notion, which substantiated itself and needed no other source to validate it, or telos to strive towards. However, unlike the purely pragmatic state conceived and endorsed by Hobbes, Hegel saw the state as the absolute substantive will raised to the level of universal, abstracted away from the atomistic individualism of permissive liberalism. Against the principles of the absolute validity of the individual will, or contrarily the absolute necessity of the individual will as the universal arbiter of morality, the dialectical process posited the possibility of an objective rationality which realized freedom through individuals as particular manifestations of the moral whole. Subjective freedom, which was posited as an opposing principal to this, Hegel claims was therefore in fact realized but subsumed beneath this richer conception of morality. To the completed and therefore entirely free state thus belonged both a unique, but very real, consciousness and will. Subjective freedom's place within this absolute was placed within the structured discussion of the state legislature, which universalized subjective freedom with the state system. However, the legislature was but one structure of the state. Drawing heavily from Montesquieu's classic division, Hegel also advocates for a powerful judiciary, and more controversially, a powerful monarch, which represented the sovereignty and freedom of the state subjectivized.
But this is secondary to our discussion. The question of primacy here is not the archaic state structure conceived by Hegel, but rather its connections to the spiritual element of his philosophy. What is the connection of the philosophy of right to the dialectical method and the metaphysical ideal of the absolute first discussed in our section concerning time?
"The state is real. Its reality consists in its realizing the interest of the whole in particular ends. Actuality is always the unity of universality and particularity. Universality exists piecemeal in particularly. Each side appears as self-sufficient, although it is upheld and sustained only in the whole. In so far as this unity is absent, the thing is unrealized, even though existence may be predicated of it. A bad state is one which merely exists.58"
The state is the real because it possesses an immanent, dialectical necessity. To see necessity means understanding time from the logical standpoint of ideality, as the unity which reflects freely only upon itself. Particulars approach this to the degree which they manifest an independent will which is not bound to externalities. The state is the unfurling of the necessary as the individual passes from mere abstract monism, to rational subjectivism, to understanding his place within the community, the state, and ultimately, the ethical state. However, more important than this is the sense that realizing oneself as an individual ultimately means passing from even moral individualism to abnegating oneself within spirit, to abandoning the subjective notion of freedom to a richer idea where "right exists only as a branch of a whole, or as a vine twining itself about a firmly rooted tree59." Through this, the individual is seen as most closely approximating the absolute by their participation within world history and the structure of the free and sovereign state.
This is not simply a sociological phenomenon, but is premised on Hegel's metaphysical philosophy of spirit passing from understanding, to dialectic, to the purity of speculative thought and the idea. Once thought has been cultivated to achieve the pure, in which truth was understood in its diamond purity, spirit has attained a phenomenological perfection.
"The speculative stage, or stage of Positive Reason, apprehends the unity of terms (propositions) in their opposition—the affirmative which is involved in their disintegration and in their transition. The result of dialectic is positive because it has a definite content, or because its result is not empty and abstract nothing, but the negation of certain specific propositions which are constrained in the result—for the very reason is a resulantant and not immediate nothing. It follows from this that the reasonable result, thought it be only a thought and abstract, is still a concrete, being not a plain formal unity, but a unity of distinct propositions.60"
This meant passing from mere understanding; characterized by the question of crude being, to the notion or the idea. Being, to Hegel is the implicate form of the notion, the determinate factor of that which initially gives rise to thought. However, except as realized in its absolute form, Being is ultimately without content unless it is characterized by the metaphysic of beings in Being, which Heidegger points out as a precondition for the commencement of Western thought. Unlike Heidegger, however, Hegel sees the question of Being itself as ultimately vacuous. Being is the unconstrained point of commencement for understanding, which ultimately passes beyond even particulars to attain the level of dialectic and thence speculative thought.
The state, and the individual within it, is reflective and reflected by this divine process, and was similarly governed and a part of the metaphysical logic. Indeed, Hegel makes frequent analogous references to the state even in the Logical portion of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences. He saw the state, once it has attained a necessary intrinsic perfection, as the world historical representation of the ideal. The cultivation of thinking and the evolution of consciousness, to Hegel, meant attaining an ever greater understanding of one's place within the system of the absolute.
