Post Metaphysical Thinking Philosophical Essays On Friendship

Jürgen Habermas (;[2]German:[ˈjʏrɡn̩ ˈhaːbɐmaːs];[3] born 18 June 1929) is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theories on communicative rationality and the public sphere. In 2014, Prospect readers chose Habermas as one of their favourites among the "world's leading thinkers."[4]

Associated with the Frankfurt School, Habermas's work focuses on the foundations of social theory and epistemology, the analysis of advanced capitalistic societies and democracy, the rule of law in a critical social-evolutionary context, and contemporary politics, particularly German politics. Habermas's theoretical system is devoted to revealing the possibility of reason, emancipation, and rational-critical communication latent in modern institutions and in the human capacity to deliberate and pursue rational interests. Habermas is known for his work on the concept of modernity, particularly with respect to the discussions of rationalization originally set forth by Max Weber. He has been influenced by American pragmatism, action theory, and even poststructuralism.


Habermas was born in Düsseldorf, Rhine Province, in 1929. He was born with a cleft palate and had corrective surgery twice during childhood.[5] Habermas argues that his speech disability made him think differently about the importance of communication and prefer writing over the spoken word as a medium.[6]

As a young teenager, he was profoundly affected by World War II. Until his graduation from gymnasium, Habermas lived in Gummersbach, near Cologne. His father, Ernst Habermas, was executive director of the Cologne Chamber of Industry and Commerce, and was described by Habermas as a Nazi sympathizer. He was brought up in a staunchly Protestant milieu, his grandfather being the director of the seminary in Gummersbach. He studied at the universities of Göttingen (1949/50), Zurich (1950/51), and Bonn (1951–54) and earned a doctorate in philosophy from Bonn in 1954 with a dissertation written on the conflict between the absolute and history in Schelling's thought, entitled, Das Absolute und die Geschichte. Von der Zwiespältigkeit in Schellings Denken ("The Absolute and History: On the Schism in Schelling's Thought"). His dissertation committee included Erich Rothacker and Oskar Becker.

From 1956 on, he studied philosophy and sociology under the critical theorists Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno at the Goethe University Frankfurt's Institute for Social Research, but because of a rift between the two over his dissertation—Horkheimer had made unacceptable demands for revision—as well as his own belief that the Frankfurt School had become paralyzed with political skepticism and disdain for modern culture[7]—he finished his habilitation in political science at the University of Marburg under the Marxist Wolfgang Abendroth. His habilitation work was entitled Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit; Untersuchungen zu einer Kategorie der Bürgerlichen Gesellschaft (published in English translation in 1989 as The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society). It is a detailed social history of the development of the bourgeois public sphere from its origins in the 18th century salons up to its transformation through the influence of capital-driven mass media. In 1961 he became a Privatdozent in Marburg, and—in a move that was highly unusual for the German academic scene of that time—he was offered the position of "extraordinary professor" (professor without chair) of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg (at the instigation of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Karl Löwith) in 1962, which he accepted. In this same year he gained his first serious public attention, in Germany, with the publication of his habilitation. In 1964, strongly supported by Adorno, Habermas returned to Frankfurt to take over Horkheimer's chair in philosophy and sociology. The philosopher Albrecht Wellmer was his assistant in Frankfurt from 1966 to 1970.

He accepted the position of Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of the Scientific-Technical World in Starnberg (near Munich) in 1971, and worked there until 1983, two years after the publication of his magnum opus, The Theory of Communicative Action. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1984.[8]

Habermas then returned to his chair at Frankfurt and the directorship of the Institute for Social Research. Since retiring from Frankfurt in 1993, Habermas has continued to publish extensively. In 1986, he received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, which is the highest honour awarded in German research. He also holds the position of "Permanent Visiting" Professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and "Theodor Heuss Professor" at The New School, New York.

Habermas was awarded The Prince of Asturias Award in Social Sciences of 2003. Habermas was also the 2004 Kyoto Laureate[9] in the Arts and Philosophy section. He traveled to San Diego and on 5 March 2005, as part of the University of San Diego's Kyoto Symposium, gave a speech entitled The Public Role of Religion in Secular Context, regarding the evolution of separation of church and state from neutrality to intense secularism. He received the 2005 Holberg International Memorial Prize (about €520,000). In 2007, Habermas was listed as the seventh most-cited author in the humanities (including the social sciences) by The Times Higher Education Guide, ahead of Max Weber and behind Erving Goffman.[10]

Jürgen Habermas is the father of Rebekka Habermas, historian of German social and cultural history and professor of modern history at the University of Göttingen.

Teacher and mentor[edit]

Habermas is a famed teacher and mentor. Among his most prominent students were the pragmatic philosopher Herbert Schnädelbach (theorist of discourse distinction and rationality), the political sociologist Claus Offe (professor at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin), the social philosopher Johann Arnason (professor at La Trobe University and chief editor of the journal Thesis Eleven), the social philosopher Hans-Herbert Kögler (Chair of Philosophy at University of North Florida), the sociological theorist Hans Joas (professor at the University of Erfurt and at the University of Chicago), the theorist of societal evolution Klaus Eder, the social philosopher Axel Honneth (the current director of the Institute for Social Research), the political theorist David Rasmussen (professor at Boston College and chief editor of the journal "Philosophy & Social Criticism"), the environmental ethicist Konrad Ott, the anarcho-capitalist philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe (who came to reject much of Habermas's thought[11]), the American philosopher Thomas McCarthy, the co-creator of mindful inquiry in social research Jeremy J. Shapiro, and the assassinated Serbian prime minister Zoran Đinđić.

