Dialectical Claims in the Light of Undialectical Criticism*


 The problem of the connection between theory and practice has repeatedly aroused the attention of philosophers and social scientists. It has led to the debate which persists even today, concerning the significance and possibility of value freedom, a debate with whose commencement and first critical phase the name of Max Weber is particularly linked. On the other hand, it has given rise to the discussion on the meaning of experiment for the social sciences whereby the methodological claim to autonomy of a cultural-scientific [geisteswissenschaftlich] character was questioned, a claim which is still made for these disciplines. It is not surprising that such questions represent a point of departure for philosophical reflections into the problems of the sciences.

   In recent times, the social sciences have developed to a considerable extent, under the influence—direct and indirect—of positivistic trends. The social sciences have favoured positivistically determined solutions to these problems, and have worked out new forms of corresponding methodological conceptions. However, one can in no way claim that today these views prevail everywhere. This is not even the case in the English-speaking world where one would most readily expect it. In the German-speaking world, it is difficult to clarify the situation in view of the influence of various philosophical currents upon the social sciences. In any case, more recent forms of positivism seem to have had only a minor effect here, possibly no stronger than historicism and neo-Kantianism, or than phenomenology and [163/164] hermeneutics. Finally, one should not underrate here the influence of the Hegelian inheritance, either direct, or mediated through Marxism, an inheritance which has, moreover, asserted itself in other ways too. Recently, an attack directed against positivistic trends has been made from this side and analysing it might be fruitful since it led to the heart of the above-mentioned problems.1

*From The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology, translated by Glyn Adey and David Frisby (London: Heinemann, 1976), pp. 163-197.

1 In connection with the controversy between Karl Popper and Theodor W. Adorno at the internal working session of the German Sociological Association in Tubingen in 1961 (see Karl R. Popper, 'The Logic of the Social Sciences', and Theodor W. Adorno, 'On the Logic of the Social Sciences'), Jürgen Habermas published under the title 'The Analytical Theory of Science and Dialectics: A Postscript to the Controversy Between Popper and Adorno') a critical contribution to Adorno's Festschrift. Soon afterwards his collection of essays Theorie und Praxis: Social Philosophische Studien (Neuwied/Berlin, 1963) appeared, which merits interest in the same connection. English trans. J. Viertel, Theory and Practice (London/Boston, 1974). What was hinted at in Adorno appears to be clearer in Habermas.

   One recognizes in this attack the view that certain difficulties which emerge in the course of the realization of the scientific programme advanced by these positivistic trends, can be overcome if one is prepared to revert to ideas which stem from the Hegelian tradition. We might, first of all, confront this attempt at a dialectical overcoming of so-called positivistic weaknesses of the social sciences, with the question of the problem situation from which the author sets out. More specifically, we should consider the question of the difficulties inherent in this problem situation; namely, in what respect and to what extent, in the opinion of Habermas, a science of the 'positivistic' type must fall down. A further question would then be that of the alternative which he develops, of its usefulness for the solution of these difficulties and its tenability; and finally, perhaps, one could go beyond this and raise the question of other possible solutions.

   The problem situation from which Habermas sets out can be characterized in roughly the following manner: in so far as the social sciences develop in a manner that brings them closer to the positivistic scientific ideal—and today this is already to a large extent the case—they grow more like the natural sciences. This is particularly true in the sense that in both types of science a purely technically rooted cognitive interest dominates,2 and theory is carried out 'with the attitude of the technician'. Social sciences which are orientated in this way are no longer in a [164/165] position to offer normative viewpoints and conceptions for practical orientation. They are only able to give technical recommendations for the realization of pre-given ends: that is, they are only able to influence the selection of means. The rationalization of practice which they make possible only refers then to its technical aspect. Thus we are dealing with a restricted rationality, in contrast to that produced by earlier doctrines—namely, by those which continued to unite normative orientation and technical directions.

2 This idea has central significance for the understanding of Habermas' thought. It is constantly reformulated in his work, see: Theory and Practice, loc. cit., pp. 60f., 75, 114, 254f., 263f., 267f. and passim; Theorie und Praxis, pp. 224ff.; further 'The Analytical Theory of Science and Dialectics', pp. 137f., 141ff., 156ff. and passim.

    The usefulness of a social science orientated in this way is thus in no way in itself denied by Habermas. But he sees the danger of its limitations not being recognized when a simple identification of technical and practical use takes place, and where thereby an attempt is made to reduce the more comprehensive practical to the narrower technical problems, as would seem to be the case given the tendency inherent in the 'positivistic' theory of science. The restriction of rationality to the use of means which is legitimized by this view, entails that the other aspect of the practical problematic, the realm of ends, falls prey to pure decisionism, the whim of mere decisions not reflected upon by reason. The decisionism of unreflected, arbitrary decisions in the realm of practice corresponds to the positivism implied by the restriction to pure value-free theories in the realm of cognition, where technological problems are not at issue. 'The price paid for economy in the selection of means is an unconstrained decisionism in the selection of the highest goals.'3

3 Habermas, Theory and Practice, loc. cit., p. 265 [amended translation], see also pp. 46f. Similarly, expressed metaphorically: 'A disinfected reason is purged of all moments of enlightened volition; external to itself, it has externalized—alienated—its own life. And life deprived of spirit leads an existence of arbitrariness that is a ghostly spirit indeed—all under the name of "decision" ', p. 265.

   Through rational reflection, the images of mythological interpretations of the world can penetrate unhindered into the realm which is left vacant through the reduction of rationality. As a result, positivism provides, de facto, not only for the rationalization of the technical aspect but, over and above this—even if unintentionally—it provides for the remythologizing of the ungrasped aspect of the practical problematic. This is a consequence from which, of course, the representatives of such views recoil. They respond with a critique of ideology which does not serve the shaping of reality, but instead the elucidation of [165/l66] consciousness and, for that reason, does not really seem intelligible in terms of the conception of science upon which it is based, and which is only directed towards technical rationality. Here it becomes apparent, in Habermas' view, that positivism tends to overcome its own accepted restriction upon rationality in favour of a more comprehensive conception, one which involves the convergence of reason and decision.4 But this tendency can only achieve a breakthrough if the limitations of positivism themselves are broken down, if its restricted reason is overcome dialectically by a reason which brings about the unity of theory and practice, and thereby the transcendence of the dualism of cognition and evaluation, of facts and decisions and the abolition of the positivistic division of consciousness. Apparently, only this dialectical reason is in a position to transcend both the decisionism of mere decision and the positivism of pure theory in order 'to comprehend society as a historically constituted totality for the purposes of a critical maieutics of political praxis'.5 Basically, Habermas is concerned with regaining the lost realm by recourse to the Hegelian inheritance preserved in Marxism: that is, with regaining practice-orientated dialectical reason for rational reflection.

4 The term 'positivism' is used very widely here—even, for example, for Karl Popper's view which differs from orthodox positivistic views in basic points. Popper himself has therefore constantly protested against his inclusion in this group. It also becomes clear that such imputation can lead to misunderstanding precisely in view of the problems dealt with by Habermas.

