Dieter Freundlieb Why Subjectivity Matters: Critical Theory and the Philosophy of the Subject

ABSTRACT In this paper it is argued that Habermas’ critique of German Idealism is misguided and that his rejection of the philosophy of the subject is unjustified. Critical Theory needs to recognise the importance of subjectivity for all social philosophy if its theoretical aims are to be achieved. In order to demonstrate the relevance of subjectivity to Critical Theory the essay draws on analytic philosophy of mind and on the work of Manfred Frank and Dieter Henrich. KEY WORDS: critical theory, subjectivity, intersubjectivity, German Idealism, philosophy of mind

The significance of subjectivity for philosophy was not discovered for the first time by RenŽ Descartes. St. Augustine and even earlier Greek philosophers in the Stoic tradition had already explored subjectivity to a certain extent. But it is widely accepted today that it was Descartes who launched a new paradigm in philosophy, a paradigm often referred to as either the philosophy of consciousness (Bewu§tseinsphilosophie), the philosophy of the

Critical Horizons 1:2 (2000) © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2000

Its focus on the subject was seen as a manifestation of the subjectÕs preoccupation with self-preservation (Selbsterhaltung) and self-empowerment (SelbstermŠchtigung) which prevented it from addressing the prior and ultimately more important question of Being. this view is shared by two otherwise opposed contemporary schools of thought: postmodern philosophy and Critical Theory. of analytic philosophy.1 There is no need. Today it is often argued that Heidegger and the Ôlinguistic turnÕ have once and for all made the philosophy of the subject obsolete. though both Fichte and Schelling later discovered the limitations of any philosophy that relies entirely on the subject as ultimate ground. This has occurred in at least two areas: analytic philosophy of mind3 and in the work of Manfred Frank and Dieter 230 • Dieter Freundlieb . in neo-Kantianism and moved to the forefront again in HusserlÕs phenomenology. or. and philosophers such as Jacques Derrida always claimed to be reconfiguring the subject. of course. however. subjectivity was removed from centre stage. With HegelÕs move from subjective to objective idealism the role of subjectivity became more complicated and less clear than in SchellingÕs and FichteÕs systems. to address this difficult issue in this paper. Subjectivity as a grounding principle for all philosophical system building. was subsequently made the focal point by both Kant and the post-Kantian idealists Fichte and Schelling. not abandoning it altogether. a history Heidegger wanted to overcome. there are now signs that the philosophical sensibility is shifting. the Ômentalist paradigmÕ. Interestingly. in the early 20th century. of course. in both postmodern philosophy and Critical Theory the subject is usually thought of as somehow ÔconstitutedÕ by language. But this revival was short-lived. After some early attempts in the late 1960s the last twenty years or so have seen a genuine return to the subject and to subjectivity as a focus of philosophical interest. Nonetheless. the subsequent rise of positivism and. The once fashionable dictum about the Ôdeath of the subjectÕ was never quite true. It had retained some of its centrality. especially for all knowledge claims.subject. Soon Heidegger was to interpret the philosophy of subjectivity as a central part of the history of Western metaphysics. In spite of the strong anti-subjectivist currents that have reigned since the end of German Idealism.2 With the collapse of German Idealism around the middle of the 19th century. as JŸrgen Habermas sometimes prefers to call it. albeit in different ways and by different mechanisms.

from the early 1980s a number of analytic philosophers (for example. in spite of his materialist leanings. As early as 1968. analytic philosophers of mind such as Hector-Neri Casta–eda argued that knowledge of the self cannot be analysed in terms of concepts we use to refer to objects. From the late 1960s a number of analytic philosophers became convinced of the irreducibility of subjectivity when they applied their linguistic analysis to deictic expressions such as ÔhereÕ. including. argued.4 In my paper I will draw freely on their work because I believe it is of crucial importance for the future of Critical Theory and for social philosophy in general. the personal pronoun ÔIÕ and the peculiar kind of self-reference it makes possible.Henrich. Furthermore. a consciousness with regard to which something is physically or temporally close. in particular. let me briefly indicate why analytic philosophers have focussed on subjectivity and why they have found that it cannot be reduced to something else. self-consciousness must be conceived as a de se attitude. a point Fichte had made more than a hundred and fifty years earlier. two major German philosophers engaged in the exploration of the connections between German Idealism and analytic philosophy of mind. In fact.8 Self-consciousness is not knowledge of an object and it is pre-propositional. to either de re or de dicto attitudes. It quickly became obvious that indexicals such as ÔhereÕ and ÔnowÕ can only be fully understood in relation to a first-person perspective. to use more technical terms. Sydney Shoemaker had maintained that self-reference cannot proceed on the basis of the perception model of knowledge because perception requires a subject that perceives an object. either naturalistically or linguistically.7 Rather. Gareth Evans) realised that not all philosophical problems can be reformulated as problems of language. both Frank and Henrich have already begun to investigate some of the consequences of the return to subjectivity for Critical Theory. He also maintained that reference to objects is only possible on the basis of a previous acquaintance with ourselves in self-consciousness. as David Lewis. As Manfred Frank has pointed out. Several analytic philosophers of mind acknowledged that self-consciousness is prepropositional and that knowledge of the self as self cannot be reduced.6 This knowledge by the self of itself as subject is not the result of an identification but a form of direct and incorrigible awareness or knowledge. ÔthisÕ. Before I begin to show in some detail why subjectivity matters for Critical Theory.5 but further work needs to be done if the full implications of the new approach are to be drawn out and recognised. and ÔnowÕ.9 Why Subjectivity Matters • 231 . that is.