Sociology and philosophy[edit]

Habermas has constructed a comprehensive framework of social theory and philosophy drawing on a number of intellectual traditions:[12]

  • the German philosophical thought of Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schelling, G. W. F. Hegel, Wilhelm Dilthey, Edmund Husserl and Hans-Georg Gadamer
  • the Marxian tradition—both the theory of Karl Marx himself as well as the critical neo-Marxian theory of the Frankfurt School, i.e. Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse.[12]
  • the sociological theories of Max Weber, Émile Durkheim and George Herbert Mead
  • the linguistic philosophy and speech act theories of Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, P. F. Strawson, Stephen Toulmin and John Searle
  • the developmental psychology of Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg
  • the American pragmatist tradition of Charles Sanders Peirce and John Dewey
  • the sociological social systems theory of Talcott Parsons and Niklas Luhmann
  • Neo-Kantian thought[13]

Jürgen Habermas considers his major contribution to be the development of the concept and theory of communicative reason or communicative rationality, which distinguishes itself from the rationalist tradition, by locating rationality in structures of interpersonal linguistic communication rather than in the structure of the cosmos. This social theory advances the goals of human emancipation, while maintaining an inclusive universalistmoral framework. This framework rests on the argument called universal pragmatics—that all speech acts have an inherent telos (the Greek word for "purpose")—the goal of mutual understanding, and that human beings possess the communicative competence to bring about such understanding. Habermas built the framework out of the speech-act philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin and John Searle, the sociological theory of the interactional constitution of mind and self of George Herbert Mead, the theories of moral development of Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg, and the discourse ethics of his Frankfurt colleague and fellow student Karl-Otto Apel.

Habermas's works resonate within the traditions of Kant and the Enlightenment and of democratic socialism through his emphasis on the potential for transforming the world and arriving at a more humane, just, and egalitarian society through the realization of the human potential for reason, in part through discourse ethics. While Habermas has stated that the Enlightenment is an "unfinished project," he argues it should be corrected and complemented, not discarded.[14] In this he distances himself from the Frankfurt School, criticizing it, as well as much of postmodernist thought, for excessive pessimism, radicalism, and exaggerations.[14]

Within sociology, Habermas's major contribution was the development of a comprehensive theory of societal evolution and modernization focusing on the difference between communicative rationality and rationalization on one hand and strategic / instrumental rationality and rationalization on the other. This includes a critique from a communicative standpoint of the differentiation-based theory of social systems developed by Niklas Luhmann, a student of Talcott Parsons.

His defence of modernity and civil society has been a source of inspiration to others, and is considered a major philosophical alternative to the varieties of poststructuralism. He has also offered an influential analysis of late capitalism.

Habermas perceives the rationalization, humanization and democratization of society in terms of the institutionalization of the potential for rationality that is inherent in the communicative competence that is unique to the human species. Habermas contends that communicative competence has developed through the course of evolution, but in contemporary society it is often suppressed or weakened by the way in which major domains of social life, such as the market, the state, and organizations, have been given over to or taken over by strategic/instrumental rationality, so that the logic of the system supplants that of the lifeworld.

Reconstructive science[edit]

Habermas introduces the concept of "reconstructive science" with a double purpose: to place the "general theory of society" between philosophy and social science and re-establish the rift between the "great theorization" and the "empirical research". The model of "rational reconstructions" represents the main thread of the surveys about the "structures" of the world of life ("culture", "society" and "personality") and their respective "functions" (cultural reproductions, social integrations and socialization). For this purpose, the dialectics between "symbolic representation" of "the structures subordinated to all worlds of life" ("internal relationships") and the "material reproduction" of the social systems in their complex ("external relationships" between social systems and environment) has to be considered.

This model finds an application, above all, in the "theory of the social evolution", starting from the reconstruction of the necessary conditions for a phylogeny of the socio-cultural life forms (the "hominization") until an analysis of the development of "social formations", which Habermas subdivides into primitive, traditional, modern and contemporary formations. "This paper is an attempt, primarily, to formalize the model of "reconstruction of the logic of development" of "social formations" summed up by Habermas through the differentiation between vital world and social systems (and, within them, through the "rationalization of the world of life" and the "growth in complexity of the social systems"). Secondly, it tries to offer some methodological clarifications about the "explanation of the dynamics" of "historical processes" and, in particular, about the "theoretical meaning" of the evolutional theory's propositions. Even if the German sociologist considers that the "ex-post rational reconstructions" and "the models system/environment" cannot have a complete "historiographical application", these certainly act as a general premise in the argumentative structure of the "historical explanation"".[15]

The public sphere[edit]

