Albert H  The Myth of Total Reason

Both Habermas and Adorno take an Hegelian position: the difficulties of positivism are identified, then these difficulties are to be  'overcome' [transcended]. For Habermas, both social science and science reflect the same technical cognitive interest rather than any normative ones, which produces a restricted rationality. This is further restricted by the tendency for the technical to be identified with the practical in positivism [positivisation]. Ends or values are abandoned to a decisionism  [there is a reference to Habermas's book Theory and Practice]. This can lead to  'remythologisation'. This argument is criticised by positivists in turn as irrelevant or ideological, as all discussions of values tend to be. However, there is an expansion of the term  'positivism' to include Popper, who qualifies because he criticises metaphysics. The answer for Habermas lies with dialectical reason which will overcome various dualisms, including fact/value, the technical and the normative [there is a a further reference to Habermas's piece  'Between Philosophy and Science', where society is seen as an  'historically constructed totality'. Albert's note  (166) says that this notion of totality also indicates the unity of Habermas's radical project too: this notion of social totality enables the interpretation of historical processes which will lead to implications for practice].

Habermas's piece on analytical versus dialectical science in this Dispute focuses discussion on four problematic areas [see below]. These indicate the Hegelian roots of the project, and there is the usual absence of definitions: totality is seen as not the sum of parts, not just a more general concept etc, and this helps preserve it against the criticisms of the anti-holists, including Popper and Nagel. Totality is not just a matter of formal logic either, which again avoids criticism and introduces arbitrariness. There must be some general theory of the whole, and Habermas thinks this emerges in the discussion of the four areas.

1. Theory and its objects.
According to Habermas , for scientific or empirical theory, system is external to experience, which means theory can also develop separately. However, Habermas argues that this makes the coincidence between the theoretical and the objective domain 'fortuitous'. Empirical testing is thus  'made ridiculous', and it is to be abolished as a procedure in favoure of dialectical notions of totality. The latter corresponds to the objective domain in a deeper and yet untestable way -- this is really essentialism says Albert. Dialectical logic does pay close attention to the object, and is thus not random or subjective, and tries to avoid distortions arising from an excessive technical interest. Theory is not free to develop apart from this notion of adequacy to the objective, according to Habermas. There is a circularity involved, but it is a [virtuous] hermeneutic circularity rather than hypothetico-deductive approach.

However, instrumentalism has already been criticised by Popper  [in Conjectures and Refutations, according to Albert]. The usefulness of science is already not seen just an indication of our cognitive interest in them. For example in science there already is an interest in the orientation of action in accordance with reality  (171). Thus Popper's view that falsification is about learning from mistakes [rather than coincidence with social planning]. The connection with technology and technical performance is simply an indication of the success with which science has grasped the real accurately, rather than a demonstration of an underlying interest of technical domination. Technical interests seem to work in an ambiguous way for Habermas, says Albert. They are both indifferent to the object, and then prepared to distort it.

Habermas's emancipatory interest somehow guarantees the adequacy of concepts in advance. Apparently the procedure involves starting with ordinary language accounts [or  'experience' for Adorno], producing a dogmatic stance towards everyday language and life  (172). Popper is radically against the wisdom of common-sense anyway: it is difficult to see why critical theory is so tied to it. [Possibly some lingering adherence to the proletariat as the only class capable of deriving adequate political theory from its practices?]. Insisting in advance that critical theory or the dialectic must produce better results than positivism is itself a prejudice, preferring  'pedigree over performance', resulting from the conservative wish to preserve German philosophy  (173).

2. Theory, experience, history.
Critical theorists accuse positivism of attempting some purity in privileging one method of observation. The dialectic cannot do this because the totality is so diverse. Experience is the source of this insight, leading to a plea for hermeneutic again. There can be no empirical tests  [Albert points out that there cannot be empirical tests for functionalist premisses either]. There is still a need for correctness, however, which involves legitimating concepts in experience. For critical theorists, this is a stricter test than just empirical testing.

However, Albert argues that positivism does not privilege one mode of experience in general, and only in particular types of testing is some purity required, in order to bring theory to a falsifiable point. Since falsification clearly involves experience as well, only of a more rigorous type, it is hard to see why Habermas is objecting  (175). Science is not against the use of the imagination. Conversely, why can't the insights of dialecticians be testable? Critical theorists invoke the notion of totality again, but this is really vague or trivial  (175n). Popper lets theories arises out of experience, but experience is not privileged for Popper, hence the need for testing, to escape the limits of experience. The restriction to experience in critical theory is too conservative -- where do new theories come from?

Totality is a concept surrounded by and defended with metaphor, assertion and exaggeration. These emphasize concepts rather than statements. The discussion turns on the qualities of various concepts, such as whether they are capable, for Habermas, of  'expressing substance and form in one'. No examples or definitions are provided. Concepts such as laws in history are used to illustrate totality rather than make predictions. The focus is on the relations between particulars and generals, especially constitutive ones, so the argument can proceed from the particulars of experience to the wholes or contexts. It is thus possible to employ both verstehen and causal analysis in one methodology. This is very impressive, if over-ambitious for Albert, but what does it mean (if it is not logically contradictory?), how can it be tested, and how do we actually proceed? The whole analysis seems very theological  (178), and flirts with the same procedures of law-like historicism that Popper has already criticised.

3. Theory/practice and value freedom.
The aim is to unite theory and practice at the core. Historical analysis intends to recapture or remember past articulations, rather than to follow a mere technical interest, and thus to reprioritise forgotten goals [aimed at Adorno especially here?]. The project is open to Popper's criticisms as a result -- it is selective of history, and imposes its own goals. Habermas argues that it is possible to avoid such criticisms and prevent arbitrariness by choosing the interpretation which is most closely based on totality. But this merely disguises his preference in the name of objectivity. Value freedom is the important issue in all of this. Habermas has problems in separating the values and the normative from facts and the nomological. He wants to include norms in rational discussion. He wants to show that values are still implicit in the laws of science.