observational fallibility is impossible. rather than focussing directly on objects. there are many signs that a return to subjectivity as a philosophical issue is still on the increase. to its own representations of objects. On the contrary. His critique basically focuses on two aspects. in an indirect fashion.Ó Shoemaker had argued that perceptual self-knowledge always presupposes non-perceptual acquaintance with oneself. he writes: The ideas of Òself-consciousnessÓ and ÒsubjectivityÓ imply that the knowing subject can disclose for itself a sphere of immediately accessible and absolutely certain experiences if.13 Now the first point to be made about HabermasÕ comment here is that in its generality this characterisation of the philosophy of the subject is simply 232 • Dieter Freundlieb . it turns its attention. In his 1996 essay on Richard Rorty. . We can be mistaken in many ways when we look at ourselves as persons with certain attributes.And such perceptions are always fallible. Ð That the acquisition of knowledge proceeds essentially on the basis of the representation of objects. but we cannot be mistaken about our own identity as thinking subjects. . Thus in his essay ÒPersonal Identity: A MaterialistÕs Account.11 But why did Habermas reject what he calls the philosophy of the subject in the first place? For Habermas (who. Ð And that the truth of judgements is supported by apodictic evidences. for example. This is why HabermasÕ view according to which the mentalist paradigm has become obsolete as a consequence of the linguistic turn simply does not stand up to scrutiny. Even in very recent work he argues that the philosophy of the subject is wedded to the ideal of epistemic certainty. But in the case of a subject being aware of itself.10 It is obvious even from this very brief sketch that the philosophy of subjectivity is alive and well within contemporary analytic philosophy. . is only now beginning to address the relevant issues)12 the philosophy of the subject is primarily associated with the metaphysical program of German Idealism. though his critique is directed at virtually all its continental varieties. The first one is his rejection of the philosophy of the subject as a foundationalist program. it seems to me. The epistemic authority of the first-person perspective is sustained by three paradigmatic assumptions: Ð That we know our own mental states better than anything else.

therefore. Friedrich Schlegel. is non-objectifying but crucial for the entire Habermasian project. is based Òon an epistemic model oriented towards the perception and representation of objects. The incorrigibility of self-reference does not entail that the philosophy of the subject is committed to the ideal of epistemic certainty. and Novalis. but the following examples will suffice to illustrate the point. What Habermas calls the Ôperformative attitudeÕ. In any case. the early Romantic philosophers and writers.Ó15 Similarly. never subscribed to the foundationalist program launched by Fichte. Habermas thinks he can show that the whole of Kantian and post-Kantian philosophy of the subject is caught in a certain network of concepts from which it cannot escape and which makes it impossible to conceive of the performative attitude adopted by subjects oriented towards mutual understanding. HabermasÕ description seems to fit late 19th century positivism much better than the philosophy of the subject. have been arguing all along that the renewal of a philosophy of the subject is not necessarily linked to any foundationalism and should in fact abandon any such attempt. Habermas reiterates this critique on numerous occasions. account for the kind of non-objectifying knowledge the critical social sciences aim for.incorrect. As Frank has demonstrated in great detail.14 HabermasÕ second. the attitude of a communicating subject to another subject. he claims.Ó17 In a very recent paper he Why Subjectivity Matters • 233 . and in our context more important point. that is. is that he believes that the idealist philosophy of self-consciousness is tied to a subject-object model of knowledge and that it cannot. he claims that in FichteÕs philosophy subjects can only be conceived as Òobjects for themselvesÓ16 and that Fichte dissolves intersubjective relations into Òsubject-object relations. in a sense Habermas is tilting at windmills here because his critique of German Idealism as a form of foundationalism is widely accepted by his critics. especially Hšlderlin. The philosophy of consciousness. Even as a description of the admittedly foundationalist program of German Idealism HabermasÕ statements are very questionable. This is where the real differences between Habermas and his critics arise. while drawing extensively on German Idealism for their own philosophy of subjectivity.Ó and it operates with a concept of the subject that is Òdirected towards objects and that turns itself into an object through reflection. Philosophers like Dieter Henrich and Manfred Frank.