Further information: public sphere

In The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Habermas argues that prior to the 18th century, European culture had been dominated by a "representational" culture, where one party sought to "represent" itself on its audience by overwhelming its subjects.[16] As an example of "representational" culture, Habermas argued that Louis XIV's Palace of Versailles was meant to show the greatness of the French state and its King by overpowering the senses of visitors to the Palace.[16] Habermas identifies "representational" culture as corresponding to the feudal stage of development according to Marxist theory, arguing that the coming of the capitalist stage of development marked the appearance of Öffentlichkeit (the public sphere).[17] In the culture characterized by Öffentlichkeit, there occurred a public space outside of the control by the state, where individuals exchanged views and knowledge.[18]

In Habermas's view, the growth in newspapers, journals, reading clubs, Masonic lodges, and coffeehouses in 18th-century Europe, all in different ways, marked the gradual replacement of "representational" culture with Öffentlichkeit culture.[18] Habermas argued that the essential characteristic of the Öffentlichkeit culture was its "critical" nature.[18] Unlike "representational" culture where only one party was active and the other passive, the Öffentlichkeit culture was characterized by a dialogue as individuals either met in conversation, or exchanged views via the print media.[18] Habermas maintains that as Britain was the most liberal country in Europe, the culture of the public sphere emerged there first around 1700, and the growth of Öffentlichkeit culture took place over most of the 18th century in Continental Europe.[18] In his view, the French Revolution was in large part caused by the collapse of "representational" culture, and its replacement by Öffentlichkeit culture.[18] Though Habermas' main concern in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere was to expose what he regarded as the deceptive nature of free institutions in the West, his book had a major effect on the historiography of the French Revolution.[17]

According to Habermas, a variety of factors resulted in the eventual decay of the public sphere, including the growth of a commercialmass media, which turned the critical public into a passive consumer public; and the welfare state, which merged the state with society so thoroughly that the public sphere was squeezed out. It also turned the "public sphere" into a site of self-interested contestation for the resources of the state rather than a space for the development of a public-minded rational consensus.

His most known work to date, the Theory of Communicative Action (1981), is based on an adaptation of Talcott Parsons AGIL Paradigm. In this work, Habermas voiced criticism of the process of modernization, which he saw as inflexible direction forced through by economic and administrative rationalization.[19] Habermas outlined how our everyday lives are penetrated by formal systems as parallel to development of the welfare state, corporate capitalism and mass consumption.[19] These reinforcing trends rationalize public life.[19] Disfranchisement of citizens occurs as political parties and interest groups become rationalized and representative democracy replaces participatory one.[19] In consequence, boundaries between public and private, the individual and society, the system and the lifeworld are deteriorating.[19] Democratic public life cannot develop where matters of public importance are not discussed by citizens.[20] An "ideal speech situation"[21] requires participants to have the same capacities of discourse, social equality and their words are not confused by ideology or other errors.[20] In this version of the consensus theory of truth Habermas maintains that truth is what would be agreed upon in an ideal speech situation.

Habermas has expressed optimism about the possibility of the revival of the public sphere.[22] He discerns a hope for the future where the representative democracy-reliant nation-state is replaced by a deliberative democracy-reliant political organism based on the equal rights and obligations of citizens.[22] In such a direct democracy-driven system, the activist public sphere is needed for debates on matters of public importance and as well as the mechanism for that discussion to affect the decision-making process.

Several noted academics have provided various criticisms of Habermas's notions regarding the public sphere. John B. Thompson, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Jesus College,[23] has pointed out that Habermas's notion of the public sphere is antiquated due to the proliferation of mass-media communications. Michael Schudson from the University of California, San Diego argues more generally that a public sphere as a place of purely rational independent debate never existed.[citation needed]Nancy Fraser, the Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science and professor of philosophy at The New School in New York City,[24] is a noted feminist critic of Habermas' work on the public sphere, arguing for the existence of multiple spheres and counterpublics.

Habermas versus postmodernists[edit]

Habermas offered some early criticisms in an essay, "Modernity versus Postmodernity" (1981), which has achieved wide recognition. In that essay, Habermas raises the issue of whether, in light of the failures of the twentieth century, we "should try to hold on to the intentions of the Enlightenment, feeble as they may be, or should we declare the entire project of modernity a lost cause?"[25] Habermas refuses to give up on the possibility of a rational, "scientific" understanding of the life-world.

Habermas has several main criticisms of postmodernism:

  1. The postmodernists are equivocal about whether they are producing serious theory or literature;
  2. Habermas feels that the postmodernists are animated by normative sentiments but the nature of those sentiments remains concealed from the reader;
  3. Habermas accuses postmodernism of a totalizing perspective that fails "to differentiate phenomena and practices that occur within modern society";[25]
  4. Habermas asserts that postmodernists ignore that which Habermas finds absolutely central – namely, everyday life and its practices.

