Rugoz wrote:The author (you?) accuses Habermas of being "insufficiently concrete", but his "project-based collaboration" solves nothing, because it doesn't reduce the size of communities. Nations or even humanity in its entirety are single projects that affect everybody involved.
I do share the authors position in that I do believe he advances ethics beyond Habermas' and it's not as he stands alone in his criticism of Habermas' discourse or communicative ethics.
The very next section following the quote criticizing Habermas and Rawls is in fact another critical theorist in the same tradition as Habermas.https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/works/collaborative-ethics.htm
Seyla Benhabib in particular has pointed out that Habermas’s formulation is far too abstract, and in its abstractness it fails to find relevance in real world ethical problems.
‘The fiction of a general deliberative assembly in which the united people expressed their will belongs to the early history of democratic theory; today our guiding model has to be that of a medium of loosely associated, multiple foci of opinion formation and dissemination which affect one another in free and spontaneous processes of communication’. (Benhabib, 1996)
Benhabib insists that so long as the other is considered abstractly, lacking any determinateness in relation to the subject, the perpetuation of the above fiction has the effect of promoting a destructive kind of liberalism which is blind to the diversity of projects in which people are engaged, and the conflicts between these various projects. Benhabib (2006) illustrated this point with a consideration of the range of quite different definitions of the ‘citizens’ of a nation-state, according to whether kinship, residence, ethnicity, language, work or political participation is at issue. In her opinion, ethical problems arising in the European Union can only be resolved by disentangling these distinct projects, rather than trying to see Europe, for example, as made up of groups of individuals each sharing a unitary nationality.
And the point is that the emphasis on the collaboration of people within a project in fact does form a necessary component in trying to make sense of how to ethically judge peoples actions as it is within those projects such norms are established and contested. Some have criticized the norms of communicative ethics as reflecting a seminar and thus reflecting Habermas' adult life as an academic.https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/works/habermas-review.htm
In an ideal speech situation, the participants may be assumed to be truthful and to have perfect knowledge of their own motivations. Such a move creates the illusion that the contradiction between the meaning of an utterance and an immediately given reality is a matter of secondary importance, relegated to the conditions of discourse, and not bearing on the essence of the matter, and assumed to eliminable. This is adequate for formal linguistics but unsuitable for ethics.
The participants may be assumed to all get an equal chance to speak, and that everyone affected has such a chance, but how can anyone be affected by a discourse? Any implied effect, which lies in the background, is in fact actually structuring participation in the discourse in the first place. Who is affected and how? what interests do they have? how can their claim to be affected be validated? what is the relevant project? None of these questions can be answered sensibly while the project which the discourse is about is left in the background. Putting oneself into a discourse or taking oneself out is a practical act. Equally, speaking up, turning up for the meeting, fixing the venue for a meeting and so on are practical acts. Creating and learning a language are practical activities carried out in collaboration with other people, in the first place, outside of and prior to any given discourse. How do we know the consequences of an activity and who may be affected? Surely this is a question which cannot be resolved within the parameters of discourse, but lies above all on the plane of practical activity.
This is not true. Only to the extent that two actors are already involved in some joint project, can an utterance by one serve to coordinate the other’s action; it cannot create that effect ex nihilo. If two people are in different parts of the world speaking different languages and pursuing different lives, how can an utterance by one impose a binding or obligatory commitment on the other?
And the necessity of considering the mediation of people through material cultural forms is that it is simply inseparable from making sense of people. Methodological individualism or structuralism are partial truths but they stand abstractly opposed to one another. And the emphasis on individual interaction makes nonsense of the social fabric in which people act.
Such a point is illustrated herein those who follow Wittgenstein of words meaning their use between individuals but no sense to the relations which give it meaning for which the individuals can act within.https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/works/concepts-language.htm
The early paragraphs of “Philosophical Investigations” are set in the context of people collaborating in constructing a building, and the interlocutors make sense of each other’s words thanks to the fact that they are engaged in the same activity. In §23 he says:https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/pdfs/Brandom.pdf
the term ‘language-game’ is meant to bring into prominence the fact that the speaking of language is part of an activity, or of a form of life (Wittgenstein 1953 §23).
And this is the point. It is these extra-discursive activities which provide the ends towards which word meanings are oriented. Concepts are located within shared activities and forms of life, not just the transitory uses of words. A million disparate actions are required to build a house, but the meaning of all these actions is house building and derivative concepts (in the sense that Kuhn talks of normal science as derivative of a paradigm). Here is the real problem which Wittgenstein does not address.
Concepts are discursively constructed prior to any given utterance and have relative stability. We could not suppose that an environment (such as a building site) is sufficient for all the interlocutors to understand the activity they are engaged in, so that they are able to construe appropriate meanings to others’ words. That ‘context’ has to be evoked discursively. But everything about constructing a building: the various building elements, the skills and processes, the division of labour, plans and so on, pre-exist any given utterance or any of the actions which contribute to finally constructing a building.