 5 The passage is taken from the chapter 'Between Philosophy and Science: Marxism as Critique' in the above-quoted book by Habermas, p. 205 [amended trans.]. It stands, therefore, in the context of an analysis of Marx, but in my view it represents very clearly what Habermas himself expects of dialectics, namely, a 'philosophy of history with practical intent', as he writes elsewhere. This also explains his uneasiness concerning the analyses of Marxism which fail to take into account the unity of the object: society as totality, its dialectical interpretation as a historical process and the relationship of theory to practice. On this reference to practice see also Habermas, loc. cit., pp. 78f.

   The basic lines of his critique of the 'positivistic' conception of science in the social sciences have now been presented, as have the claims which he associates with his dialectical supersession of this conception. We must now examine his objections and proposals in detail, in order to see to what extent they appear tenable.6

6 Here it is useful to refer to the above-mentioned postscript to the Popper-Adorno controversy in which he formulates his objections to Popper's critical rationalism in a precise form. Even with reference to this view, he regards his arguments against 'positivism' as sound.



In his confrontation with the analytical theory of science, Habermas takes as his starting point the distinction between the functionalist concept of system and the dialectical concept of totality which he regards as basic, but difficult to explicate. He assigns to each concept one of the two typical forms of social science with which he is concerned—analytical and dialectical social science—in order to take up the difference between them, on the basis of four problem areas. These problem areas comprise: the relationship between theory and object, between theory and experience, between theory and history and between science and practice. The relation between science and practice is subsequently analysed in more detail in the three following sections of his essay and here the problem of value freedom, and the so-called basis-problem, come to the fore.

   It is well known that the dialectical concept of totality, which forms the starting-point of Habermas' discussion, constantly recurs in theoreticians who follow in Hegel's footsteps. Apparently they look upon this concept as being in some way fundamental. It is therefore all the more regrettable that Habermas makes no attempt to provide a more precise clarification of this concept, which he strongly emphasizes and frequently uses. He merely says of it that it is to be understood 'in the strictly dialectical sense, which prohibits one from approaching the whole organically according with the statement that it is more than the sum of its parts'. Nor, he claims, is totality 'a class which might be determined in its logical extension by a collection of all the elements which it comprises'. From this he believes he can conclude that the dialectical concept of the whole is not affected by the critical investigations of the concepts of wholeness such as for example, were carried out by Ernest Nagel.7

7 See Ernest Nagel, The Structure of Science (London, 1961), pp. 380ff., an analysis to which Habermas refers explicitly. One could also consult Karl Popper, The Poverty of Historicism (London, 1957), pp. 76ff. and passim, a study which he surprisingly did not take into account, although it refers precisely to the historical-philosophical holism which he himself represents; further, Jürgen v. Kempski, Zur Logik der Ordnungsbegriffe, besonders in den Sozialwissenscbaften, 1952, reprinted in Theorie und Realität, edited by H. Albert (Tubingen, 1964).

   Nagel's studies, however, are in no way restricted to a concept of the whole which one could simply dismiss in this context as [167/168] irrelevant. Rather, he analyses various concepts which, one would imagine, might be worthy of consideration by a theoretician concerning himself with totalities of a social character.8 Habermas, however, observes that the dialectical concept of the whole; exceeds the limits of formal logic, 'in whose shadowy realm dialectics itself cannot appear as anything other than a chimera'.9 From the context in which this statement appears one may conclude that Habermas wants to challenge the possibility of logically analysing his concept of totality. Without close elucidation, one will no longer be able to see in such a thesis how to protect both the expression from an 'arbitrary decision' [Dezision] (to use this term again which has proved its worth against the: positivists)—in other words a decision [Entscheidung]—and the concept from the analysis. Anyone possessing sufficient mistrust will detect in this an immunization strategy which is based on the expectation that whatever recoils from analysis will escape criticism. Be that as it may; for Habermas the non-explicability of this concept seems particularly important since from it apparently stems the non-explicability of the distinction between 'totality' in the dialectical and 'system' in the functional sense—a distinction which he seems to regard as basic.10 This distinction is particularly  [168/169] concerned with his comparison of two types of social science, since he fosters the problematic notion that general theory must  'refer to the social system as a whole'.

8 Nagel asserts that the vocabulary of wholeness is rather ambiguous, metaphorical and vague and therefore can hardly be judged without clarification. This would also apply to Habermas' 'totality'. Even if Adorno's somewhat vague remarks about totality, with which Habermas begins his article, in no way permit a firm classification of his concept, I would still assume that if Habermas had read Nagel's presentation more carefully he would have come across at least related concepts which could have further assisted him. (For example, pp. 391ff.) In any case, his short reference, which creates the impression that Nagel's analyses are irrelevant for his own concept of 'totality' is completely inadequate, especially since he himself has no equivalent at his disposal. It is unintelligible that the rejection of the alternatives 'organic whole' and 'class' can be sufficient to exclude the question of a possible logical analysis.

9 Habermas, 'The Analytical Theory of Science and Dialectics', p. 131 above.

10 He says of it that it cannot be directly 'signified', 'for in the language of formal logic it would have to be dissolved, whilst in the language of dialectics it would have to be transcended'. But it may be possible to find a language which would not be overtaxed. What grounds are there for this idea which so quickly establishes itself, namely, that it is not possible at any cost? And incidentally, to what extent is the language of formal logic supposed to 'dissolve' something? Habermas seems to imagine here that, with its help, one can make a distinction disappear which is present in the actual usage of two concepts. That is certainly possible—in an inadequate analysis. But where does the idea originate that there cannot be an adequate analysis?   Here one may assume a certain connection with the unfortunate relationship which Hegelians in general are wont to have with logic which, on the one hand, they underestimate in importance and, on the other hand, they over-estimate in its ('falsifying') effect.

   With respect to the relationship between theory and object, he explicates the distinction between the two types of social science in the following manner. Within the framework of empirical-scientific theory, the concept of system and the theoretical statements which explicate it remain 'external' to the realm of experience analysed. Theories, he says, are here mere ordering schemata randomly constructed a syntactically binding framework, utilizable if the real manifoldness of an object-domain accommodates them—but this is, in principle, fortuitous. Here then the impression of randomness, whim and chance is evoked through the mode of expression selected. The possibility of applying strict testing procedures, whose result is largely independent of subjective will, is made ridiculous, and this is presumably connected with the fact that it is later ruled out for dialectical theory. The reader is made to think that the latter theory, on the other hand, is necessarily and internally 11 in accord with reality and thus does not require factual testing.12

11 At this point, agreement with the typical arguments of social-scientific essentialism is blatant; see, for example, Werner Sombart, Die drei Nationalökonomien (Munich and Leipzig, 1930), pp. 193ff. and passim; also my critique 'Der moderne Methodenstreit und die Grenzen des Methodenpluralismus', in Jahrbuch für Sozialwissenschaft. Band 13, 1962; reprinted as chapter 6 of my essav collection, Marktsoziologie und Enfscheidungslogik (Neuwied/Berlin, 1967).