Habermas claims that this dilemma only became obvious in FichteÕs Wissenschaftslehre. Habermas seems to assume that the philosophy of the subject is faced with a dilemma: it is committed to a reflection model of self-consciousness. We will have to come back to this question of how the self can know itself in a moment because it is crucial for a critique 234 • Dieter Freundlieb . that is to say. in what he calls a Ôtranscendental deductionÕ. what they called Ôintellectual intuitionÕ. a form of knowledge that is not a mode of representing. a self-reflection that operates as a representation of my own representings could not but turn the transcendental spontaneity that escapes all objectification into an object. He describes self-reflection as the subjectÕs representing of its own representations of objects through introspection and argues that this search for the origins and conditions of knowledge operates with a concept of truth as Òsubjective evidence or certainty. at various points in their intellectual careers. which by definition it is not.Ó19 Post-Kantian philosophers. how we can know the subjective conditions of factual knowledge. that is. including Fichte. to a model according to which the self knows itself by turning back on itself. tried to solve this problem by postulating. To be sure. Thus he writes: ÒIf the representation of an object is the only mode in which we can gain knowledge. But this means that it looks at itself as an object. that is to say. But Habermas seems to assume that the philosophy of the subject is somehow wedded to the subject-object model because it just cannot say how the subject itself is knowable and therefore has no other choice than to fall back on the subject-object model. and which it could not even recognise as itself if it were not already acquainted with itself in some other way before bending back on itself.Ó18 These criticisms are rather surprising because surely Habermas is aware that even in Kant the transcendental self is not and cannot be conceived of as an object of knowledge since it is precisely this Ôhighest pointÕ in KantÕs architectonic which makes knowledge of objects possible for a unitary subject. Habermas points to a real problem here because it is true to say that Kant has great difficulties in trying to explain. a non-sensory but at the same time nonconceptual access to the self by itself.combines the critique of the alleged foundationalism of the mentalist paradigm with his critique of the subject-object model.

There is the knowing subject that stands over against a world of objects. or rather dissolve. Habermas claims that Dieter Henrich is committed to this second alternative. what the German Idealists had in mind when they talked about intellectual intuition. the problem by switching paradigms. We need to abandon the philosophy of the subject and move on to the linguistic paradigm. we must postulate a basic epistemic self-relation which is sui generis in the sense that it cannot be conceived of within the subject-object model of knowledge. Since we cannot possibly deny the fact that there is self-consciousness. but he refuses to countenance the possibility that the knowledge the self has of itself might be a genuine form of knowledge but nonetheless escape the subject-object model. a form of knowledge that is pre-propositional and in fact the necessary epistemological basis for any further propositional knowledge of the self and the external world. This dual position of the subject has been dealt with in two ways. of course. But at the same time the subject is itself an object in the world. but like his idealist predecessors he is unable to solve its inherent problems. the realm of the phenomenal and the realm of the noumenal that according to Kant we simultaneously inhabit? According to Habermas we can only solve. or else it can remain in its paradoxical position as both immanent and world-transcending as is characteristic of the idealist tradition of transcendental philosophy from Kant to the present.of Habermas. He argues that the philosophy of the subject is committed to an inherently paradoxical dualist ontology. Attempts have been made to either reduce it naturalistically. But is this the only option we have? And does it really get rid of the problems we want to get rid of? Habermas knows that reflective theories of self-consciousness are circular. and since reflection theories are inescapably circular. Habermas refuses to consider the possibility of such a subjective basis for knowledge because he is convinced that all knowledge must be Why Subjectivity Matters • 235 . How can we solve the problem arising from KantÕs doctrine of the two realms. as has happened in the empiricist tradition from Hume to Quine. But first I would like to look at one more aspect of HabermasÕ criticisms. This is.20 Habermas is obviously alerting us to a conundrum here that has plagued transcendental philosophy from its inception. This is precisely HenrichÕs and FrankÕs point.

