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Beyond Objectivism and Relativism

Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis

By Richard J. Bernstein

Publication Year: 2011

Drawing freely and expertly from Continental and analytic traditions, Richard Bernstein examines a number of debates and controversies exemplified in the works of Gadamer, Habermas, Rorty, and Arendt. He argues that a "new conversation" is emerging about human rationality—a new understanding that emphasizes its practical character and has important ramifications both for thought and action.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page, Copyright

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CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

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PREFACE

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pp. ix-xvi

Writing, for me, has always been an adventure of discovery. This book itself is a stage in a personal and intellectual odyssey-one which has opened new horizons of questioning. In Praxis and Action (1971), where I explored the meaning and centrality of the concepts ...

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xvii-xix

There is a prevailing bias in the United States that liberal arts colleges are primarily teaching institutions and that the university or multiversity is the place for serious scholarly research. But this bias (which, of course, contains some truth) can blind one to the unique advantages ...

Part One: BEYOND OBJECTIVISM AND RELATIVISM: AN OVERVIEW

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pp. 1-7

OBJECTIVISM AND RELATIVISM

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pp. 8-16

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THE CARTESIAN ANXIETY

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pp. 16-20

We can begin to answer these questions by concentrating on what I shall call the "Cartesian Anxiety." I do not want to suggest that this anxiety begins with Descartes or even that thinkers after Descartes have accepted it in the form in which it is found in his work. To ...

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POSTEMPIRICIST PHILOSOPHY AND HISTORY OF SCIENCE

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pp. 20-25

In what initially appear to be quite disparate contexts, controversies have broken out about the meaning, nature, and scope of rationality. But why is there a problem here? We have to recognize that we do use the expression "rational" to characterize beliefs, arguments, ...

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THE IDEA OF A SOCIAL SCIENCE

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pp. 25-30

A few years prior to the appearance of Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, another monograph appeared, Peter Winch's The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relation to Philosophy (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958). Like Kuhn's book, it was short, ...

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THE RECOVERY OF THE HERMENEUTICAL DIMENSION OF SCIENCE

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pp. 30-34

One way to begin to appreciate how these discussions converge and help to illuminate each other is to view them from the perspective of hermeneutics. As I have already mentioned, Winch was attempting to show how themes concerning the nature of meaning and action ...

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PHILOSOPHIC HERMENEUTICS: A PRIMORDIAL MODE OF BEING

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pp. 34-37

In 1960 (at approximately the same time that Kuhn's and Winch's monographs appeared), Hans-Georg Gadamer published Wahrheit und Methode. (The English translation, Truth and Method, was published in 1975.) Gadamer was sixty years old then, and the book, his magnum ...

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HERMENEUTICS AND PRAXIS

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pp. 38-44

One of the most challenging, intriguing, and important motifs in Gadamer's work is his effort to link his ontological hermeneutics with the tradition of practical philosophy, especially as it is rooted in Aristotle's understanding of praxis and phronesis. Gadamer is ...

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POLITICAL JUDGMENT AND PRACTICAL DISCOURSE

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pp. 44-45

The issues that come into prominence in the differing emphases of Gadamer and Habermas open us to a much broader dimension in the new conversation about human rationality. My purpose in introducing the "Gadamer-Habermas debate" is to emphasize the more general ...

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SCIENCE, HERMENEUTICS, AND PRAXIS

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pp. 45-49

It may seem that I have wandered quite far from the issues involved in the movement beyond objectivism and relativism. One may be genuinely perplexed about what political wisdom and the tradition of practical philosophy has to do with the character of rationality in ...

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Part Two: SCIENCE, R.ATIONALITY, AND INCOMMENSURABILITY

With elegant conciseness William James described "the classic stages of a theory's career. First, you know, a new theory is attacked as absurd; then it is admitted to be true, but obvious and insignificant; finally it is seen to be so important that its adversaries ...

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THE PRACTICAL RATIONALITY OF THEORY-CHOICE

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pp. 52-61

In the massive literature that has gathered around Kuhn's work, one theme has not been sufficiently stressed-the extent to which Kuhn was still caught in the idiom of positivism and logical empiricism that he sought to criticize and replace. Yet this positivist vestige ...

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KUHN AND HIS CRITICS: THE COMMON GROUND

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pp. 61-71

I want to return to showing how much common ground there is between Kuhn and his critics. Consider Paul Feyerabend, who has been the enfant terrible in the postempiricist philosophy of science. Any interpretation of Feyerabend is fraught with dangers, because he ...

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THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

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pp. 71-79

Let me draw together the several strands of my argument, which highlights the common features of the image of science that is emerging in the postempiricist philosophy of science. 1. We can interpret this movement of thought as contributing ...

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INCOMMENSURABILITY AND THE NATURAL SCIENCES

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pp. 79-93

In my discussion of the postempiricist philosophy and history of science, I have alluded several times to what has been taken to be the most exotic, controversial, and perhaps the vaguest theme in these discussions-incommensurability. The term gained prominence ...