12 The section closes with the sentence, 'Reflection which is not satisfied with this state of affairs is inadmissible'. In the next section this 'lack of satisfaction' is claimed for dialectical theory. The word 'satisfy' suggests a restriction. It will not he so easy to produce evidence that Karl Popper—who is presumably the addressee of these objections—wishes to exclude the possibility of speculation. On the contrary, however, it is precisely the dialecticians who frequently seem to desire to 'satisfy' themselves with theories whose untestability they believe they can take for granted.

   But for dialectical theory, on the contrary, the claim is made that it does not proceed so 'indifferently' in the face of its object domain as is the case in the exact natural sciences—where, it is admitted, this is successful. It 'must, in advance, ensure' the appropriateness of [its] categories for the object because ordering schemata, which co-variant quantities only accommodate by chance, fail to meet our interest in society'—which, in this case, is apparently not a purely technical one, an interest in the domination of nature. For, as soon as the cognitive interest is directed beyond this, says Habermas, 'the indifference of the system in the [169/170] face of its area of application suddenly changes into a distortion of the object. The structure of the object, which has been neglected in favour of a general methodology, condemns to irrelevance the theory which it cannot penetrate'.13 The diagnosis is 'distortion of the object'; the suggested cure: one must grasp the social life-context as a totality which, moreover, determines research itself. In this way, however, social science forfeits its alleged freedom in the choice of categories and models. Theory 'in its construction and in the structure of its concept has to measure up to the object [Sache], and 'in the method the object has to be treated in accord with its significance', a demand which by its very nature can 'only be fulfilled dialectically'. The circle— produced when one claims that it is only the scientific apparatus reveals an object whose structure must, nevertheless, previously have been understood to some degree—is 'only to be explored dialectically in conjunction with the natural hermeneutics of the social life-world', so that here 'the hermeneutic explication of meaning' will replace the hypothetico-deductive system.14

13 Habermas, loc. cit., p. 134 above.

14 Habermas, loc. cit., p. 134 above.

  The problem which Habermas here takes as his starting point is apparently connected with the fact that in analytical social science a one-sided technical cognitive interest leads to distortion of the object. At this point we come to the thesis, already mentioned, which provides him with one of his most basic objections to current procedures in the social sciences. In so doing, he adopts an instrumentalist interpretation of the empirical sciences and ignores the fact that the philosopher of science, to whom presumably his objections are basically addressed, has explicitly dealt with this interpretation and has attempted to demonstrate its dubious nature.15 The fact that informative theories of a nomological character have proved themselves to be technically utilizable in [170/171] many spheres is in no way a sufficient indication of the cognitive interest upon which they are based.16

15 In Popper's view, it is as dubious as the earlier essentialism which above all remains active in cultural-scientific thought; sec Karl Popper, 'Three Views Concerning Human Knowledge" (1956), reprinted in his essay collection. Conjectures and Refutations (London, 1963), and also other essays in this volume; further his article 'Die Zielsetzung dcr Erfahrungswisscnschaft', Ratio, I, 1957, revised English version, 'The Aim of Science' in K. R. Popper, Objective Knowledge (Oxford, 1972); further, Paul K. Feyerabend, 'Realism and Instrumentalism', in: The Critical Approach to Science and Philosophy (Glencoe, 1964). In fact, Habermas' instrumentalism seems to be more restrictive than the views of this sort that have been criticized in the above-mentioned essays. 

16 It seems superfluous to point out that the personal interests of the researchers are largely not directed towards technical success as such. Habermas presumably does not wish to dispute anything of the sort. Apparently he is thinking more of an institutionally anchored or methodically channelled interest from which the researcher, despite other personal motives, can in no way withdraw. But he does not provide sufficient evidence for this. I shall return to this point.

 An unbiased interpretation of this state of affairs can be geared to the fact that, from a deeper penetration into the structure of reality, one can expect insights which are also of importance for the orientation of action, for the orientation of a form of intercourse with real factors [Gegebenheiten]. The methodology of the theoretical empirical sciences seeks, above all, to grasp law-like connections, and to suggest informative hypotheses concerning the structure of reality, and thereby the structure of actual events. Empirical checks and, connected with these, prognoses are made in order to ascertain whether the connections are as we presume them to be. Thus our 'prior knowledge' can, of course, be placed in question without any difficulty. Here a fundamental role is played by the idea that we can learn from our mistakes by exposing the theories in question to the risk of destruction at the hands of the facts.17 Interventions into real events can thereby serve to create situations which make the risk relatively high. Technical successes, produced in connection with research, can be attributed to the fact that one has in part drawn closer to the real connections. To a certain extent, then, this is rephrased by Habermas  'dialectically' in the idea that a one-sided cognitive interest is present here. The most conspicuous consequences of scientific development, which, moreover, can easily be interpreted realistically, are made the occasion for reinterpreting the cognitive efforts accordingly, and 'denouncing' them—as one would presumably have to express it in neo-Hegelian terms—as purely technical.18

17 See the works of Karl Popper.

18 The instrumentalist interpretation of the natural sciences seems to be endemic amongst Hegelians, as is the notoriously poor acquaintance with logic. One finds both, for instance, well developed in Benedetto Croce's Logik als Wissenschaft vom reinen Begriff (Tubingen, 1930), where the natural sciences are in principle accredited only with 'pseudo-concepts' without cognitive significance (pp. 2i6ff.), formal logic is devalued as being rather meaningless (pp. 86tf.), and philosophy and history are identified with one another in a curious manner as genuine knowledge (pp. 20411'.). See Jürgen v. Kempski, Brechugen (Hamburg, 1964), pp. 85f. In Habermas one finds the tendency to link both the technical rationality of science with the 'logic of subsumption' and the universal rationality of philosophy with dialectics.  

  [171/172] For the present, let us take the alleged dominance of technical cognitive interests for granted. As long as it is present, says Habermas, theory remains indifferent towards its object-domain. But if interest is directed beyond this, then this indifference changes suddenly into the distortion of the object. How can a change of interest achieve this?  Does the type of proposition perhaps, or the structure of the theory, change? How may we conceive of this? Habermas gives us no indications. In any case, he robs the social scientist who proceeds analytically of any hope of altering his desperate situation in any way through an appropriate alteration of his interest, unless he goes over to dialectics and, in so doing, relinquishes his freedom to choose categories and models.19 The naive advocate of analytical modes of procedure will be inclined to adopt the view that he can most readily guarantee the appropriateness of his categories by subjecting the theories in which they play a role to strict test procedures.20  Habermas considers this to be insufficient. He thinks that he can guarantee the appropriateness of his categories in advance. This seems to be prescribed for him by his cognitive interest, which is of a different nature. What he has written in this connection indicates that he would like to start out from everyday language and from the stock of everyday knowledge, in order to gain access to correct theory formation.21

19 If this freedom is greater in the type of social science which he criticizes, then one must still presume that the theories favoured by the dialectician are included in his margin of freedom, so that, at least by chance, he can stumble across the essential. Against this, only the thesis concerning the distortion of the object seems to help.