propositional or conceptual. because it suffers from a fatal flaw: it cannot explain what the validity of those statements or beliefs consist of which function as the ultimate premises of an argument. What it means to make a knowledge claim and how it can be validated cannot be explicated at the level of pragmatics because any such attempt presupposes cognising subjects with privileged access to their own subjectivity.23 An appeal to publicly available linguistic entities like propositions or statements does not help since their validity (or at least the recognition of their validity) depends on both a unitary subject and its pre-propositional experience.Ó21 And beliefs are always considered to be propositional. The validity of statements must be recognised by individual subjects whose judgement crucially depends on their own experiences. Henrich argues that philosophical reflection needs to start from an analysis of subjectivity because a philosophically 236 • Dieter Freundlieb . A first conclusion we can draw. Habermas has always claimed that the move from the mentalist to the linguistic paradigm brought with it the methodological advantage that it replaces subjective evidence with publicly available linguistic entities. but without attempting to renew the idealist program of ultimate foundations. Like Donald Davidson he thinks that Ònothing can count as a reason for holding a belief except another belief. This conception of reason giving is unacceptable. But let me now turn to Dieter Henrich for whom subjectivity can still function as a philosophical principle as long as we avoid the foundationalism that was once associated with this idea. For Habermas sees rationality and rational justification as reason giving. He probably fears that if we abandon the idea of the linguistic nature of all knowledge his crucial concept of communicative rationality is at risk of suffering serious damage. however. This is why several analytic philosophers have recently argued that statements expressing beliefs must be grounded in pre-propositional perceptual knowledge.22 And such knowledge always has its basis in subjective experience and is therefore only accessible from a first-person perspective. and reason giving can only be performed through making statements. is that subjectivity matters to Critical Theory because it shows that the epistemic validity claims that figure so prominently in theoretical discourses must be anchored in the subject. In line with German Idealism. then.24 But this has turned out to be an illusion. Let me give you a brief outline of his philosophy of subjectivity.

it is normally always possible that what I think about does not exist. according to Henrich. that is. over time. Henrich also points out that in the case of ÔIÕ-thoughts thinking and being coincide. a point made by Fichte but also. that is. Its identity is in fact constituted by the irrefutable identity. Here Henrich sides with post-Kantians such as Schelling who likewise argued that we need to go beyond KantÕs view that we can only know a world of phenomena. apart from our own self. even if we have to concede KantÕs point that the epistemic self-relation cannot be fully explained theoretically. In other words. Henrich claims that such an elucidation shows the epistemic priority of the self-relation in which the subject is aware of its identity with itself. as Manfred Frank has pointed out and as I mentioned earlier. to analyse sufficiently the intrinsically and irreducibly complex structure of the knowing self-relation.tenable understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. that we cannot refer to objects in the world except on the basis of a prior self-consciousness. as the Ôhighest pointÕ in his epistemology. as we have just seen. that is. Henrich also argues. following Leibniz and Kant. In other words. an analysis of the knowing selfrelation shows that ÔIÕ-thoughts imply a belief in the existence of a world of objects. and that our attempts at its elucidation cannot avoid getting caught in a certain kind of circularity. So. the ÔIÕ exists as a thinking self. of its ÔIÕ-thoughts (Ich-Gedanken). the ÔIch denkeÕ. our striving for knowledge always goes beyond a world of objects whose basic structure is constituted by subjective conditions of knowledge. by analytic philosophers of mind such as Hector-Neri Casta–eda. must first engage in an analysis of the subjective presuppositions of knowledge. of truth and objectivity. According to Henrich.25 In this sense. But this is not possible in the case of ÔIÕ-thoughts. however. the epistemic self-relation is inconceivable without a simultaneous relation to an already (partially) disclosed world that is not a Why Subjectivity Matters • 237 . As a consequence. our account of the world contains an irreducibly idealist moment. At the same time. he had failed. he believes that an analysis of the self-relation shows that the objective world can never be conceived of as entirely independent of ÔIÕ-thoughts. that our sense of what is real in the world is in fact derived from the immediate experience of the reality of our own existence. This is what ultimately supports and from which we derive our sense of what else is real. But while Kant had identified transcendental apperception. what he proposes is obviously a version of transcendental philosophy.