To understand this means, for all intents and purposes, to reinterpret one's conception of oneself within time, of one's Being in Time. Time, linearly understood, is simply subjective to Hegel. To conceive the absolute, internally reflecting ecstatic time allows one to understand Hegel's philosophy most clearly. Mere Being and moment, premised on the linear conception of time conceived by Aristotle and Newton, pass away with the reconceptualization of oneself within a giving, organic space-time where freedom, as we understand it disappears. On a smaller scale, the same must apply to our understanding of the state, of society, and of knowledge/power. Reinterpreting temporality within the context of modern spirit allows for a new and broader understanding of knowledge/power, and our place within it, as represented by language. Language to Hegel, was one of the representations of spirit in consciousness, and played a vital role in shaping the notion of the individual.
"For it is in the name alone that the difference of the individual from everyone else is not presumed, but is made actual by all. In the name, the individual counts as a pure individual, no longer only in his own consciousness, but in the consciousness of everyone."61
However, the aim here is not, like Hegel, to provide support for such integration. Instead we have neared the point where our criticism will soon pass from an analysis of spirit to articulating a liberating principle of authenticity.
Spirit is conceived by Hegel as ultimately progressing from mere understanding, to dialectic, to the notion, and ultimately to the Absolute notion wherein the unity of all the stages can be observed. However, as we have observed in the preceding sections on temporality and the nature of knowledge, the social ramifications of knowledge can hardly be understood by observing them unitarily. Instead, spirit manifests itself functionally as various formations of knowledge/power, predicated and maintained by language within a cognitive realm characterized by an ecstatic temporality, but understood primarily linearly and progressively. Spirit, in this sense, is inter-categorical, just as language is, with the dialectic between various formations of spirit, whether as individual spirit (geist), national spirit (volkgeist), or world spirit (veltgeist), being just as often practically negative as synthetic. Understood properly the relationship between various levels of spirit, as governed by the rational, technical spirit of the age, is one of division and limit than breadth and creativity.
4.2 Freedom, Rationality and Modern Paradigms
While in theory the aim of dialectic may be to find the unity between formations, in practice, as Hegel himself points out, power often manifests itself purely in the realm of understanding— in the framing and manipulation of Being. This is where his positivism transcends even British positivism, for here the divisions within the state are given an immanent justification. If there is one unitary quality to knowledge/power in the present age, it is precisely that of dispersion into ennunciative formations and paradigms, each with its own rules and notions. This is a characteristic of modern day Rationality and technical thinking, and marks as Heidegger says, the essence of modern science and technology. Habermas notes that the rationalizing, specializing characteristic is even present, to a degree, in the modern judicial system, which many positivists see as the first and final source of morality in the post modern world.
"Modern law is in particularly high degree jurist's law. With legally trained judges and officials, the administration of justice and public administrations became professionalized. Not only the application of law, but the enactment of law became increasingly bound to formal procedure and therefore to the specialized mind of jurists. This situation prompted the systematization of legal propositions, the coherence of legal doctrine, that is to say, the rationalization of law according to internal, purely formal criteria of analytic conceptual structure, deductive rigor, principled explanation and justification and the like."62
The ramifications of this are subtle, but profound. None would deny the importance and value of technical thinking and specialization. To do so would be to deny even the possibility of technological developments from which we may all ultimately benefit, and more intellectually, even provides increased and improved datum for philosophical/scientific speculation. Indeed, in the Logic of Scientific Discovery, Karl Popper demarcates a specialized, if somewhat privileged, role for science distinct but also contributory to that of philosophical investigation. What constitutes a scientific theory is not considered by Popper to be its articulation through positive statements, but rather the possibility of theoretic falsification through observational testability.
"The empirical basis of objective science has thus nothing absolute about it. Science does not rest upon solid bedrock. The bold structure of its theories arise, as it were above a swamp. It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above into the swamp, but not down to any natural or given base; and if we stop driving the piles down, it is not because we have reached firm ground. We simply stop when we are satisfied that the piles are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being.63"
Popper's theory is an important response to the doctrine of the Logical Positivists, and does a great deal to undermine the dogmatism of Carnap and others. Quine, in his Two Dogma's of Empiricism, also famously moves away from the position of Logical Positivism, to embrace a more holistic outlook.