20 See, for example, my article 'Die Problcmatik der okonomischen Perspektive', in Zeifschrift für die gesamte Stattswissenschaft, vol. 117, 1961, also my introduction ('Probleme der Theoriebildung') to Theorie und Realitat, loc. cit.

21 It is interesting to see here how Habermas approaches not merely the hermeneutic-phenomenological trends in philosophy but, at the same time, those of the linguistic bent, whose methods lend themselves to a dogmatization of knowledge incorporated in everyday language. For both, see the relevant critical analyses in Jürgen v. Kempski's interesting collection of essays, Brechungen. Kritische Versuche zur Philosophie der Gegenwart, loc. cit.

   I am not aware of any objection which one could make against recourse to everyday knowledge unless it is linked with any false claims. Even the natural sciences have distanced themselves from experiential knowledge of everyday life, but this was only possible with the help of methods which rendered this knowledge problematic and subjected it to criticism—partially under the influence of ideas which radically contradicted this 'knowledge'  [172/173] and were corroborated in the face of 'common sense'.22 Why should things be any different in the social sciences? Why should one not here too be able to draw upon ideas which contradict everyday knowledge? Does Habermas wish to exclude this? Does he wish to declare common sense—or somewhat more sublimely expressed, 'the natural hermeneutics of the social life-world'—to be sacrosanct?  If not, then wherein does the specificity of his method lie? To what extent is 'the object' [Sache] treated more in accord with its own significance' than in the usual methods of the empirical sciences? Rather, it seems to me that certain prejudices are being expressed here. Does Habermas perhaps wish to deny a priori his assent, to theories which do not owe their emergence to a 'dialectical exploration' in conjunction with this 'natural hermeneutics'? Or does he wish to present them as being inessential?  What can be done if, after empirical tests, other theories are better corroborated than are those with a higher pedigree? Or should these theories be so constructed that they cannot in principle be destroyed? Many of Habermas' statements suggest that he wishes to give preference to pedigree over performance. In general, the method of dialectical social science at times creates a more conservative than critical impression, just as this dialectic looks, in many respects, more conservative than it pretends to be.

22 See the essays of Karl Popper in Conjectures and Refutations, loc. Cit.


Habermas accuses the analytical conception of tolerating 'only one type of experience', namely 'the controlled observation of physical behaviour, which is set up in an isolated field under reproducible conditions by subjects interchangeable at will.'23 Dialectical social theory opposes such a restriction. 'If the formal construction of theory, of the structure of concepts, of the choice of a general methodology, but rather . . . must, in advance, measure up to a preformed object, then theory cannot merely be united at a later stage with an experience which is then, of course, restricted.' The insights, to which dialectical social science has recourse, stem from 'the fund of pre-scientifically accumulated experience', apparently the same experience as that to which reference was  [173/174] made in connection with natural hermeneutics. This prior experience, which relates to society as a totality, 'shapes the outline of the theory' which 'cannot clash with an experience, however restricted it may be'; but, on the other hand, it need not forego thought which cannot be checked empirically either. Precisely its central statements are not to be 'wholly resolved by empirical findings'. This means, however, to be compensated for by the fact that, on the one hand, even the 'functionalist concept of the system' cannot be checked whilst, on the other hand, 'the hermeneutic anticipation of totality must ... in the course of the explication . . . establish itself as correct'. The concepts, which are otherwise 'merely' analytically valid, must 'be legitimated in experience', whereby, of course, the latter is not to be identified with controlled observation. Here, the impression of a more appropriate, if not even a stricter, testing procedure is created than is otherwise normal in the empirical sciences.

23 Habermas, 'The Analytical 'Theory of Science and Dialectics', p. 135 above.

    In order to judge these objections and proposals, one has to be quite clear which problems are under discussion here. That the conception which Habermas criticizes tolerates 'only one type of experience' is, as it stands, simply false, no matter how familiar to its critics who are orientated to the cultural sciences, the reference to a too narrow concept of experience may be. Rather, for theory formation, this conception needs to make no restrictions in this respect—as opposed to the conception upheld by Habermas which commits one to a recourse to natural hermeneutics. The 'channelled' experience to which he alludes24 becomes relevant for a definite task—namely, that of checking a theory on  the basis of facts in order to ascertain its factual corroboration.  For such a check it is essential to find situations which discriminate as much as possible.25 The result of this is merely that one has occasion to favour such situations if a serious test is intended. Stated differently, the less a situation discriminates with regard to a certain theory, the less it is useful for testing the theory. If no relevant consequences for the situation in question result from the [174/175] theory, then this situation is useless in this respect. Can the dialectical view raise any objection to this? We should bear in mind that, according to Habermas, even a dialectical theory cannot clash with experience, however restricted it may be. So far, his polemic against the narrow type of experience seems to me to rest largely on points of misunderstanding.

24 I do not intend to discuss at this point whether he has characterized it adequately in detail, but instead I wish to indicate the possibility of utilizing statistical methods in order to perform non-experimental checks and further draw attention to the fact that the whole realm of symbolic and, consequently, verbal behaviour is to be classified along with 'physical' behaviour.

25 See Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (London, 1959), passim, as well as his essay 'Science: Conjectures and Refutations' in his above mentioned essay collection, where the risk of destruction at the hands of facts is stressed.

   The further question of whether one must forego 'thoughts' which are not testable in this way can, without further ado, be answered negatively. No one expects such a sacrifice of the dialectician; not even, for example, in the name of the modern theory of science. One can simply expect that theories which claim to make statements about social reality are not so constructed as to admit random possibilities, with the result that they make no allowance for actual social events. Why should the thoughts of the dialecticians not be convertible into theories which, in principle, are testable?26

26 Habermas cites in this context Adorno's reference to the untestability of the dependence of each social phenomenon 'upon the totality'. The quotation stems from a context in which Adorno, with reference to Hegel, asserts that refutation is only fruitful as immanent critique; see Adorno, 'On the Logic of the Social Sciences', pp. 112f. Here the meaning of Popper's comments on the problem of the critical test is roughly reversed through 'further reflection'. It seems to me that the untestability of Adorno's assertion is basically linked with the fact that neither the concept of totality used, nor the nature of the dependence asserted, is clarified to any degree. Presumably, there is nothing more behind it than the idea that somehow everything is linked with everything else. To what extent some view could gain a methodical advantage from such an idea would really have to be demonstrated. In this matter, verbal exhortations of totality ought not to suffice.