The metaphor of judge-made law cited above, which is a pragmatic rendering of Hegel’s conception of sprit, by disposing of the need for a pre-existing principle governing the development of new propositions, seems to justify the idea that the whole process of cultural and historical development can be rendered as interactions between individuals. But this does not stand up. The process depends essentially on the availability of the precedents, the body of enacted law and all the legal principles which exist in the form of documents. These documents are crucial mediating artefacts which regulate the development of the common law. The idea that the judge is able to make explicit what was merely implicit in the previous decisions is an attractive and eminently Hegelian idea. But it presupposes that these documented decisions act as mediating elements in the development of law, not to mention the entire material culture which supports the way of life in which the decisions are made by judges and enforced by a state.
A proposition appears to be something created and enacted in the moment when two people interact, but neither the language used in the interaction nor the concepts which are embedded in the language are created de novo in that interaction. The words and concepts relied upon in any interaction “are always already there in the always alreadyup-and-running communal linguistic practices into which I enter as a young one” (Brandom 2009: 73). Through the provision of these artefacts, every linguistic interaction is mediated by the concepts of the wider community.
If Hegel’s idea of Recognition is taken out of the context of his whole method it is easily misunderstood, and taken to be an unmediated binary relation between two individuals, but this is never the case; interactions between subjects are always mediated.
You dismiss the thought of it advancing anything as you simply pose vaguely that project in which people collaborate exist on huge scales and are such, without bounds but it's not clear your sense of the term reflects what is being introduced.
For example, what are the projects which constitute a nation or even humanity as a whole? The most universal of things that mediates human relations are big things like the global market and states, but how does one relate the individual to things on that scale?
Things like the environment affect everyone, but that doesn't automatically make everyone a collaborator in protecting it. Similarly, many people may participate in an election, but beyond that, to what extent do they play a role in their own government's politics?
You see here, the concept aimed at with the emphasis on a collaborative project isn't one that might be readily recognized because many do not acknowledge the concept of a concrete universal as it originates through Goethe, formalized in Hegel and reproduced in Marx and Marxists after him. https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/works/abstract-general.htm
Concrete universal reasoning bases itself on the understanding that the Universal, the Particular and the Individual each have their own basis in reality and never completely coincide, and reasoning involved development of the concept itself, rather than simply the grouping of elements under concepts. By Universal, is meant a species or some culturally-defined symbol, law or concept; by Individual, is meant a concrete thing or person which is an instance of the universal; by Particular, is meant the quality or relation of the individual by virtue of which it is subsumed under the Universal. “All C have the attribute a, e is a C, therefore e has the attribute a.”
As an abstract general self-consciousness, a subject would see themselves (and others) in terms of the attributes they bear, black/white, male/female, etc.. On the other hand, with a concrete universal self-consciousness, people have a conception of themselves (and others) which is primarily tied up with the “meaning” of their life, the story in which they play some part and their relation to other subjects. So we have two different ways of reasoning about yourself and others, two different ways of conceiving of yourself in relation to the whole community.
I worry whether your comment is going along the lines which would be criticized by Benhabib above.
There are many things which mediate my relation to others in a country but for the most part in my day to day life I have very little to do with the majority of people in a country, unles we're unified and acting towards some shared end perhaps amidst a crisis, what basis of relations is there beyond the mutual exchange of the market?
Rugoz wrote:Last time I checked France decides on the lawfulness of wearing a burqa in France. I suppose you could say the burqa only concerns those who are wearing it, not the entire nation. But that would be typical liberal position.
And to continue the point raised in the summary of Benhabib of perhaps not properly distinguishing the different social actors in an issue and their conflicting aims, I again quote the article that details not an ragument against only those who wear burqas but the point that while the state can legislate or ban the hijab or burqa, this is insufficient to necessarily enact such a norm but only effects it and this is what in fact happened. The secular state was able to enact a ban but it doesn't lead to the desired result because the lives of such girls and women who wear it are apart of communities that have a great deal of influence over their lives and don't simply fall in line with a state ruling. Because of course people are not synonymous with the state and the state is a point of struggle for different groups in society, to which the French government responded to the wishes of those who wanted to ban it. https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/works/subject-position.htm
In general, the promotion of an ethical claim in the public sphere can be interpreted as an effort to change the ethical disposition of other people. I characterise this as ‘ethical politics’. I see ‘ethical politics’ as taking up the subject position of advising a social movement, rather than advising the state, although the state may be seen as an instrument for changing social dispositions as well. But to place demands on the state as if the speaker were an influential government adviser and as if the government were able to fix the problem is legitimate only if it corresponds to the real relationship, but this is often not the case.