"The totality of our so called knowledge or beliefs, from the most casual matters of geography and history to the profoundest laws of atomic physics or even of pure mathematics and logic, is a man-made fabric which impinges on experience only along the edges. Or, to change the figure, total science is like a field of force whose boundary conditions are experience. A conflict with experience at the periphery occasions readjustments in the interior of the field. Truth values have to be redistributed over some other statements. Re-evaluation of some statements entails re-evaluation of others, because of their logical interconnections—the logical laws being in turn simply certain further statements on the system, certain further elements of the field. Having re-evaluated one statement we must re-evaluate some others, which may be statements logically connected with the first or may be statements of the logical connections themselves." 64
However, neither Popper nor Quine deal sufficiently with the issue of correspondence between scientific theories, and their largely methodological epistemologies are unable to provide a unified outlook. Indeed, Popper's sceptical attitude towards the possibility of attaining even scientific certainty seems more an attack on Enlightenment optimism than the quantifying mindset which is at the root of specialization.
Specialization and division, for all their uses, have resulted in unforeseen consequences. The rationalization of the state and its divisions articulated by Hegel leads ultimately, not to passing beyond the limitations of a particular manner of thinking to philosophy, but integration within a rationalized paradigm, from which it is increasingly difficult to deviate. Consequently, thinking, and ethical thinking has a decisionist quality which makes compromise, dialectic, dialogue, and communicative rationality increasingly difficult.
Indeed, governments often find it advantageous to maintain these divisions, both practically and cognitively, through what Foucault would refer to as "dividing practices.65" Populations become increasingly homogenous and predictable in their atomistic heterogeneity. The British and Europeans employed such techniques with great success across their colonial empires. Throughout the half century debates concerning environmental policy, we have frequently seen the way different groups frame Being, or conceptualize the metaphysical concept of beings in Being. Some place considerably greater moral emphasis on certain segments than others, often steadfastly denying the profound bilateral interconnectedness of man with the environment. More benignly, in Canada the Harper government has increasingly targeted specific groups during its electoral campaigns, with the aim of fracturing the population sufficiently to capture a required number of small groups, rather than offering a unifying policy for the entire country. And most importantly for our purposes is the continuous debate concerning the nature and function of human rights, which has divided nations and states for generations, in spite of the horrors of the Second World War, and countless other genocides and "rights violations."
This debate is not merely academic; indeed, states from China to America have employed the language and rhetoric of relativism, of differentiated moral spheres, to defend violations of international law and human rights norms. From a teleological point of view, the end of things can no longer be realized outside of their place within systematic utilitarianism. Things are employed merely as means to and end; and yet, paradoxically the rationality behind the end, the end of ends, is never given. Value positing becomes simply value ascribed, but never value realized or determined. The ultimate function given to the metaphysics of being in Beings is an enframing which facilitates the technological process of division, dispersion and the employment of specialized techniques. In this sense, modern rationality, as the end of western metaphysics, can be seen as essentially nihilistic. Heidegger discusses this topic at length in his excellent essay The Word of Nietzsche.
"If the essence of nihilisim lies in history, so that the truth of Being remains wanting in the appearing of whatever is as such, in its entirety, and if, accordingly, Nothing is befalling Being and its truth, then metaphysics as the history of the truth of what is as such, is, in its essence, nihilism. If, finally, metaphysics is the historical ground of the world history that is being determined by Europe and the West, then that world history is, in an entirely different sense, nihilistic.66"
Such views, even if they do not hold absolute sway, are certainly wide spread now, and unfortunately it is this mindset of the idealized rationality of dispersion, of difference, that must be overcome if a constructive, beneficial ethical dialogue is to take place.
But how may such debates be overcome? Does moving away from positive rationality mean moving back to a more archaic conception of metaphysics, to Kantian rationality or another alternative? We discussed, at the beginning of this chapter, that Kant was concerned with freedom from linear temporality. Does his philosophy, or any other, offer a solution to the problem of knowledge-power, to archaeologies of knowledge? Can the Hegelian understanding of the particular being the universal, especially in terms of ethics, be overcome? How does and should one pass from ennunciative formations maintained by language and the linear conception of time without simply establishing a new paradigm? What would the characteristics of this new mindset be, and why do we call it an authentic one? Does it possess some ontological quality that distinguishes it, or is it merely phenomenological? If we pass from objectivity, where is there to go but subjectivity, and how can we ever call this an authentic viewpoint?