   As far as the origin of dialectical insights in 'pre-scientifically accumulated experience' is concerned, we have just had the opportunity of discussing the question of emphasis upon this connection. The advocate of the view which Habermas criticizes has, as we have said, no occasion to overrate such problems of origin. In principle, he has no objection to 'prior experience' guiding theory formation, even if he would point out that this experience, as it is sketched out by Habermas, contains, amongst other things, the inherited mistakes which can, to a certain extent, help to 'shape' theory formation. There would be every reason, then, to invent strict tests for theories with this origin, in order to escape from these and other mistakes. Why should it be merely this origin which guarantees the quality of the categories?   Why should not new ideas similarly receive a chance to prove themselves?   It seems to me that, at this point, Habermas' methodology [175/176] becomes unnecessarily restrictive—in fact, as already mentioned, in a conservative direction—whilst the conception which he accuses of demanding that theory and concept formation be  'blindly' subjected to its abstract rules, makes no substantive prohibitions, because it does not believe it can presuppose any uncorrectable 'prior' knowledge. The extended concept of experience which Habermas invokes appears, at best, to have the methodical function of making respectable mistakes—which belong to so-called accumulated experience—difficult to correct.27

27 In contrast, the methodology which he criticizes also includes the possibility of theoretical corrections to previous experiences. In this respect, it is apparently less 'positivistic' than that of the dialecticians.

   Habermas does not explain how the 'hermeneutic anticipation of totality' establishes itself as correct 'in the course of the explication' as a 'concept appropriate to the object itself. It is clear, however, that he is not thinking here at any rate of a testing procedure along the lines of the methodology which he criticizes. After such methods of testing have been rejected as inadequate, there remains a claim, supported by metaphors, which is linked to the supposed existence of a method—not described in more detail but, nonetheless, better. Previously, Habermas had drawn attention to the untestability of the 'functionalist concept of system' whose appropriateness for the structure of society apparently seems problematical to him. I do not know whether he would accept the answer that this concept too could establish itself to be correct in the course of explication. Rather than such a boomerang argument, I prefer to question all the overstressing of concepts which one finds in Habermas, as in almost all the cultural scientific methodologists, as being the Hegelian inheritance of which they are apparently unable to rid themselves.28 Here, that essentialism finds its expression which Popper has criticized and which has long been overcome in the natural sciences. The view which Habermas is attacking is not concerned with concepts but statements and systems of statements. In conjunction [176/177] with these, the concepts used in them can be corroborated or not corroborated. The demand that they should be judged in isolation, independently of their theoretical context, lacks any basis.29 The overtaxing of concepts practised by Hegelians, which reveals itself above all in words like 'totality',  'dialectical' and 'history', does not amount, in my opinion, to anything other than their fetishization'—that, as far as I can see, is their specialist term for such. It merely amounts to a word magic in the face of which their opponents lay down their weapons—unfortunately too early in most cases.30

28 Recently Jürgen v. Kempski has drawn attention to this point; see his essay 'Vorausetzunglosigkeit.  Eine Studie zur Geschichte eines Wortes' in his Brechungen, p. 158. He points out that the shift of emphasis from the statement to the concept, which took place in post-Kantian German idealism, is closely connected with the transition to raisonnements whose logical structure is difficult to penetrate. German philosophers, as another critic has rightly stressed, have learned from Hegel above all darkness, apparent precision and the art of apparent proof; see Walter Kaufmann, 'Hegel: Contribution and Calamity', in From Shakespeare to Existentialism (Garden City, 1960).  

29 Otherwise too, Habermas' comments on concepts are quite problematical. He concludes the section on theory and object (loc. cit., p. 134), for example, with the statement that in dialectical social science 'concepts of a relational form give way to concepts which are capable of expressing substance and function in one'. From this stem theories of a more 'flexible type' which have the advantage of self-reflexivity. I cannot imagine in what way logic is enriched here. One should really expect a detailed explanation. At least one would like to see examples for such concepts—preferably, of course, a logical analysis, and a more precise discussion of where its special achievement lies.

30 Analysis instead of accentuation ought to be recommended here. It is certainly very refreshing when, for example, Theodor W. Adorno reveals the word-magic of Heideggerism with well-formulated ironical turns of phrase; see his The Jargon of Authenticity, trans. K. Tarnowski and F. Will, (Evanston/London, 1973). But does not the language of dialectical obscuration which goes back to Hegel sometimes appear to the unbiased very similar? Are the efforts which bear the characteristic of strained intellectual, activity and which attempt to 'reduce the object to its concept' always so far removed from the exhortation of being?

       In his discussion of the relationship between theory and history, Habermas contrasts prediction on the basis of general laws, which is the specific achievement of empirical-scientific theories, with the interpretation of a historical life-context, with the aid of a definite type of historical law-like regularities. The latter is the specific achievement of a dialectical theory of society. He rejects the 'restrictive' use of the concept of law in favour of a type of law which claims 'a validity which is, at the same time, more comprehensive and more restricted', since the dialectical analysis, which makes use of such historical laws of movement, apparently aims to illuminate the concrete totality of a society undergoing historical development. Such laws are not then generally valid, they relate rather 'to a particular concrete area of application, defined in terms of a process of development both unique in toto and irreversible in its stages. This means that it is defined not merely analytically but through the knowledge of the object itself. Habermas accounts for the fact that its realm of validity [177/178] is at the same time more comprehensive, with the usual reference to the dependence of individual manifestations upon the totality, for such laws apparently express their fundamental dependent   relations.31 At the same time, however, they seek to 'articulate the objective meaning of a historical life-context'. Dialectical analysis then proceeds hermeneutically. It gains its categories 'from the situational consciousness of acting individuals' and takes up, 'through identification and critique', the 'objective spirit of a social life-world' in order to reveal, from this standpoint, 'the historical totality of a social context', which is to be understood as an objective context of meaning. Through the combination of the method of Verstehen with that of causal analysis in the dialectical approach, the 'separation of theory and history' is overcome.

31 See Habermas, loc. cit., pp. 138ff.

    Once again then, the methodological view of the analysts apparently proves to be too narrows In its place, the outlines of a more grandiose conception are indicated; one that aims at grasping the historical process as a whole and disclosing its objective meaning. The impressive claims of this conception are clearly recognizable, but so far there has been no trace of a reasonably sober analysis of the procedure sketched out of its components. What does the logical structure of these historical laws look like, which have been accredited with such an interesting achievement, and how can one test them?32  In what sense can a  law which relates to a concrete, historical totality, to a unique and  irreversible process as such, be anything other than a singular  statement? Where does the law-like character of such a statement lie? How can one identify the fundamental relations of dependency of a concrete totality? What procedure is available in order to proceed from the subjective hermeneutics, which has to be overcome, to the objective meaning? Amongst dialecticians these might all be questions of lesser importance. One is acquainted with this in theology. The interested outsider, however, feels his credulity over-taxed. He sees the claims which are produced with superior reference to the restrictedness of other views, but he  [178/179] would really like to know to what extent such claims are well-founded.33

32 What differentiates them, for example, from the law-like regularities of a historicist character which Karl Popper in The Poverty of Historicism, loc. cit., has to some extent, effectively criticized? May one presume that Habermas assumes this criticism is irrelevant, just as earlier he characterized Nagel's investigations as being irrelevant to his problems?    