Key dialogues[edit]

Historikerstreit (Historians' Quarrel)[edit]

Main article: Historikerstreit

Habermas is famous as a public intellectual as well as a scholar; most notably, in the 1980s he used the popular press to attack the German historians Ernst Nolte, Michael Stürmer, Klaus Hildebrand and Andreas Hillgruber. Habermas first expressed his views on the above-mentioned historians in the Die Zeit on 11 July 1986 in a feuilleton (culture and arts section in German newspapers) entitled "A Kind of Settlement of Damages". Habermas criticized Nolte, Hildebrand, Stürmer and Hillgruber for "apologistic" history writing in regard to the Nazi era, and for seeking to "close Germany's opening to the West" that in Habermas's view had existed since 1945.[26]

Habermas argued that Ernst Nolte, Michael Stürmer, Klaus Hildebrand and Andreas Hillgruber had tried to detach Nazi rule and the Holocaust from the mainstream of German history, explain away Nazism as a reaction to Bolshevism, and partially rehabilitate the reputation of the Wehrmacht (German Army) during World War II. Habermas wrote that Stürmer was trying to create a "vicarious religion" in German history which, together with the work of Hillgruber, glorifying the last days of the German Army on the Eastern Front, was intended to serve as a "kind of NATO philosophy colored with German nationalism"[27] The so-called Historikerstreit ("Historians' Quarrel") was not at all one-sided, because Habermas was himself attacked by scholars like Joachim Fest,[28]Hagen Schulze,[29] Horst Möller,[30]Imanuel Geiss[31] and Klaus Hildebrand.[32] In turn, Habermas was supported by historians such as Martin Broszat,[33]Eberhard Jäckel,[34]Hans Mommsen[35] and Hans-Ulrich Wehler.[36]

Habermas and Derrida[edit]

Habermas and Jacques Derrida engaged in a series of disputes beginning in the 1980s and culminating in a mutual understanding and friendship in the late 1990s that lasted until Derrida died in 2004.[37] They originally came in contact when Habermas invited Derrida to speak at The University of Frankfurt in 1984. The next year Habermas published "Beyond a Temporalized Philosophy of Origins: Derrida" in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity in which he described Derrida's method as being unable to provide a foundation for social critique.[38] Derrida, citing Habermas as an example, remarked that, "those who have accused me of reducing philosophy to literature or logic to rhetoric [...] have visibly and carefully avoided reading me".[39] After Derrida's final rebuttal in 1989 the two philosophers did not continue, but, as Derrida described it, groups in the academy "conducted a kind of 'war', in which we ourselves never took part, either personally or directly".[37]

At the end of the 1990s, Habermas approached Derrida at a party held at an American university where both were lecturing. They then met at Paris over dinner, and participated afterwards in many joint projects. In 2000 they held a joint seminar on problems of philosophy, right, ethics, and politics at the University of Frankfurt.[37] In December 2000, in Paris, Habermas gave a lecture entitled "How to answer the ethical question?" at the Judeities. Questions for Jacques Derrida conference organized by Joseph Cohen and Raphael Zagury-Orly. Following the lecture by Habermas, both thinkers engaged in a very heated debate on Heidegger and the possibility of Ethics. The conference volume was published at the Editions Galilée (Paris) in 2002, and subsequently in English at Fordham University Press (2007).

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Derrida and Habermas laid out their individual opinions on 9/11 and the War on Terror in Giovanna Borradori's Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. In early 2003, both Habermas and Derrida were very active in opposing the coming Iraq War; in a manifesto that later became the book Old Europe, New Europe, Core Europe, the two called for a tighter unification of the states of the European Union in order to create a power capable of opposing American foreign policy. Derrida wrote a foreword expressing his unqualified subscription to Habermas's declaration of February 2003 ("February 15, or, What Binds Europeans Together: Plea for a Common Foreign Policy, Beginning in Core Europe") in the book, which was a reaction to the Bush administration's demands upon European nations for support in the coming Iraq War.[40] Habermas has offered further context for this declaration in an interview.

Religious dialogue[edit]

Habermas' attitudes toward religion have changed throughout the years. Analyst Phillippe Portier identifies three phases in Habermas' attitude towards this social sphere: the first, in the decade of 1980, when the younger Jürgen, in the spirit of Marx, argued against religion seeing it as an "alienating reality" and "control tool"; the second phase, from the mid-1980s to the beginning of the 21st Century, when he stopped discussing it and, as a secular commentator, relegated it to matters of private life; and the third, from then until now, when Habermas has recognized the positive social role of religion.[41]

In an interview in 1999 Habermas had stated:

For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.[42][43][44][45]

The original German (from the Habermas Forum website) of the disputed quotation is, "Das Christentum ist für das normative Selbstverständnis der Moderne nicht nur eine Vorläufergestalt oder ein Katalysator gewesen. Der egalitäre Universalismus, aus dem die Ideen von Freiheit und solidarischem Zusammenleben, von autonomer Lebensführung und Emanzipation, von individueller Gewissensmoral, Menschenrechten und Demokratie entsprungen sind, ist unmittelbar ein Erbe der jüdischen Gerechtigkeits- und der christlichen Liebesethik. In der Substanz unverändert, ist dieses Erbe immer wieder kritisch angeeignet und neu interpretiert worden. Dazu gibt es bis heute keine Alternative. Auch angesichts der aktuellen Herausforderungen einer postnationalen Konstellation zehren wir nach wie vor von dieser Substanz. Alles andere ist postmodernes Gerede". From Jürgen Habermas - "Zeit der Übergänge" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2001) p. 174f.