as embodied subjects. this is one of the main reasons for the need for philosophy.mere extension of the self. In other words. But at the same time the ground remains beyond our cognitive reach in the sense that while it can be thought. the reality of the subject for the subject cannot be understood entirely as that of a material object in the world. In a sense. we know that we are not just a subject but a spatio-temporally situated person in the world and thus an object among all other objects in the world. a characteristic that sets it off against the radical idealism of the early Fichte. however. At the same time. and that of things or objects and their relations in the external world. a philosophy that can 238 • Dieter Freundlieb . the need for a revisionary metaphysics (in StrawsonÕs sense) and a certain kind of speculative thinking becomes inescapable. Also.26 This is the indispensably realist aspect of HenrichÕs philosophy. since we know ourselves as individual subjects. on the one hand. But. as is the norm in the case of external objects. An analysis of the knowing self-relation makes us aware of the ground. what we need is a new kind of Vereinigungsphilosophie as it was postulated by Hšlderlin and the early Hegel. we know that there can be other such subjects. Far from being self-sufficient or completely transparent to itself. This ground. cannot be conceived on the basis of a materialist or purely naturalist ontology. Once we recognise that our situation in the world is inherently precarious and lacks clear orientation and full intelligibility. it cannot become an object of (objectifying) knowledge (Wissen). even though we know that the relation between the subject and its bodily existence as a person is not of the same kind as the relation between the subject and external objects. The ground we depend upon can therefore not be conceived of as the (material) cause of our existence. Subjectivity and intersubjectivity are therefore co-terminous. In HenrichÕs view. understanding of the world does not make available an internally consistent ontology but presents us with incompatible ontologies. An analysis of the self-relation makes us realise that we are not at home in the world in the sense that our ÔnaturalÕ. we normally do not have privileged knowledge of what we are as persons with bodies. on the other. the subject is aware that it has not created itself and is dependent on a ground that supports its existence. especially the ontology of subjectivity and free agency. philosophically unaided.

A naturalistic scientific worldview. that is. And he sees the enduring achievement and contemporary relevance of German Idealism in its attempt to develop new conceptual frameworks (Begriffsformen) and a monistic ontology that could make our precarious and intellectually puzzling place in the world intelligible. philosophy should be able to give our lives guidance and orientation. once developed. but it cannot possibly give a complete account of the world (especially not of naturalism itself as an explanatory approach to the world). that is. And while conflicting but equally legitimate orientations and tendencies arise unavoidably from within our natural understandings of the relation between the self and the world. it is the task of philosophy to attempt to reconcile or at least come to a final assessment of the conflicts that arise from within Ôconscious lifeÕ (bewu§tes Leben). on the other hand. a life led by and in accordance with (regulative) ideas in a Kantian sense. but they have always given priority to only one of the conflicting tendencies and are therefore inherently unstable. according to Henrich. all philosophy which rightfully bears this name arises from and. Only such a monistic ontology would allow us to see ourselves as actually belonging to and having a meaningful place within the world. should reconnect with existential questions and uncertainties that emerge from the incompatibilities of the ontologies we are confronted with in our ÔnaturalÕ understanding of the world. Historically. is a philosophy which is monistic in its ontology and guided by the neo-Platonic idea of the Ôhen kai panÕ. the notion that the diversity and multiplicity of the world ultimately derives from an all-encompassing unity of which everything is and remains a part. According to Henrich.unify what seem to be incompatible ontologies and the conflicting tendencies of life they give rise to. the major religions of the world have offered such existential orientation. Why Subjectivity Matters • 239 . An all-encompassing naturalism such as the one underlying most of analytic philosophy (paradigmatically manifest in the work of Quine) must be taken seriously. By doing this. though without imposing any particular doctrine upon us. cannot make the whole of reality intelligible either. As in the case of German Idealism. Only philosophy. will enable us to analyse and assess the conflicting tendencies and to give an account of how that which naturalism leaves out of consideration can be accommodated within a more comprehensive understanding. What is required then. if anything.