4.3 The Colonization of Spirit, Instrumental Feedback and the Unfortunate Limitations of Language Philosophy
Before we can discuss these points we must first examine the empirical ramifications of spirit's development as traced thus far. These movements have primarily been idealized, with the spiritual development of functionalist reason establishing those conditions which allow for the development of political and bureaucratic mechanisms contingent on a pre-existing mindset. This work has thus far been concerned with explicating the problem of thinking, and modern thinking in particular within Spirit. But we have not dealt in any concrete fashion with the empirical systems of ordering, except tangentially. We must now ask what ramifications these systems have in and of themselves on Spirit and its transformations.
It was Hegel who first diagnosed the alienation which can emerge between system and Spirit, and he remains perhaps the thinker most sensitive to the depth and quality of these disconnects. The otherness of the system was precisely what persuaded him of the need to move beyond Kantian morality to conceive an ideal state where the spirit of the community was in and of itself actualized and realized within governing structures. In the history of Spirit, the epistemic conditions for the state become established and emerge with its own empirical development. Concrete history and moral development thus go hand in hand, like entwining branches around a tree. Hegel was also the among last significant thinkers to see the development of the state system as a natural one which did not necessitate some form of domination.
"The state, which is the realized substantive will, having its reality in the particular self consciousness raised to the plane of the universal, is absolutely rational. This substantive unity is its own motive and absolute end. In this end freedom attains its highest right. This end has the highest right over the individual, whose highest duty in turn is to be a member of the state." 67
Since Hegel argued that system and Spirit develop together within world Spirit, most philosophers who probe the emergence of instrumental rationality have largely fallen on a continuum of "chicken" or "egg" theories, postulating that the epistemic conditions for the emergence of the modern system had to first be present for it to develop(Weber), or that the system itself was responsible for the corruption of modern Spirit (Rousseau). The stakes of this type of argumentation became even starker with the introduction of dialectical materialism and Marxism. In its more pedestrian iterations, it resulted in rather un-dialectical criticism of the material superstructure placed over and dominating the life-world, the innocence of which needed be protected. From this almost Edenic sentiment, the moral impetus for revolution could be drawn.
"System and life-world appear in Marx under the metaphors of 'the realm of necessity' and the 'realm of freedom.' The socialist revolution is to free the latter from the dictates of the former."68
The difficulty, as Habermas points out, with this line of thinking is its ossifying of the life-world and system into a totalized whole, with one aspect straining for freedom against a domineering other. Because Habermas draws the demarcation between life-world and system more strictly than most Marxists, the concept of alienation takes on a new quality in his work. A governing system can never be seen absolutely dominant; rather it needs to channel discontent through steering media such as money, power and juridification to ensure that it can be inter-meshed in such a way as to pose no harm to the system's fundaments. Moreover, this serves the ideological function of neutralizing the possibility of Spiritual transitions which might in turn provide the impetus for profound changes. Rather, the media through which ideological dissidents express themselves are designed in such a way that they may be imperatively pacified. An excellent example might be the Court System, which can serve as a tool both of emancipation and domination, depending on one's perspective.
These steering media themselves are therefore significant. Far from existing as part of a systemic totality placed above the life-world, they serve to channel the energies of traditional forms of life and competing interests into the empirical system where they can be rendered null. But more than that, these media serve as a dialectical engine between the system and the life-world. Over centuries, they have colonized and transformed the content of spirit in such a way that the system itself possess a certain telic energy.
"In place of 'false consciousness' we today have a 'fragmented consciousness' that blocks enlightenment by the mechanism of reification. It is only this that the conditions for a colonization of the lifeworld are met. When stripped of their ideological veils, the imperatives of autonomous subsystems make their way into the lifeworld from the outside—like colonial masters coming into a tribal society—and force a process of assimilation upon it."69
Habermas develops much this critique in his thesis on the internal colonization of the life-world by the system. But despite the originality of his criticism, he remains somewhat tied to the Marxist paradigm. Despite an impressive treatment on the rationalization of the life-world, his analysis of the relationship between it and the system remains descriptively one sided. He does not give a satisfactory description of the bi-cameral relationship between the two, instead shifting between one and the other in an attempt to diagnose the starting point for the profound but subtle challenges of modernity.