He also questions Popper on 'basic statements'. This is circular, according to Habermas, and unavoidably hermeneutic [because it involves intersubjective understandings of the scientists]. However, Popper says the basic statements are revisable and are not protocol languages, so they are deducible from the theory. Habermas says this is circular because facts are established to apply laws but facts are defined by laws, but Albert says this is not so  (182). Further, Popper is already aware of social context, hence the link with democracy in the open society.

What is needed is some discussion of the logic of research. This is where the social processes involving interests appear, where rules are reinterpreted and how theories develop to get at the truth. There is no comment on such logic by the dialecticians -- the mere facticity of social life is asserted  (183). Habermas does not allow for the role of scientific institutions where pure science is done, insulated from the practical world [Adorno is very sceptical of this sort of claim] . At the very least, such institutions mediate between technical cognitive interests and technical applications: there is no direct expression of interests in science.

Habermas says science is not value-free, and that it misunderstands its connection with social life, but it is unclear which variant of value freedom is involved. In some senses, Popper does understand this connection better and he proposes better solutions to manage the effects of social interests on knowledge  [Weber is cited here as well]. There are no simple and forced separations, no reifications: everyone involved knows the ambiguities. Adorno makes reference to [suppressed] antimonies here, but this is vague and unspecified, and his criticisms cannot therefore be assessed. There is no concrete analysis. Discussions [of Myrdal] shows Adorno even attempting to preserve purely technical facts: here, Adorno is saying that it is necessary to bracket the whole at times in order to make progress  [I have not followed up this discussion]. Adorno proposes other solutions in other works  [discussed in Albert's works cited in German 186]

4. The critique of ideology and dialectical justification
The relation between theory and practice is implicated in the justification or legitimation of practical action, says Habermas. Positivist rationality is thus interdependent with irrationality at the level of ends, riddled with decisionism, and implying a return to mythology, especially to secure social justifications of decisions. This may be so, but there is no necessary connection between positivism and totalitarianism or fascism: in practice, positivism has often been a source of critique, while the dialectic and Hegelianism has been a source of myth. What makes dialectic necessarily liberating?  [A discussion of Polish revisionism follows, apparently begun in Theory and Practice]. If anything, dialectic favours totalitarianism because it is simply undiscussable  [there are lots of references to Topisch throughout all this]. Decisionism is equally apparent in dialectic, although it is then disguised  (189).

The potential for critical rationalist critique of ideology is unacknowledged by Habermas, or if recognized, seen as reified, not seen as arising from suitable roots or motivations  [again the references to Theory and Practice]. Without such roots  [that is, grounded in one of the human interests?], we can only oppose ideology with another dogmatism, says Habermas. The dialectic is self-critical, says Habermas, and not dogmatic -- but there is still no account of rational justification, which must be provided because dialectic critique is supposed to be practical. The interest in  'autonomy' [an early version of an interest in emancipation? ] is supposed to be such a justification, instead of a commitment to a rational framework, which is Popper's solution according to Habermas. Here, Habermas is admitting Popper's that claim to be able to rationally discuss anything is broader than a mere technical interest, and broader than the narrow positivism of the 1930s  (191). However, this is only a claim, a faith for Popper, says Habermas.

Popper admits that a faith in rationalism cannot be grounded in rationalism itself, says Albert, but this does not make his faith blindly irrational. It is still possible to test the consequences of commitments as opposed to pursuing some 'comprehensive rationalism' as in Hegel  [Hegel also admitted to an  'arbitrary action' in order to ground his version of rationality, says Albert, 192n]. Habermas makes a pre-supposition of rationality in rational discussion itself, an  'inherent... [and]... decisive commitment to rationality' [in Theory and Practice]. This simply presupposes rational discussion as a fact says Albert. Anyhow, normative claims in speech are not denied by Popper, although he does argue that they need to be analysed. Popper is interested in critical tests rather than justification, while Habermas is still in the business of justification, especially when he wishes to  'legitimate practical intentions from an objective context'.

This demand for legitimation is seen in the historical origins of critical theory. It means dogma lies at the heart of critical theory. We need critical rational analysis instead [to separate out the dogma]. All this is obscured by Habermas, especially in his use of language, which is also 'aesthetic', and aimed at  'relative immunisation' [the note on 194 refers to a  'hedgehog defence' in advance against possible critics -- which is what transcendence and immanent critique actually is].

Critical Philosophy Versus Dialectic
The connections between theory and practice have been much discussed in other areas [a note on 195 refers to welfare economics, which Albert says shows how difficult it is to justify politics by theory]. Habermas restricts other solutions, and is vague about his own --  'metaphors rather than methods' (195). He focuses too much on the instrumental function of science. When he is forced to admit the emancipatory role of science, he says its critique of ideology is dogmatic  [ungrounded]. This critique does fit the  'positivism of everyday life' where instrumental interests are combined with decisionism  (196). The same goes for  the relations between antimonies in philosophy, which are ignored in the  'crude "positivism" of common sense'. However, philosophers of science know about these interpenetrations and do give rational accounts of the role of judgment -- common-sense actions are seen in terms of situational logic, for example.

Distinctions between matters such as fact and value in philosophy are very useful for analytic purposes and to organise and order problems. The apparent transcendence of these problems in some notion of totality makes problems unsolvable, which is why none of them actually are solved except by allusion  (197). Science is not just technical rationality but  'a paradigm of critical rationality' (197), a better one than dialectic!

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