is again. The development of a personal identity in the social-psychological sense of this term is of course very much dependent on our interaction with others. For a start. Habermas assumes that the problems of the philosophy of the subject can be avoided by moving from the mentalist to the linguistic paradigm. Critical Theory. But this is getting things the wrong way around. such attempts always presuppose the notion of a subject that is already familiar with itself before it can understand and adopt the perspective of a co-subject with whom it interacts through communication. needs an autonomous subject qua social agent. the subject cannot first learn that it is a subject by being approached by another subject. Only a subject standing in the kind of knowing self-relation that Henrich has been trying to elucidate is capable of adopting a performative attitude. That it is being addressed as a subject. intersubjectivity takes priority over subjectivity.a contemporary version of such a philosophy has to be metaphysical in the sense that it needs to develop a speculative form of thinking which transcends and unites existing but incompatible ontologies. His attempt to analyse the emergence of selfconsciousness and the subject on the basis of George Herbert MeadÕs theory of social interaction cannot succeed.27 Just as the subject cannot identify itself by looking at its image in a mirror unless it already knows itself as an identical subject. When he tries to explain the constitution of the subject. As we have seen. This also means that the Ôperformative attitudeÕ which Habermas believes he can somehow deduce from an analysis of basic presuppositions of speech acts is ultimately explicable only from within the philosophy of the subject that Habermas rejects. He believes subjectivity to be the result of a process of a communicative exchange with other persons. HabermasÕ paradigm shift is neither justified nor does it solve the problems it is intended to solve. Now let me return to Habermas and Critical Theory. But if what both analytic philosophers of mind and Frank and Henrich are saying has any validity. As Frank has shown. 240 • Dieter Freundlieb . unlike some postmodern conceptions of the subject. But this development can only proceed on the basis of a sense of identity that cannot be learned from being exposed to others. even if MeadÕs theory is refined in the way Habermas suggests it must be. Subjectivity is not reducible to the effect of a communicative exchange with others. But there is no systematic account in HabermasÕ work of such a subject because for Habermas the subject is a product of social interaction.

Henrich argues that the subject is faced with a fundamental uncertainty about its origin as well as an uncertainty about how it can make its own position in the world intelligible given that it encounters several incompatible ontologies. even if they are directed at him or herself.and other-directed. that is. In this sense Kant was right when he talked about a Ôfact of reasonÕ that is not open to any further explanation. This becomes clearer once we take some of HenrichÕs further considerations into account. And if recognition is to be ethically meaningful. And the irreducible self-reflexivity of the subject allows the subject. The subject knows itself as an agent who can act on the basis of freely accepted norms. including the discourse ethics developed by Critical Theorists. They are conditions of possibility and hence not reducible to a result of social learning. In a similar way it can be argued that subjectivity matters in the field of ethics. As we have seen. Even more importantly Why Subjectivity Matters • 241 . at least in principle. The basic principles of HabermasÕ discourse ethics. would be unintelligible to a subject that does not already understand itself as free and therefore acting within a space of norms and reasons. The Ôknowing self-relationÕ (wissende Selbstbeziehung) as Henrich calls it opens up different and equally valid possibilities of leading a meaningful life. to distance itself from any conceivable self-interpretation. not the space of natural laws. which again he claims can be rationally reconstructed from the presuppositions of communication. What needs to be recognised is a subject of a certain kind.not something the subject can learn by listening to the speech acts performed by others. It cannot conceive of itself as a mere object in a material world governed by natural laws. always proceeds within the context of an ongoing interaction with others. a subject that is both capable and in need of recognition. must be seen as both self. In fact. The formation of a personal identity. The notion of the recognition of and by other subjects that plays such a prominent role in HabermasÕ (and Axel HonnethÕs) social philosophy is then also only intelligible if it is anchored in a theory of the subject. one could argue that both our sense of what is real and our sense of what ought to be are part of a basic self-understanding that makes factual and normative knowledge possible. it must be of a subject that knows itself as not entirely socially constituted but also as not entirely self-created. which of course.

a philosophy that clarifies the options available to a subject seeking answers to significant and unsettling existential questions. This does not mean. If Critical Theory requires a standard by which it evaluates the chances for self-realisation that a social order offers its members. For how we think about ourselves is in part what we are or what we are in the process of becoming. Social philosophy must incorporate a philosophy of the subject that conceives of the subject as much more than a social being. its conception will inescapably have an effect on the self-interpretation of subjects. It is becoming increasingly clear that Critical Theory cannot rightfully ignore conceptions of the good life and concentrate instead on procedural and universal conceptions of morality or justice. as Habermas often fears. And whatever the open or underlying conception might be that it fosters. even if much of its life might be taken up with trying to arrive at such a self-interpretation. whether this is made explicit or not. 242 • Dieter Freundlieb . it would seem to follow that we even require a return to a certain kind of (non-foundational) metaphysical thinking in philosophy. it means that philosophy must elucidate options for selfrealisation and self-interpretation that would not otherwise be available.perhaps. It is in this sense. that philosophy should take on the role religion once played and impose its own conception of the good life on the rest of the community. This is another important reason why subjectivity matters. Rather. for example. will not be able to do so if it sees itself as no more than a social agent. Self-interpretations do not leave the subject unchanged. has argued that what is needed is at least a formal notion of a post-traditional ethics ( formale Sittlichkeit). It will want to know how it can conceive of itself as occupying a meaningful place not just in its social environment but as a human being in a cosmological environment of which it will always have a very limited understanding. that subjectivity matters to social philosophy. then that standard must take into account the fact that subjects are in need of existential orientation. These options can only be developed if we overcome the incompatible ontologies that prevent us from constructing a coherent self-interpretation. too.28 But if Henrich is right. the subject which has to lead its life and which therefore needs to arrive at a reasonably stable self-interpretation. Social philosophy cannot pretend to be neutral in this regard anyway because it will always operate with a certain conception of the subject. Axel Honneth.

