Systems' rationality is an example of epistemology in Niklas Luhmann's work, for it produces a theoretical development that is critical of Jurgen Habermas' corresponding notion, prominent in its manifestation and promising in its proliferation. Luhmann owes much inspiration for his systems theory to the structural understanding of society and science. Thus, he attempts a deconstruction of the modern. In his understanding, since the Enlightenment, the modern presupposes but also produces reason, dialectics and the rationality of the sciences. The main argument of this chapter holds that instead of the formalism of systems theory, social enlightenment and political rationality are the outcomes of normative theory and rational praxis, which owe their validity and applicability to the formation of dialectical reason. Luhmann's reversal of critical theory into a traditional theory takes the form of a distortion of modernity in which systems theory is presented as the novel and innovative epistemology for modernity.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on some of the main accounts of the human subject and on the conceptions of art and language which emerge within the Kantian and post-Kantian history of aesthetics. It discusses the work of two of the founding figures of aesthetics: Alexander Baumgarten and J.G. Hamann. Baumgarten's Aesthetica and Hamann's Aesthetica in nuce, begin to suggest what is at stake in the emergence of aesthetics as an independent branch of philosophy. The book describes the story of modernity told by the proponents of the 'postmodern condition', like Jean-François Lyotard, has its roots in the work of Heidegger. It also describes the power of Heidegger's ideas is evident in the way they have influenced many contemporary theories of modernity.
The importance attributed to aesthetic questions in recent philosophy becomes easier to grasp if one considers the reasons for the emergence of modern aesthetic theory. Immanuel Kant's main work on aesthetics, the 'third Critique', the Critique of Judgement (CJ), forms part of his response to unresolved questions which emerge from his Critique of Pure Reason (CPR) and Critique of Practical Reason. Dieter Henrich regards the crux of Kant's epistemology as the justification of 'forms of cognition from the form and nature of self-consciousness'. Kant's attempts to come to terms with the 'supersensuous substrate' of the subject's relationship to the object threaten to invalidate the boundary between law-bound nature and the autonomy of rational beings which was essential to the CPR. Kant himself actually follows aspects of the Enlightenment tradition of understanding music and objects, by seeing music as a 'language of emotions'.