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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Interpreter of Narrow-Mindedness

In relation to the sciences, philosophy today can no longer claim an institutionally secured position of privilege, but philosophizing retains its universal power in the form of the self-reflection of the sciences themselves.  In this dimension, occupied by philosophy, the unity of theoretical and practical reason that does not hold for scientific theories themselves is preserved. Philosophy, having become circumscribed as a specific discipline, can legitimately go beyond the area reserved to it by assuming the role of interpreter between one specialized narrow-mindedness and another.  Thus, I consider it philosophical enlightenment when doctors learn from sociological and psychoanalytic studies to appreciate the influence of the family environment in the genesis of psychoses and thereby also learn to reflect on certain biologistic assumptions of the tradition of their discipline.  I consider it philosophical enlightenment when sociologists, directed by professional historians, apply some of their general hypotheses to historical material and thereby become aware of the inevitably forced character of their generalizations.  They thus learn to reflect on the methodologically suppressed relation of the universal and the individual.  I consider it philosophical enlightenment when philosophers learn from recent psycholinguistic investigations of the learning of grammatical rules to comprehend the causal connection of speech and language with external conditions and in this way learn to reflect on the methodological limits to the mere understanding of meaning.  These are not examples of interdisciplinary research.  Rather, they illustrate a self-reflection of the sciences in which the latter become critically aware of their own presuppositions.  [..] The developers of new pedagogical methods for curricula in college-oriented schools should go back to the philosophical presuppositions of the different fields of study themselves.  Thus, for example, the transmission of basic grammatical structures in a language class at the primary school level, where the bases of several languages are taught simultaneously and comparatively, cannot be meaningfully discussed without confronting the problems of the philosophy of language as they have developed from Humboldt through Saussure to Chomsky.  Similarly pedagogical problems of history instruction on the junior high school level lead to the problems connected with the emergence of the historical consciousness that has developed since the end of the seventeenth century with the tradition of the philosophy of history.


–Jürgen Habermas, “The University in A Democracy: Democratization of The University.” In: Toward a Rational Society (1968), pp.7-9.