33 It is well known that even the so-called method of subjective understanding has met with strong criticism for some time within the social sciences, and this cannot be simply brushed aside. A hermeneutics, which alleges to break through to an objective meaning, may be far more problematic even if it does not become immediately conspicuous, of course, in the current milieu of German philosophy. On this, see Jürgen v. Kempski, 'Aspekte der Wahrheit', in Brechungen, especially 2: 'Die Welt als Text', where he tracks down the background to the exegetic model of knowledge referred to here.


 Habermas' next topic is the relationship between theory and practice, a problem which is of basic importance for him, since what he strives for is apparently nothing less than a scientifically organized philosophy of history with practical intent. Even his transcendence of the division between theory and history, by means of a dialectical combination of historical and systematic analysis, goes back, as he stresses earlier, to just such a practical orientation. This is certainly to be distinguished from a merely technical interest—the alleged source of undialectical empirical science. This opposition, to which reference has already been made, becomes central to his investigation in this context.  Apparently we have now reached the core of his argument.34

34 To this problematic he devotes not only a considerable section of his contribution to Adorno's Festschrift but also the systematic parts of his book Theory and Practice.

   His basic concern here is to overcome the already criticized restriction of positivistic social science to the solution of technical problems, in favour of a normative orientation. This is to be accomplished, in fact, with the help of that total historical analysis whose practical intentions 'can be released from pure arbitrariness and can be legitimated, for their part, dialectically from the objective context'.35 In other words, he is looking for an objective justification of practical action derived from the meaning of history, a justification which a sociology with an empirical-scientific character cannot, by its nature, produce. But in all this, he cannot ignore the fact that Popper too concedes a certain place [179/180] in his conception for historical interpretations.36 Popper, however, sharply attacks historical-philosophical theories which, in some mysterious manner, seek to unveil a hidden objective meaning in history that is to serve practical orientation and justification. He upholds the view that such projections usually rest on self-deception, and that we must decide to give history itself the meaning which we believe we can uphold. Such a 'meaning' can then also provide viewpoints for historical interpretation, which in each case involves a selection that is dependent upon our interest, yet without the objectivity of the connections chosen for the analysis having to be excluded.37

35 Habermas, 'The Analytical Theory of Science and Dialectics', p. 138 above; see also Theory and Practice, loc. cit., pp. 114ff. 36 See the last chapter of his book The Open Society and its Enemies (1944): 'Has History any Meaning?', or perhaps his essay 'Selbstbefreiung durch das Wissen' in Der Sinn der Geschichte, edited by Leonhard Reinisch (Munich, 1961). English trans. 'Emancipation Through Knowledge' in The Humanist Outlook, A. J. Ayer ed., (London, 1968).

37 Popper has repeatedly drawn attention to the selective character of each statement and set of statements and also to that of the theoretical conceptions in the empirical sciences. With reference to historical interpretations, he says expressly 'Since all history depends upon our interests, there can be only histories, and never a "history”, a story of the development of mankind "as it happened" '. See 'The Open Society and its Enemies, loc. cit., p. 364, note 9. Similarly Otto Brunner in 'Abendlandisches Geschichtsdenken' in his essay collection: New Wege der Sozialgeschichte (Gottingen, 1956), pp. 17 if.

  Habermas, who wishes to legitimate practical intentions from an objective total historical context—a desire usually relegated by his opponents to the realm of ideological thought—can, by its very nature, make little use of the type of historical analysis which Popper concedes, for various historical interpretations are possible according to the selective viewpoints chosen in each case. But Habermas, for his purposes, requires the single superior interpretation which can be drawn upon for legitimation. For this reason, he plays off against the Popper [sic] 'pure arbitrariness' of the particular viewpoints selected, and apparently claims for his interpretation—which relates to totality, and which reveals the real meaning of events (the aim of society as it is called elsewhere38) —an objectivity which can only be achieved dialectically. But the supposed arbitrariness of Popper's interpretation is not particularly damaging, for such an interpretation does not make any of the claims which are to be found in Habermas. In view of his criticism, however, one must ask how he, for his part, avoids such arbitrariness. Given the fact that one finds no solution in his [180/181] writings to the legitimation problem which he himself raises, one has every reason to assume that arbitrariness is no less problematical in his case—the only difference being that it appears under the mask of an objective interpretation. It is difficult to gauge to what extent he can reject the Popperian critique of such supposedly objective interpretations, and the critique of ideology of the 'superficial' enlightenment in general. To some extent, totality proved to be a 'fetish' which serves to allow 'arbitrary' decisions to appear as objective knowledge.

38 Habermas, Theory and Practice, loc. cit., p. 321, in connection with an analysis of a discussion of Marxism which is, in other aspects too, extremely interesting.  

   As Habermas rightly asserts, this brings us to the problem of the so-called value freedom of historical and theoretical research.  The postulate of value freedom rests, as he says, on 'a thesis which, following Popper, one can formulate as the dualism of facts and decisions',39 and which can be explained on the basis of  the distinction between natural laws and norms. He regards the 'strict separation' of these 'two types of law' as problematical. With reference to this, he formulates two questions, the answers to which allow us to clarify the issues involved; namely, on the one hand, whether the normative meaning is excluded from a rational discussion of the concrete life-context from which it emerged and upon which it still reacts and, on the other hand, the question of whether knowledge reduced positivistically to empirical science is, in fact, released from every normative bond.40 The manner of posing the questions in itself shows that he appears to interpret the dualism mentioned in a way that rests upon misunderstanding, for that which he questions here has  little to do with the meaning of this distinction.

39 Habermas, 'The Analytical Theory of Science and Dialectics', p. 144 above.

40 Habermas, p. 148 above.

   The second of the two questions leads him to the investigation of Popper's suggestions concerning the basis-problem.41 He discovers in them unintended consequences which allegedly involve a circle, and he sees in this evidence for the embedding of the research process in a context which is only explicable hermeneutically. The problem revolves around the following:  Popper, in opposition to the advocates of a protocol language, insists that even basic statements can, in principle, be revised, since they themselves contain a theoretically determined element  [181/182] of interpretation.42 One has to apply the conceptual apparatus of   the theory in question in order to obtain basic statements. Habermas detects a circularity in the fact that, in order to apply laws, one needs to have previously established the facts; but this can only be achieved in a process in which these laws are already applied. There is a misunderstanding here. The application of laws—and that means here the application of theoretical statements—demands the use of the relevant conceptual apparatus to formulate the conditions of application which come into question, and to which the application of the laws themselves can attach itself. I do not see what circularity is involved here nor, in particular, how in this case Habermas' deus ex machina, hermeneutic explication, would be of more help. Nor do I see to what extent 'the detachment of methodology from the real research process and its social functions' takes its revenge, here—whatever he means by this.

41 We are concerned here with the problem of the character of basic statements—statements which describe observable states of affairs—and of their significance for the testability of theories; see Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, loc. cit., ch.5. 

 42 This point of view is even more strongly expressed in Popper's later works; see, for example, the essays in his above-mentioned collection.