it seems to point in the right direction. Habermas claims that in spite of a promising initial move by Hegel to overcome the mentalist paradigm. But it must be acknowledged that he has seen the problem with great clarity.Ó European Journal of Philosopy 7.Perhaps we must look out not just for pathologies of the social but for pathologies of social philosophies. Australia Notes 1 See the ground-breaking work of Klaus DŸsing. he even hints that we may not be able to make much progress unless we rethink the idealist notion of the Absolute as a grounding concept for an overarching monistic ontology. it seems. pp. Bonn.and so far it remains undeveloped in HenrichÕs work . 2 As is well known. he never managed to leave it behind. ÒÔErlebnis.Ó Hegel-Studien. Bouvier. See also the earlier piece by Konrad Cramer. School of Humanities. Das Problem der SubjektivitŠt in Hegels Logik. 129-157. including social philosophy. Griffith University. * Dieter Freundlieb.29 Whatever we might think of this move . reunified reason can adjudicate between competing rationalities. Beiheft 11. 537-603. Henrich is not in a position to provide any easy solution to this problem either. Habermas has not been able to avoid the problem of incompatible ontologies built into his own conceptual framework. Nathan. 1995. 1974.Õ Thesen zu Hegels Theorie des Selbstbewu§tseins mit RŸcksicht of die Aporien eines Grundbegriffs nachhegelscher Philosophie. In a rather bold move.The Move Towards Detranscendentalization. But he does not offer a plausible way in which a higher. Problems donÕt go away by being ignored. Subjectivity and the question of how it fits into a unifying view of the world is one of the problem areas of philosophy and human understanding. The most recent occasion on which Habermas makes this claim is his essay ÒFrom Kant to Hegel and Back again . 1999. And his commitment to what he calls the postmetaphysical role of contemporary philosophy prevents him. QLD. from even addressing the issue. There is at least one thing the history of philosophy has taught us. pp. This is especially true of Critical Theory since without addressing these problems it cannot do what it has always aimed to do: provide a normative standard by which society is to be judged. Why Subjectivity Matters • 243 . that cannot be kept at bay for too much longer. Habermas regards the differentiation of reason into different domain-specific rationalities as a cognitive gain of modernity.