This statement has been misquoted in a number of articles and books, where Habermas instead is quoted for saying: "Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."[46]

In his book Zwischen Naturalismus und Religion (Between Naturalism and Religion, 2005), Habermas stated that the forces of religious strength, as a result of multiculturalism and immigration, are stronger than in previous decades, and, therefore, there is a need of tolerance which must be understood as a two-way street: secular people need to tolerate the role of religious people in the public square and vice versa;[47][48]

In early 2007, Ignatius Press published a dialogue between Habermas and the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Holy OfficeJoseph Ratzinger (elected as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005), entitled The Dialectics of Secularization. The dialogue took place on January 14, 2004 after an invitation to both thinkers by the Catholic Academy of Bavaria in Munich.[49] It addressed contemporary questions such as:

In this debate a shift of Habermas became evident—in particular, his rethinking of the public role of religion. Habermas stated that he wrote as a "methodological atheist," which means that when doing philosophy or social science, he presumed nothing about particular religious beliefs. Yet while writing from this perspective his evolving position towards the role of religion in society led him to some challenging questions, and as a result conceding some ground in his dialogue with the Pope, that would seem to have consequences which further complicated the positions he holds about a communicative rational solution to the problems of modernity. Habermas believes that even for self-identified liberal thinkers, "to exclude religious voices from the public square is highly illiberal."[50]

Though, in the first period of his career, he began as a skeptic of any social usefulness of religion, he now believes there is a social role and utilitarian moral strength in religion, and notably, that there is a necessity of Judeochristian ethics in culture.[51]

In addition, Habermas has popularized the concept of "post-secular" society, to refer to current times in which the idea of modernity is perceived as unsuccessful and at times, morally failed, so that, rather than a stratification or separation, a new peaceful dialogue and coexistence between faith and reason must be sought in order to learn mutually.[52]

Socialist dialogue[edit]

Habermas has sided with other 20th century commentators on Marx such as Hannah Arendt who have indicated concerns with the limits of totalitarian perspectives often associated with Marx's apparent over-estimation of the emancipatory potential of the forces of production. Arendt had presented this in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism and Habermas extends this critique in his writings on functional reductionism in the life-world in his Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason. As Habermas states:

"... traditional Marxist analysis ... today, when we use the means of the critique of political economy ... can no longer make clear predictions: for that, one would still have to assume the autonomy of a self-reproducing economic system. I do not believe in such an autonomy. Precisely for this reason, the laws governing the economic system are no longer identical to the ones Marx analyzed. Of course, this does not mean that it would be wrong to analyze the mechanism which drives the economic system; but in order for the orthodox version of such an analysis to be valid, the influence of the political system would have to be ignored.[12]


Major works[edit]

Main article: Jürgen Habermas bibliography

See also[edit]


  1. ^Anders Bordum, "Immanuel Kant, Jürgen Habermas and the categorical imperative", Philosophy & Social Criticism31(7), 2005.
  2. ^"Habermas". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  3. ^Max Mangold and Dudenredaktion: Duden Aussprachewörterbuch. In: Der Duden in zwölf Bänden. Volume 6, 6th edition, Dudenverlag, Mannheim/Leipzig/Wien/Zürich 2005 ISBN 978-3-411-04066-7, "Jürgen" p. 446 and "Habermas" p. 383.
  4. ^Serena Kutchinsky (23 April 2014). "World thinkers 2014: The results". Prospect Magazine.  
  5. ^Simplican, Clifford; Stacy (28 October 2017). "Disabling Democracy: How Disability Reconfigures Deliberative Democratic Norms". Retrieved 28 October 2017 – via 
  6. ^Habermas, Jurgen. 2008. Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays.
  7. ^Craig J. Calhoun, Contemporary Sociological Theory, Wiley-Blackwell, 2002, p. 352. ISBN 0-631-21350-3.
  8. ^"Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter H"(PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  9. ^Public space and political public sphere (pp. 2–4).
  10. ^"The most cited authors of books in the humanities". 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  11. ^Lew Rockwell, introduction to Hoppe's A Short History of Man (2015), Auburn, Missisippi: Mises Institute, p. 9
  12. ^ abcHabermas, Jurgen (1981), Kleine Politische Schrifen I-IV, pp. 500f.
  13. ^Müller-Doohm, Stefan. Jürgen Habermas. Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 2008 (Suhrkamp BasisBiographie, 38).
  14. ^ abCalhoun (2002), p. 351.
  15. ^Corchia, Luca (1 September 2008), "Explicative models of complexity. The reconstructions of social evolution for Jürgen Habermas", in Balbi, S; Scepi, G; Russolillo, G; et al., Book of Short Abstracts, 7th International Conference on Social Science Methodology – RC33 – Logic and Methodology in Sociology, Napoli, IT: Jovene Editore .
  16. ^ abBlanning, T. C. W. The French Revolution Class War or Culture Clash?, New York: St. Martin's Press (1987), 2nd edition 1998, p. 26.
  17. ^ abBlanning (1998), pp. 26–27.
  18. ^ abcdefBlanning (1998), p. 27.
  19. ^ abcdeCalhoun (2002), p. 353.
  20. ^ abCalhoun (2002), p. 354.
  21. ^Payrow Shabani, Omid A. (2003). Democracy, Power and Legitimacy: The Critical Theory of Jürgen Habermas. University of Toronto Press. p. 49. ISBN 0-8020-8761-2. 
  22. ^ abCalhoun (2002), p. 355.
  23. ^"Jesus College website". Archived from the original on 1 June 2008. Retrieved 28 October 2017.