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INCOMMENSURABILITY AND THE SOCIAL DISCIPLINES

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pp. 93-108

In discussing the incommensurability thesis with regard to the natural sciences, we have seen, especially in Feyerabend's work, how the discussion spills over to issues of understanding the social disciplines and hermeneutics. This becomes obvious in Feyerabend's appeal ...

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Part Three

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pp. 109-115

THE term "hermeneutics," with its ancient lineage, has only recently begun to enter the working vocabulary of Anglo-American thinkers. Its novelty is indicated in a passage cited earlier from Thomas Kuhn's The Essential Tension (1977) in which he confesses ...

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THE CARTESIAN LEGACY

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pp. 115-118

First, Descartes introduces a rigorous distinction between res cogitans and res extensa. This distinction is the basis for the sharp separation of two types of quasi substance, mind and body. I speak of mind and body as "quasi substances" because they lack one essential ...

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TRUTH AND THE EXPERIENCE OF ART

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pp. 118-125

In the first part of Truth and Method, which is entitled "The Question of Truth as It Emerges in the Experience of Art," Gadamer explores a topic that is barely mentioned by Descartes and might even seem peripheral to Cartesianism. Gadamer's main concern is ...

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UNDERSTANDING AND PREJUDICE

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pp. 126-131

As the passage just cited suggests, the "radical subjectivisation" that Gadamer ascribes to Kant's aesthetics is not limited to aesthetic phenomena, or even to Kant, but pervades all of modern thought. 16 It is itself a reflection of the modern obsession with objectivism. ...

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THE HERMENEUTICAL CIRCLE

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pp. 131-139

At several earlier stages of our inquiry we have anticipated the discussion of the hermeneutical circle, witnessing how thinkers working in different contexts have discovered for themselves its centrality. Kuhn even records "a decisive episode in the summer of ...

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TEMPORAL DISTANCE, EFFECTIVE-HISTORICAL CONSCIOUSNESS, AND THE FUSION OF HORIZONS

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pp. 139-144

Gadamer's claims that timelessness is a mode of historical being opens up a new dimension of philosophic hermeneutics. For Gadamer's reflections on philosophic hermeneutics can be approached (as is also true of Heidegger) as a meditation on temporality and historicity. I want to consider ...

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APPLICATION: THE REDISCOVERY OF THE FUNDAMENTAL HERMENEUTICAL PROBLEM

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pp. 144-150

With this outline of Gadamer's philosophic hermeneutics, we can understand what it means to claim that hermeneutics is both ontological and universal. It is ontological in the sense that understanding "denotes the basic being-in-motion of [Dasein] which constitutes ...

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THE MOVEMENT BEYOND PHILOSOPHIC HERMENEUTICS

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pp. 150-165

I have indicated that Gadamer's appropriation of the tradition of practical philosophy is not without tensions and problems. If we take Gadamer seriously and press his own claims, they lead us beyond philosophic ...

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PHILOSOPHIC HERMENEUTICS ANDTHE CARTESIAN ANXIETY

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pp. 165-169

Earlier I have suggested that if we are to exorcise the Cartesian Anxiety by moving beyond objectivism and relativism, then we need to find an alternative way of thinking and of understanding our being-in- the-world. We are now in a position to see that the whole of ...

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Part Four: PRAXIS, PRACTICAL DISCOURSE, AND JUDGMENT

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pp. 171-175

At this stage of our inquiry, we have opened up the play—the to-and- fro movement—of science, hermeneutics, and praxis. In exploring the new image of science that has been developing in the postempiricist philosophy and history of science, we have witnessed ...

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A HISTORICAL INTERLUDE

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pp. 175-181

Before exploring some of the family resemblances and convergences in Gadamer, Habermas, Rorty, and Arendt with regard to the question of praxis and phronesis, I want to do justice to the striking and consequential differences among them. These differences can be explored from ...

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PRACTICAL DISCOURSE: HABERMAS

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pp. 182-197

The perspective that is most illuminating for understanding the significant differences between Gadamer and Habermas is one that begins with examining how much they share in the "application" theme. Already in Habermas's initial critical review of Truth and ...

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RORTY'S METACRITIQUE

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pp. 197-207

But now we must ask, Can the visions projected by Gadamer and Habermas, and their respective understandings of our history and our prospects, withstand the deconstructive critiques of modernity? As we have seen, despite their own critiques of modernity and of the ...

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JUDGMENT: ARENDT

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pp. 207-223

In order to appreciate the distinctive force of Arendt's understanding of opinion and judgment and to understand how it is related to Gadamer's analysis of phronesis and Habermas's analysis of practical discourse, we need first to examine how these concepts are treated ...

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BEYOND OBJECTIVISM AND RELATIVISM:THE PRACTICAL TASK

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pp. 223-231

Throughout my discussion of Gadamer, Habermas, Rorty, and Arendt, I have sought to elicit the common concerns that they share, without denying the important differences among them. In all of them we have felt a current that keeps drawing us to the central themes of ...

NOTES

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pp. 233-259

APPENDIX

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pp. 261-265

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 267-276

SUBJECT INDEX

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pp. 277-281

INDEX OF NAMES

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pp. 282-284


E-ISBN-13: 9780812205503
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812211658

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2011