was Moderne? Zwšlf Thesen gegen HabermasÓ in Henrich. Frank. Stuttgart. 1998. pp. Suhrkamp. 1997. 46-54. 1966. Philosophical Perspective 1 Metaphysics. Frank. 104. hg. 1983. Henrich has recently diagnosed the current situation in his essay ÒInflation in SubjektivitŠt?. See also the volume entitled Analytische Theorien des Selbstbewu§tseins. p. Gemeinschaft und Gerechtigkeit. Frankfurt am Main. 1988. Suhrkamp. J. vol. ÒSelf-Reference and Self-AwarenessÓ reprinted in Shoemaker.Ó in Moralbewu§tsein und kommunikatives Handeln. 21. July. 1997. Identity. and ÒSelbstbewu§tsein und ArgumentationÓ Amsterdamer Spinoza-VortrŠge. and Sydney Shoemaker. ed. 6-18. John Perry. ÒSubjektivitŠt und IntersubjektivitŠtÓ in Frank. 199. 4 Henrich is best known for his path-breaking historical analyses of German Idealist philosophy. Fischer Verlag. 133-159. Dieter Henrich has openly criticised Habermas in his ÒWas ist Metaphysik .Ó in Micha Brumlik & Hauke Brunkhorst. Philosophical Papers. pp. Ridgeview. pp. I. and Mind: Philosophical Essays. and ÒSelf-Consciousness. Manfred Frank. pp. Personal Identity. 1987. Ò ÔHeÕ: A Study in the Logic of Self-Consciousness. p. Die AnfŠnge der philosophischen FrŸhromantik. 1994. Frankfurt am Main. 1995. Oxford. pp. Cambridge University Press. 273-289.Ó Merkur 586. Demonstrative Reference. Gareth Evans.Ó Ratio 8. pp. GegenvorschlŠge aus Sartrescher Inspiration. In Shoemaker and Richard Swinburne. Suhrkamp. 17. Unendliche AnnŠherung. 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 244 • Dieter Freundlieb . 6 Casta–eda.Ó in ed.Ó Analytische Theorien des Selbstbewu§tseins. Van Gorkum. pp. Habermas. Habermas. 1983. Reclam. 5 See Manfred Frank ÒWider den apriorischen Intersubjektivismus. Oxford. p. Assen. Frankfurt am Main. Suhrkamp. pp. ÒRortyÕs pragmatische Wende. 1991. Atascadero. 1987. p. Cambridge. and the Self-Ascription View of Believing. Frankfurt am Main. 1984. Thomas Nagel.. But he has also produced important systematic work and work that is both historical and systematic. Oxford University Press. D.Ó Deutsche Zeitschrift fŸr Philosophie 5. Frankfurt am Main. Tomberlin. Konzepte. Roderick M. 1993. personal communication. ÒDie Philosophie als Platzhalter und Interpret. 405-454. Chisholm. 130-157. 1996 (my translation). J. Selbstbewu§tsein und Selbsterkenntnis. 410-477. 7 8 ÒVorwort. James E. Cause. Frankfurt am Main. Nachmetaphysisches Denken.3 The main figures here are Hector-Neri Casta–eda. Suhrkamp. See his ÒAttitudes de dicto and de seÓ in Lewis. Frank is known in the Anglo-American world for his critique of poststructuralism but he is now also recognised as a world authority on the philosophy of early German Romanticism. 11-43. 1984. M.

9. 28 29 A. 26 In his analysis of SchellingÕs Die Weltalter. Oxford.The Move Towards Detranscendentalization. 1989. 410-477. com/Athens/Forum/7501/ph/dh/e4.html. Conditio moderna. eds John Greco and Ernest Sosa.. Berlin & New York. p. 27 See for example Frank. Hoffmann and Stefan Majetschak. 189. 1999. 310.Ó in The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology. Zum Sinn der Sollgeltung moralischer Urteile und Normen. von Ernest LePore. ÒSubjektivitŠt und IntersubjektivitŠtÓ in Frank Selbstbewu§tsein und Selbsterkenntnis. Ibid. pp.geocities. Internet http://www. ÒRichtigkeit vs. See William Alston. ÒPerceptual Knowledge.17 18 Ibid. 132. p. hg. ÒDie Zukunft der SubjektivitŠt. p. p. For example in the recent essay by JŸrgen Habermas. ÒA Coherence Theory of Truth and KnowledgeÓ in Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson. 117-142 in the same volume. Polity Press. 1993.Ó p. 115-6. 74. 19 20 21 22 For example William Alston and Laurence BonJour.. Festschrift fŸr Josef Simon. p. 1999. 200. eds Thomas S. I take this to be a similar point to HenrichÕs argument. 131. 27. Oxford.Ó European Journal of Philosopy 7. pp. Blackwell. ÒDie Wiederkehr des Subjekts in der heutigen deutschen PhilosophieÓ in Frank.Ó in Denken der IndividualitŠt. Leipzig.Ó pp. and Laurence BonJour ÒThe Dialectic of Foundationalism and Coherentism. Blackwell 1986. See Habermas. Nachmetaphysisches Denken. Why Subjectivity Matters • 245 . Frank. D. p. 223-242. See also Frank. 1995. p. Wolfram Hogrebe argues that reference to objects in the world is only possible on the basis of a Ôpre-semanticÕ cognitive relation between self and world. 23 24 This has serious consequences for HabermasÕ consensus theory of truth. Suhrkamp. ÒFrom Kant to Hegel and Back Again . ÒPsychische Vertrautheit und epistemische Selbstzuschreibung. Frankfurt am Main. 25 M. pp. PrŠdikation und Genesis. Henrich. Davidson. D. 1998. 1994. The Struggle for Recognition. Reclam. Cambridge. Honneth. de Gruyter. See Hogrebe.Ó Deutsche Zeitschrift fŸr Philosophie 46. Wahrheit.

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