I first encountered Ken Wilber’s phenomenal philosophical genius while reading ReVision Journal some seventeen years ago. I marveled at how he modeled and brilliantly articulated the evolution of consciousness from slime to Godhead in writings on the Spectrum of Consciousness, the Atman Project and Up from Eden. The range and depth of his thinking, the clarity and originality of his insights, definately put Ken in another league. Maybe a league of one, the world’s greatest philosopher. Perhaps selfishly, I wondered what special insights he could bring to contemporary artists. Could he help us circumnavigate through bullshit art criticism and give us the swords of critical thinking that could slay the Jabberwocky of “flatland Modernism” and the Hydra of Post-Modernity, and could his philosophy help put Art on the track to real Spirit?

Around this time, back in 1981, my wife Allyson answered the telephone one day and said, “It’s Ken Wilber! He wants to talk to you.”  A rush of excitement and a big gulp, “Uh hello?” I said, and Ken replied, “Hi, I really like your work and would love to see some more of it.”  So we invited him to our loft studio in downtown Boston.  Ken’s appetite for art was voracious, observing one piece after another with fiery intensity.  He always asked pointed questions, showing that he intuitively absorbed what both Allyson and I were doing with our work, whether it was paintings, sculptures or performances. It was that evening that I first asked him about art and philosophy. I said, “Part of the trouble with art critics today is that they haven’t had mystical experiences, so their writing is always theoretical and rarely addresses the spirituality of art. When the art critic gets philosophical, they turn to the great philosophers of the 20th century, who are all sorting out the existential “realities” of life without God, or else getting lost in the complexities of language, questioning even the possibility of finding truth. Where is the spiritually inclined, philosophically minded artist to turn?”

And Ken replied, “My advice would be to go back to the German idealists like Schopenhauer.  He was the last great philosopher to deal with the transcendental function of art.   Joseph Campbell wrote a wonderful book called Creative Mythology, part of his Masks of God series of books.  Campbell summarizes Schopenhauer’s aesthetics pretty well, so that would be the easiest entry to his thought. If you like it you can go for the original texts.” Ken has always had direct advice for direct questions. Although I had gained much from reading Nietsche, I had always heard what a chauvanist pessimist his predecessor and main influence Schopenhauer was, so I had not made the effort to read him. Since heeding Ken’s advice, my readings of the German idealists Schopenhauer and Schelling have yielded great insights on the matter of how art and mysticism are related.

Ken has given me other important pieces of personal advice such as the time he cautioned me in my tendencies to look superficially at lots of spiritual paths and not choose one. He advised me to develop an in-depth practice. He quoted an Asian proverb, “Chase many rabbits, catch none.” I soon found the Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Namchai Norbu, and attended teachings over many years to receive his transmissions of Dzogchen spiritual practices. The meditation practices continue to be a strong influence in my life.

Ken’s curiosity and knowledge about art is extensive and spans every media. We’ve met on several occasions, and sometimes the muted imagestream of MTV would dance on a screen in the background of his den as we turned the conversation toward art and consciousness. The following is assembled from my notes of a conversation that took place at his home in Boulder, Colorado, the summer of 1995…

A: Ken, I’ve been talking with some artist friends who consider their art as their spiritual practice. I’ve been wondering to what degree we could consider art as a legitimate spiritual practice?

K: There are developmental stages to what I call the spectrum of consciousness — art can come from any of these stages. Piaget did psychological experiments with children and determined that there is a sequence to the unfolding of higher values. He showed that compassion and “fairness” is a quality not so present in a four year old child because they cannot project themselves into the role of the other–at around age seven the brain/mind has the capacity to exchange self for other. The human mind can potentially develop through emotional, rational, psychic and spiritual modes of awareness. The higher spiritual stages are also progressive and unfold with spiritual practice.

So art can express any of these stages or levels of awareness, from sensorimotor reflections of the world of matter, to the feelings and ideas of the ego-self, to the sociocentric or worldcentric self. But this is still not transformative spiritual art. A spiritual art must transform the artist and the viewer. In order for art to be transformative, it has to undo you.

A: The artist’s life, and sometimes ego, is sacrificed to their art …

K: Yes. For the spiritual artist, their art forces them beyond where they are. They must reach beyond the present limitations of their bodymind or ego to a higher level of consciousness and being. One could look at the process as “variations on a scream.” There is a violent painful birth to much great art. The artist has labor pains. It is the worst and the best. For the art to be spiritual, the artist has to be a better person after finishing the work than when they began it.

A: Tantra or Vajrayana Buddhism is a model of the transformative path–transforming passions into wisdom. The Tantrika generates Bodhicitta, or altruistic intentions, the strong motivation to benefit and bring liberation to others.