It is not enough to say that the functionalism of modern spirit has resulted in the system in which we live, nor is it adequate to pin the problems of modernity on the domination of the modern system. Rather, modern spirit and the system mediate one another through a process of telic-interplay. Neither life-world nor system is reducible to the other, it is true. But the line between them is certainly far from clear, even were we to regard it from a purely empirical perspective.
The solution to this problem is anything but simple. Indeed, it points to a far tenser philosophical problem within language philosophy as a whole: that it relies upon a dualistic model, familiar since Descartes, to make its arguments plausible. From Descartes to Husserl, philosophers tend to shift themselves towards one side or the other of the dualism debate. Even Kant, who attempted to unify empiricism with rationalism, ultimately placed himself within the transcendental school when he determined that the "thing in and of itself" could never be reached through empirical reason.
Language philosophy, contrarily, must hold to the dualist model if it is to accord the concept of life-world a sensibility. Even where life-world plays the transcendental role of pre-knowledge, which exists to give context and understanding to meaningful statements, by granting history a place—indeed, the place—as the foundation of knowledge, there is an acknowledgement that the content of consciousness must be formed and mediated by actual experience. Similarly, the empirical system is informed and arises as a result of the epistemic transformations in the life-world. However, these mediations themselves remains unmediated by philosophy. They cannot be fully explained by language philosophy, for to do so it would need to find a fixed nodal point outside language which can fully explain and systematize their relationship within a single sphere of validity. This would mark, of course, the end of pure language philosophy as such.
These limitations become all the more apparent when Habermas attempts to explain the colonization of the life-world by the system. To make this thesis plausible, he must rely on the validity of both of these concepts within their respective spheres of validity, and show how the interlocutions between the two affect one another. But the relationship between the two can never be fully explained, since the spheres of validity in which they operate conceptually are incommensurable. Communication theory, as a philosophy of praxis, can pragmatically show the relations between subject and thing-in itself, between transcendental life-world and system. When it is raised to the level of philosophy, it can even mediate between these differences and attempt to liberate them from their strict conjectures by increasing the degree and authenticity of their interactions. But it can never fully explain them philosophically.
Habermas himself seems aware of this, and makes a somewhat disappointing comment on the role of philosophy in the modern context.
"It is no different with modern culture as a whole than it was with the physics of Newton and his heirs: modern culture is as little in need of a philosophical grounding as science. As we have see, in the modern period culture gave rise of itself to those structures of rationality that Weber then discovered and described as value spheres. With modern science, with positive law and principled secular ethics, with autonomous art and institutionalized art criticism, three moments of reason crystallized without help from philosophy."70
I cannot help but disagree, since I feel that such thinking renders important questions such as those I have discussed before unanswerable. Indeed, so long as the philosophy of language persists, and especially so long as it is tired to the demands of praxis, such questions do no even become useful. But we must put aside this intriguing point for now, much as it may help us in the path trod here. Indeed, the relationship between subject and object is one of the keys to expositing a full principle of authenticity. I will only say at this point that the full resolution of this puzzle, without shifting back into idealism or empirical positivism, might be found by a broader application of some of the notions of time I have sketched before to the relationship between teleology and language. But for now, let us return to Habermas' thesis on the colonization of the life-world. For the moment, we must rely on the pragmatically assumed disconnect between life-world and system which, if not philosophically satisfying, is none the less sufficient for sketching the ethical principle we have promised before.
The colonization of the life-world by the system, and the relationship between the two, represents most expressly the difficulties which face modernity. The feedback of alienating institutes which transforms the life-world reinforces the sense of atomization and disunity between persons we have sketched before within consciousness. This was a danger detected, as we mentioned, as far back as Hegel, though we have also shown how his philosophy itself reinforced many of the same problems.
The steering media of money, social power, and juridifcation mean that even those who wish to deviate from the strictures of modernity are forced, explicitly or functionally, to adhere to its protocols. At this empirical-historical point, the space for meaningful discourse and genuine breakages from discursive formations becomes incredibly narrow. To resolve this, we must finally turn to expositing our principle of authenticity as a remedial solution within thought to the deep problems facing the modern world.Continued on Next Page »