    The reference made by Habermas in this context to the institutional character of research and the role of normative regulations in the research process, is in no way suited to solving previously unsolved problems.43 As far as the 'fact' is concerned which Popper is supposed to 'persistently ignore' namely 'that we are normally in no doubt at all about the validity of a basic statement', and that, as a result, the logical possibility of an infinite regress de facto does not come into question, one can only make  the following reply: namely, that, in itself, the factual certainty  of a statement can only with difficulty be considered as a criterion  of the statement's validity, and that, this apart. Popper himself solves the problem of regress without resorting to problematical states of affairs of this sort. His concern is not an analysis of factual behaviour but rather a solution of methodological problems. Reference to unformulated criteria, which are applied de facto in the institutionally channelled research process, is no solution to such a problem. The assertion that the problem really does not arise in this process, in no way serves to eliminate it as a methodological problem. One has only to recall that, for many [182/183] scientists, the problem of information content—incidentally a related problem—does not present itself, and this frequently has the result that, under certain conditions, they tautologize their systems and render them devoid of content. Problems must present themselves to the methodologists which other people often do not think of.

43 In any case. Popper himself has already analysed such connections. In his book The Logic of Scientific Discovery, he criticized naturalism with regard to methodological questions and, in his major social philosophical work The Open Society and its Enemies he deals explicitly with the institutional aspects of scientific method. His distinction between natural laws and norms in no way led him to overlook the role of normative regulation in research.

  The norms and criteria, upon which Habermas reflects in a very general manner in this section of his essay, are characteristically treated from the perspective of the sociologist as social states of affairs, as factors in a research process based on the division of labour, a process embedded in the context of societal labour. This is a perspective which can certainly be of great interest. For methodology, however, it is not a question of the acceptance of social data, but rather of the critical elucidation and rational reconstruction of the relevant rules and criteria with reference to possible aims; for example, the aim of more closely approximating to the truth. It is interesting that the dialectician becomes, at this point, the real 'positivist' by imagining he can eliminate problems of the logic of research by reference to factual social data. This is not a transcendence of Popperian methodology but rather an attempt to 'circumvent' its problems by drawing upon what one is wont to disavow in other contexts as 'mere facticity'.

   As far as the sociological aspects are concerned, one must likewise doubt whether they can be adequately treated in the way in which Habermas suggests. It is in this respect—with respect to the so-called life-references of research—that one must take into account the fact that there are institutions which stabilize an independent interest in the knowledge of objective contexts, so that there exists in these spheres the possibility of largely emancipating oneself from the direct pressure of everyday practice. The freedom to engage in scientific work, made possible in this way, has made no small contribution to the advance of knowledge. In this respect, the inference of technical utilization from technical rootedness proves to be a 'short-circuit'.*

* Albert here makes a pun on Rückschluss (inference) and Kurzschluss (short-circuit). Unfortunately this cannot be rendered into English.


   Habermas, in treating the basis-problem, introduces the question of the normative regulation of the cognitive process and from this can return to the problem of value freedom which formed his starting point. He can now say that this problem testifies 'that the analytical-empirical procedures cannot ensure for themselves [183/184] the life-reference within which they themselves objectively stand.44 His succeeding comments suffer, however, from the fact that at no point does he formulate the postulate of value freedom, whose questionability he wishes to emphasize, in such a way that one can be sure with which assertion he is actually concerned. One can understand the value freedom of science in a variety of ways. I do not suppose that Habermas thinks that anyone upholding such a principle in any sense of the word could any longer form a clear picture of the social context in which research stands.45

44 Habermas, p. 158.

45 As far as the reference which he makes at the start of his essay (p. 132 above) is concerned, that positivism has abandoned the insight 'that the research process instigated by human subjects belongs, through the act of cognition itself to the objective context which should be apprehended', one only needs to refer to the relevant works, above all, Ernst Topitsch, 'Sozialtheorie und Gesellschaftsgestaltung'  (1956) reprinted in his volume of essays Sozialphilosophie zwischen Ideologie und Wissenschaft (Neuwied, 1961). There one also finds critical material on the dialectical processing of this insight.

    Modern advocates of a methodical value freedom principle are in no way wont to overlook the normative references of research and the knowledge-guiding interests.46 Generally they propose more detailed solutions in which various aspects of the problem are distinguished.

46 Such an objection could also hardly be made against Max Weber. Similarly such objections could not be applied to Karl Popper who has explicitly distanced himself from the demand for an unconditional value freedom (see his paper 'The Logic of the Social Sciences', pp. 87ff.) nor to Ernst Topitsch. I have frequently expressed myself on these problems, most recently in 'Wertfreiheit als methodisches Prinzip' in Schriften des Vereins für Sozialpolitik, Neue Folge, vol. 29 (Berlin 1963)

    Similarly, Adorno's remarks on the problem of value, referred to by Habermas, will scarcely take us further. When he points out that the separation of evaluative and value free behaviour is false in so far as value, and thus value freedom, are themselves reifications, then similarly we may ask to whom such remarks are addressed. Who would relate the above-mentioned dichotomy so simply to 'behaviour'? Who would take up the concept of value in such a simple manner as is implied here?47 Adorno's judgment that the whole value problem is falsely posed,48 bears no relation [184/185] to a definite formulation of this problem, and can therefore hardly be judged; it is an assertion which sounds comprehensive but  carries no risk. He alludes to antinomies from which positivism cannot extricate itself, without even giving an indication of where they might lie. Neither the views criticized, nor the objections raised against them can be identified in such a way that an unbiased person could judge them.49 In a very interesting manner, Habermas too talks of value freedom as the problem of reification, of categories of the life-world which gain power over a theory which devolves on practice, and similar things which presumably have escaped the 'superficial' enlightenment, but he does not condescend to analyse concrete solutions of the value problem.

47 See for example, the study of Viktor Kraft in his book Grundlagen einer wissenschaflichen Werttheorie, 2nd ed. (Vienna, 1951), which can serve as a starting point for a more differentiated treatment of the value freedom problem. There can be no talk of 'reification' or of a value concept which can be criticized in this way. If one speaks of value freedom and similar terms as if they were Platonic essences which everyone can see then the ambiguity of such terms is inadequately represented.

48 Adorno, 'On the Logic of the Social Sciences', p. 118 above.


49 The passage to which Habermas refers ('What was subsequently sanctioned as a value does not operate externally to the object . . . but rather is immanent to it') suggests an interpretation of Adorno's position which one presumes would hardly please him, that is, an interpretation along the lines of a naive value-realism which is still to be found in the Scholastics.