K: But these Vajrayana spiritual practices are carried out in a meditative atmosphere, somewhat solemn. The creative process, though, is a tumultuous struggle. In the studio, the artist is wrestling with their demons.

A: The demons help us tear ourselves down, maybe to the point of re-inventing ourselves. Artists are like the Phoenix, they periodically have to self-immolate, burn off an aspect of themselves to give birth to something new. The blank canvas demands you exceed yourself. And most times you fail. This pisses you off so bad you want to quit making art or makes some artists want to quit living. But then you calm down and come back to the work. Also, bringing spirit to form calls for an encounter with difficult and resistant materials, the craft and techniques of art. The meditator is unlikely to spill turpentine on themselves in the course of a session on the cushion, but in the fire and alchemy of the studio, you deal with the very frustrating and physical limits of “stuff”. Most artists agree, their dissatisfaction drives them toward something deeper and better, and keeps them making art. Even a “happy” artist like Matisse agreed with this. I think Krishnamurti called it creative discontent.

Of course, there are sacred art traditions where art objects are created in a meditative fashion, like you have said, as supports for contemplation. Tibetan thangka painting or Icon painting is like this. In the Buddhist tradition there are meditation masters who have made art. These objects are especially treasured.

But isn’t the proof of a spiritual practice in the level of realization of the practitioners? Look at the accomplishment of the artists. Can we point to any “enlightened” artists? For me, Michelangelo is the most fully realized artist, but he seems to have never resolved his melancholia. Even Blake and Van Gogh, as much as I consider them art saints, probably did not achieve what we could call samadhi enlightenment.

K: In the Western tradition, beyond Christ himself, Plotinus and Meister Eckhart, there are not so many enlightened beings. Saint Teresa achieved a high psychic or subtle realm illumination. By their standards you would have to place Blake and Van Gogh at a high but intermediate level. But such spiritual artists prove that art can be a spiritual practice. Who wouldn’t want the level of vision and devotion of Van Gogh? It doesn’t mean that art can’t be a powerful positive practice even if it doesn’t produce total enlightenment.

Conventional art is an expression of the self or world as it is now. Transcendental Art expresses something that you are not yet but that you can become…Alex, that insight belongs to both of us.

A: That’s why you feel better after producing it. Transformative art must express something beyond where you are, it demands that you grow beyond your current self. This is where an artist’s angst and the pain of transformation coincide. You reach toward the true, the good and the beautiful and become a better person through the struggle.

K: As Emerson said, “It all begins when the soul would have its way with you.” Certain artists become channels of the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times. They are the chosen who the World Soul reaches down and grabs by the butt.

A: Like Munch, Picasso, Pollock…

K: The best they could do was have a sense of grace while being the puppet of the Zeitgeist. Some artists, like Pollock, wind up sedating themselves for the ride. A metal bar will bend until it cracks and pops apart. Artists are positioned at the crack of the Zeitgeist. When a force beyond the individual grabs you, you are not choiced. The onset of social psychopathology or transformative growth is signalled by the artists.

Alistair Hardy, who wrote a spiritual perspective on evolution theory many years ago, titled The Living Stream, did research at Cambridge on the religious impulse. He felt that humanity has an inborn need for the transcendent. So artists have to ask themselves, “Is my art just a way of affirming my mediocre whiney-ass self, or am I up to the challenge of spiritual transformation, reaching for the higher self and a deeper art?”

That was the way it went, maybe more like interviews than conversations, but I always wished they could have gone on and on. Whenever I’m around Ken, even if he’s joking around, it’s sacred time. Our conversations were a very strong influence on my thinking as I wrote The Mission of Art. At one point he read the manuscript and e-mailed me, “The new material looks great. My only small suggestion is, be a little kinder to modernity.” It was good advice. I had been pretty negative about the spiritual blindness of much twentieth century art, neglecting the hard-won freedoms of modern art. I sounded a bit like an old geezer. As is obvious to any contemporary artist, it’s thanks to Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, Duchamp, Dali and dozens of others, that we no longer have to pay homage to idol or regime, and we are free to make any kind of art we please.

Ken has shed light, much numinous light, on the problems of contemporary Art. If I could, I would bind up his writings on art into a single volume… The Artist’s Eye, or some such thing, and make it required reading for young artists as an antidote to the confused and nihilist thinking that bedevils much art critical discourse.

A list of Ken Wilber’s Art writings (that I am aware of) and a brief synopsis would go like this:

1. In the Eye of the Artist – Art and the Perennial Philosophy 1989

published in slightly different forms in:

Sacred Mirrors -The Visionary Art of Alex Grey and the second edition of Eye To Eye.

I had asked Ken to contribute something to my art book that would place art in a transpersonal context. So in his essay he briefly summarizes the Great Chain of Being, the hierarchy of ascending levels of awareness and introduces the question, “Which level of Being is the artist accessing and expressing?” The theosophically minded artists, Kandinsky, Marc and Mondrian are quoted as having pointed the way toward a new universally spiritual art. Ken summarizes his position in the statement,

“Bad Art Copies, Good Art Creates, Great Art Transcends.”

2. Various passages from Sex, Ecology, Spirituality 1995

and A Brief History of Everything 1996

These are two of Ken’s most important books for their vast scope and originality. He wrangles with the theories of modernity and post-modernity, citing both their “dignity and disaster.”

