Alas, there are no absolute certainties and there are no definitive resolutions of fundamental ‘crises’.
‘Phenomenology and Sociology’ by Thomas Luckmann in Maurice
Natanson, Phenomenology and the Social Sciences, vol. I1
The means selected become intermediate goals.
Mary F. Rogers, Sociology, Ethnomethodology, and Experience2
Phenomenology and hermeneutics: the modern
passage to epistemology
It always appears very fruitful, scientifically, to consider arguments in relation,
rather than in opposition. Such a
Epistemology should be the axe that breaks the ice of a traditionalism that covers and obstructs scientific enlightenment. This book explores the arguments between critical theory and epistemology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Focusing on the first and second generations of critical theorists and Luhmann's systems theory, it examines how each approaches epistemology. The book offers a critique of the Kantian base of critical theory's epistemology in conjunction with the latter's endeavour to define political potential through the social function of science. The concept of dialectics is explored as the negation of the irrational and, furthermore, as the open field of epistemological conflict between rationality and irrationality. The book traces the course of arguments that begin with Dilthey's philosophy of a rigorous science, develop with Husserl's phenomenology, Simmel's and Weber's interest in the scientific element within the social concerns of scientific advance. In structuralism, the fear of dialogue prevails. The book discusses the epistemological thought of Pierre Bourdieu and Gilles Deleuze in terms of their persistence in constructing an epistemological understanding of social practice free from the burdens of dialectics, reason and rationality. It also enquires into issues of normativity and modernity within a comparative perspective on modernism, postmodernism and critical theory. Whether in relation to communication deriving from the threefold schema of utterance- information- understanding or in relation to self- reflexivity, systems theory fails to define the bearer or the actor of the previous structural processes. Critical realism attempted to ground dialectics in realism.
technique well when he writes of the ‘combined research into objective tendency and subjective intention’, which taken together constitute the ‘cold’
and ‘warm’ streams of a critical Marxism.15 In following this method, the
Frankfurt School situates itself in opposition to both the excessively doctrinaire approaches of Marxism in its Second and Third International form,16 and
the politically deficient subjectivism represented by phenomenology and
existentialism. The task for a critical theory of society, then, is to effectively
mediate objectivity and
articulated by phenomenology, structuralism, poststructuralism, modernists
and postmodernists, systems theory and critical realism, can certainly be considered ‘modern’ in historical terms, but in essence their concerns are of a pre-
modern and pre-scientific nature. The following chapters elucidate this critique.
Critical theory situated science within the quest for social and political
rationality. It indicated that science’s normativity –which answers the question ‘what should science do?’ –orients itself in relation to the a priori potential
of society. The latter
The mutual paranoia of Jacques Derrida and Niklas Luhmann
and with different cognitive
interests. Rather, even according to their own self-understanding, this
is a clash between two alternative worlds which oppose each other in a
way that cannot be understood as the competition of different methods,
theories or paradigms. Luhmann is engaged in an ambitious attempt to
construct a scientific theory of society as a phenomenology of
communication, in strict
impressionable graduate students. I agree with Deleuze’s remark that ultimately the most basic task
of philosophy is to impede stupidity, so I see little philosophical merit in a “movement” whose most signal achievement thus far is to have generated an online
orgy of stupidity.’ See: ‘Ray Brassier interviewed by Marcin Rychter: I am a nihilist
because I still believe in truth’, Kronos (2011), available at: www.kronos.org.pl/index.
9 Ian Bogost, Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 3.
epistemologically and politically indispensable for its capacity to
Critical theory and epistemology
A science of practices?
From the beginning (since the Outline of a Theory of Practice), Bourdieu develops theoretical phases through which dialectical strategies produce the science of practices. Bourdieu’s purpose is to formulate a theory of theories that
entails a threefold schema of approaching knowledge that is grasped from
the outside, namely from practice. The three phases that he considers are as
follows: first, phenomenology in close
refutations through plurivalent dialogue,
because it is the non-identical that knowledge seeks to manifest.13
For the second generation of critical theorists, and Habermas in particular,
critical temptations take the form of praxis. But the realization of theory does
not suffice to praxis but to the rational praxis that dialectics prepares. The
latter point marks the modern epistemological objective of critical theory in
stark contrast to the scientific theorizing of phenomenology, structuralists,
postmodernists, Luhmann and critical realists
point for such an analysis is a strict division of psychological
processes from social processes, both of which are held accountable for
the production of meaning in their own right. Luhmann's greatest
achievement was to complement the Husserlian phenomenology of
consciousness with an independent phenomenology of communication (not to
replace the former with the latter!). This led to a typical doubling of
and, in an even more impressive
way, to Husserlian phenomenology. Luhmann shifted the focus of attention
from the subject of the phenomenological study to the phenomenality of the
world, which he brought forward as forming systems’ realization and action.7
However, he grasped the epistemological deficits of systems’ perception, and
attempted to fill in the gaps with the following three major contributions.
(a) Systems are formed because they bear boundaries of their forms; in this
way, Luhmann demonstrated systems’ epistemological indispensability.
(b) Systems are