I would like to illustrate this by means of the hijab affair. Let us suppose, as some have argued (and for the purposes of illustrating the point let us assume that this point of fact is true), that an initial compromise that was worked out between the three girls and the school was overthrown when the girls came under pressure from religious figures to press their right to wear the hijab to a public school; about 1/3 of girls who used to wear a hijab to school left the secular state education system as a result of social pressure from within their own community. Given the state’s upholding of the ban on wearing the hijab, these girls were then faced with a choice between being treated with contempt in their own community or leaving the public education system. The state was in fact powerless to remedy this situation by overriding the authority of the religious leaders in the community, and the ban on the hijab only consolidated the hold of the religious leaders over women in their community by ensuring that women would not receive the public secular education they would need to enjoy the benefits of modern French society.
I do not think it is valid to say something like: “Well the state was right to ban the hijab in a public school, but has no responsibility for the exclusion of the girls from secular education by their community.” The fact is that the state was a relatively ineffective mediator in this matter. To be consistent, having banned the wearing of the hijab in public schools, the state ought to have placed all young females in the immigrant Muslim communities into protective custody so that they could attend public school without wearing the hijab. The state responded politically to the opinions of the majority French population, and the unintended consequences which flowed from the demand more than negated the original intention.
But is this not the normal state of affairs? In a society in which so much is organised by the market, the reversal of equity measures by the market is very common. For example, the Australian Aboriginal stockmen who got the sack as soon as they achieved equal pay, the same fate which has been suffered by many female professionals.
Isn’t it one of the lessons that the Left ought to have learnt from the 20th century, that the state is not an effective mediator for ethical demands that have not already been gained by social movements. All the more so in an electoral democracy where governments stand or fall by popular opinion. The role of the state is a practical one: to objectify the outcome of past struggles. The state does have a capacity to act on behalf of the whole community, but such a capacity depends on the community being of one mind on a matter. This is obviously not the case where ethical dilemmas and cultural differences within the nation are at issue, and it is precisely this situation which is at issue.
But the whole public debate about the hijab affair was conducted in terms of what action the state should take. Meanwhile, in the housing estates where the poor immigrant communities lived, a quite different discussion was taking place about how the girls would be treated should they comply.
Now it is not my claim that an ethical demand cannot be mediated. On the contrary. The first thing is to recognise that all ethical demands are mediated. The question of who is to be addressed with an ethical demand is that of subject position, and many different subject positions are possible and legitimate. What is wrong is making claims from the point of view of God, or taking up a subject position of adviser to God. No consideration was given to the fact that the French state was unable to regulate the attitudes of members of the immigrant communities, but only the policies of the state entities, and the possibility that other parties or circumstances will subvert the actions of the state, and that there may be other parties capable of doing what the state cannot, particularly social movements. If there was any sense in the campaign for the läité laws, it was to create and strengthen a secularist social movement. I doubt that the secularist cause was furthered by the läité laws.
It's simply a reality that the state does not represent a universal will because there is no such universality among people, there are many divisions within a society, so it must always express a particular interest as many aims are in conflict and it can't enact all of them.
THe point being that ethics necessarily entails identifying the social subjects and they must be real existing social subjects, ones that have developed. Many might think of say civil rights (or today BLM) as synonymous with black people but this is a category error to assume that all people belong to something even if it is seen as in the interest of a particular demographic, just as most women never were feminists although many now agree with liberal feminism in some degree. But shared belief is insufficient to be considered a collaborator in the project of feminism.
This may even seem a benign point but it seems it is one with big implications for properly considering things as many work with abstract general categories which are easily rejected by a nominalist view as not being reflective of a real thing as they are insufficient concrete (not an immediate sensory thing but a concept which is properly constituted by many things/relations),
Having something in common can be a precondition for the emergence of a subject, but is not enough.
Hegel knew long ago that a collection of elements gathered together, externally, according to some attribute they have in common, cannot as such constitute a concept or subject. “Something in common” can only be a “thing-in-itself,” not yet a concept.
A community is not formed by people having “something in common.” On the contrary, community is formed by division of labour. Fundamentally, then, the process of differentiation, is not a process of exclusion and inclusion, but an unfolding into mutually supporting subjects, differentiating itself into self-conscious systems of activity, which nevertheless, opens the door to the subordination of one subject by the other, but is not founded on such an objection.
From the abstract general point of view, the realisation of subjectivity pre-supposes the atomisation, or “rifting,” of subjectivity, of a withdrawal of solidarity. But abstract generality is no basis for the formation of subjectivity or solidarity, and what results is the process which Judith Butler finds mysterious: “the death of the subject.”
The different approaches conclude in a different ontology where one collects individuals into a group based on what they share in attributes while the other emphasizes a real development of a group from random individuals into a social subject with a shared purpose. One can address a social movement, but an ethical claim to a mass of individuals with no concern for their relation to an issue makes a ethical claim nonsense. Just as whether France should ban the hijab/burqa is more a theoretical question for those who aren't in France whilst for those in it, it becomes a practical matter.
-For Ethical Politics