Here Wilber introduces “The Big Three”: I, We and It in relation to his four quadrant map of reality, a map that integrates inner and outer focused modes of knowing. Art is associated with the “I” of the big three, because it expresses the artist’s subjective world and provides a way of knowing the inner world.

3. How Shall We See Art? – What and Where is Art? 1996

published in Andrew Wyeth, America’s Painter

This essay in expanded form was published in

The Eye of Spirit (Chapters 4 and 5) as:

3 a. Integral Art and Literary Theory – Part I & Part II

A mind-blowing tour de force analysis of how art has or can be interpreted, and how the aesthetically attuned mind can see the world. Art critical theories are summarized, through the ages up to (and past) post-modernity, leading to a description of the “Primal Art Holon”. The art holon section describes how the interpretation of art is always context dependent. Depending on who is looking at the art, it can be seen from the perspective of psycho-analysis, sociology, economics, politics, etc. (even) spirituality. To demonstrate the inherent flaws in projecting one’s own fantasies onto a work of art, without doing a little research into the truth of its surrounding context, Ken ingeniously demolishes Heidegger’s famous essay about Van Gogh’s painting of a worn pair of boots. Ken finally points past arguments of interpretive methods, and brings us to how great art simply “takes our breath away” providing a momentary release from the clutches of ego, a release into the timeless present of Beauty.

4. Levels Of Art 1997

As part of a Chapter in The Marriage of Sense and Soul pg 191-194

In The Marriage of Sense and Soul, Wilber gives more detail to the passages which first made their appearance in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. He associates the big three: I, We, It with art, morals and science and the enduring ideals of those ways of knowing: beauty, goodness and truth. Every level of Being corresponds to an approach to art. Simplified to four levels: the sensorimotor, the mental, the subtle soul, and the causal spirit, Wilber lays out what we can expect, artistically, at each broad level. Again, Art is the I of Spirit. One of the main points of this book is that both scientific and transcendental knowledge are based on testable injunctions, “If you want to know this, you must do (thus and so).” For science, that may involve years of training in a specific method. It’s the same with mysticism, years of meditation lead to spiritual states of awareness that are identical to the reports of hundreds of mystics gathered over the millenia. To me this underlines the “spiritual injunction” to

artists, in order to do spiritual art, you must have spiritual experiences.

5. To See A World – Art and the I of the Beholder 1997

Anselm Kiefer asked Ken to write an essay for one of his exhibition catalogues, and to my knowledge it was not used in the catalogue (?!) but is available for reading on Ken Wilber’s website at In this important essay, Ken states that Art Expresses Worldviews first he defines the spectrum of such worldviews, paying particular attention to the exhaustion of the ego’s existential aperspectival modern/postmodern worldviews. Beyond the personal is the transpersonal and according to Ken, “There is, right now, simply nowhere else to go.”

6. Foreword to my book, The Mission of Art 1998

In a few choice words, Ken makes clear that the purpose of transcendental art is to express something that you are not yet, but that you can become, that the highest art is a mirror of our true potential.

Ken has stated numerous times, and I agree, that art is an essentialized worldview, or as Bachelard called it, “a metaphysics in a moment.” Over the millenia, culture has embodied worldviews that both express and guide the attitudes of the people. As artists, we need to be conscious of and responsible for the views we transmit through our work. We need to use all the tools available to re-invent and invigorate our field, and to my mind, Ken provides the amazing tool of a worldview that makes peace between the quarrelsome territories of science, art and religion. After the dissociation and alienation of artists and their communities over the past 120 years, Wilber’s integrative approach holds much promise. He has lead the way beyond current post-modern thinking toward an integral approach to art, toward an art of the soul. I hope that artists of the twenty-first century will allow his wisdom to nurture their own heart’s vision and open their eyes to Spirit.

That the kosmos could exist at all, and give birth to a mind and heart as wise and caring, so highly disciplined and penetratingly clear as Ken Wilber will suffice for me as convincing proof that God exists and has our best interests at heart. Over the years, in relatively few but potent encounters, Ken has enriched and guided me, and through his many writings he has left a legacy of spiritual friendship with all artists.

The following inexcusable doggerel was written

for Ken.

I know a man who is strong

and tall as a giant redwood tree.

He lives on a mountain, meditates,

and discerns what a kosmos might need.

When the redwood blooms philosophical fruit

the boundless dimensions hear it.

Then jump on his ladder made from the tree

Which lights our way to spirit.

But the ladder is lit by swords of truth.

Our flaws shine in high relief.

We’re ashamed and defensive when we

Finally see a cherished mistaken belief.

And so this Transcendental Pugilist

Has to duke it out,

With every misguided philosopher.

But both will learn from the bout.

He’s not “the sound of one axe grinding”

As some cynical folk may chide,

But the sound of one man finding

There’s no place left to hide:

“God’s got the place surrounded!

Come out with your hearts open wide!”

So we should pay homage to the redwood beacon,

The lighthouse of the West.

The supreme translator of Sturm and Dharma,

As a spiritual friend, he’s the best.

— Alex Grey

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