   In connection with the problem of the practical application of social-scientific theories, he then discusses Myrdal's critique of ends-means thought.50 The difficulties to which Myrdal draws attention in connection with the question of value-neutrality lead him to attempt to demonstrate that one is forced into dialectical thought in order to overcome them. His thesis concerning the purely technical orientation of empirical-scientific knowledge plays a role here; de facto this makes necessary the guidance of 'programmatic viewpoints which are not reflected upon as such'.51 Thus, technically utilizable social-scientific theories could not 'despite their own self-understanding, satisfy the strict demands of value-neutrality'. 'It is precisely the domination of a technical cognitive interest, hidden to itself,' he says, 'which conceals the veiled investments of the relatively dogmatic total understanding of a situation, with which even the strictly empirical sociologist has implicitly identified himself before it slips through his hands in the initial stages of a formalized theory under the claim of hypothetical universality.' He then concludes that if these interests, which de facto guide knowledge, cannot be suspended then they must 'be brought under control and criticized or legitimated as objective [185/186] interests derived from the total societal context'; this, however, forces one into dialectical thought.

50   These are thoughts which Myrdal published in 1933 in his essay, 'Das ZweckMittel-Denken in der Nationalökonomie' in Zeitschrift für Nationalokonomie, vol. IV; English translation in his essay collection Value in Social Theory (London, 1958). I am pleased that this essay, to which I have been constantly drawing attention over the last ten years, is gradually receiving general attention.

51 Habermas, 'The Analytical Theory of Science and Dialectics', p. 161 above.

    Here the fact that dialecticians persistently refuse to dissect the complex value-problematic and to treat its particular problems separately apparently takes its revenge in the fear that 'the whole' —which they, as if spellbound, seek never to let out of their sight  —could slip through their fingers. In order to reach solutions at all, one has, now and again, to avert one's gaze from the whole and, temporarily at least, to bracket off totality. As a consequence of this thought which is directed to the whole, we find constant reference to the connection of all details in the totality, which compels one to dialectical thinking, but which results in not a single actual solution to a problem. Studies which show that here one can make progress without dialectical thought are, on the other hand, ignored.52

52 In my view, Habermas does not sufficiently distinguish between the possible aspects of the value problem. I will not bother going into details here in order not to repeat myself; see, for instance, my essay 'Wissenschaft und Politik' in Probleme der Wissenscbaftstheorie. Festschrift für Viktor Kraft, edited by Ernst Topitsch (Vienna, 1960), as well as the above-mentioned essay 'Wertfreiheit als methodisches Prinzip'.  I have written on the problem of ends-means thought discussed by Myrdal in Okonomische Ideologie und politiscbe Theorie (Gottingen, 1954); 'Die Problematik der okonomischen Perspektive', in Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaff, vol. 117, 1961, reprinted as the first chapter in my Marktsoziologie und Entscheidungslogik and the section 'Allgemeine Wertproblematik' of the article 'Wert' in Handworterbuch der Sozialwissenschaften. For a critique of the Myrdal book mentioned in note 50 see 'Das Wertproblem in den Sozialwissenschaften' in Schweitzer Zeitschrift für Volkswirtschaft und Statistik, vol. 94, 1958. In my view, my suggested solutions for the problems in question render the leap into dialectics unnecessary.


It can hardly be doubted that Habermas sees the problem of the relation between theory and practice mainly from the perspective of the justification of practical action, and that he understands it as a problem of legitimation. This perspective also explains his attitude towards a critique of ideology which provides no substitute for that which it disavows. In addition, there is his instrumentalist interpretation of pure science which makes more difficult his own access to the understanding of such a critique of ideology. He links both with modern irrationalism which makes plausible his demand for a dialectical transcendence of 'positivistic' limitations.  He believes that the restriction of the social sciences to 'pure'  [186/187] knowledge—whose purity seems to him, in any case, problematical—eliminates from the horizon of the sciences the questions of life-practice in such a way that they are henceforth exposed to irrational and dogmatic attempts at interpretation.53 These attempts at interpretation are then subjected to a 'positivistically circumscribed critique of ideology', which is basically indebted to the same purely technically rooted cognitive interest as is technologically utilizable social science; and consequently, like the latter, it accepts the dualism of facts and decisions. Since such a social science, similar to the natural sciences, can only guarantee the economy of the choice of means whilst action over and above this demands normative orientation; and since ultimately, the 'positivistic' type of critique of ideology is in a position to reduce the interpretations which it criticizes merely to the decisions upon which they rest, then the result is 'an unconstrained decisionism in the selection of the highest goals'. Positivism in the domain of knowledge is matched by decisionism in the domain of practice; a too narrowly conceived rationalism in the one realm matches irrationalism in the other. 'Thus on this level the critique of ideology involuntarily furnishes the proof that progress of a rationalization limited in terms of empirical science to technical control is paid for with the corresponding growth of a mass of irrationality in the domain of praxis itself'.54 In this context, Habermas is not afraid to relate quite closely the diverse forms of decisionism represented, amongst others, by Jean-Paul Sartre, Carl Schmitt and Arnold Gehlen as in some degree complementary views to a very broadly conceived positivism.55 In view of the irrationality of decisions accepted by positivists and decisionists alike, the return to mythology is understandable, Habermas believes, as a last desperate attempt 'to secure institutionally . . . a socially binding precedent for practical questions'.56

53 See the section 'The positivistic isolation of reason and decision', in his essay 'Dogmatism, Reason, and Decision' in Theory and Practice, loc. cit., pp. 263f; further 'The Analytical Theory of Science and Dialectics', pp. 146f.

54 Habermas, Theory and Practice, loc. cit., p. 265.

55 One finds a certain analogy to Habermas' complementary thesis in Wolfgang de Boer's essay, 'Positivismus und Existenzphilosophie' in Merkur, vol. 6, 1952, 47, pp. i2ff., where the two intellectual currents are interpreted as two answers to the 'same tremendous event of the constitution of existence'. As a remedy, the author recommends a 'fundamental anthropological interpretation', 'a science of man which we do not, as yet, possess'.

56 Habermas, Theory and Practice, loc. cit., p. 267 [amended trans.]. In this connection, he refers to a very interesting book by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, loc. cit., where, within the framework of an analysis of the 'dialectics of myth and enlightenment', positivism is 'denounced' and Hegel's poor acquaintance with logic, mathematics and positive science is renewed.

 [187/188] Given his understanding of positive science, Habermas' thesis is at least plausible, even if it does not do justice to the fact that the relapse into mythology, where it has actually occurred, can in no way be attributed to the specific rationality of the scientific attitude.57 Usually the positivism which Habermas criticizes makes itself quite unpopular in totalitarian societies, in which such a remythologization is on the agenda, whilst dialectical attempts at the interpretation of reality are frequently able to gain recognition there.58 Of course, it can always be said later that this was not true dialectics. But how can true dialectics actually be recognized? Habermas' treatment of Polish revisionism is interesting in this connection.59 This revisionism developed in reaction to Stalinist orthodoxy in an intellectual milieu which was greatly determined by the influence of the Warsaw school of philosophy. Amongst other things, its critique was directed against the characteristics of a holistic philosophy of history with practical intent—characteristics which determine the ideological character of Marxism. Habermas wishes to take up positively those characteristics of Marxist thought which fell prey to revisionism's critique. This development is not accidental. It is connected with the fact that in Poland, after the opportunities for a certain amount of free discussion had been created, the [188/189] arguments of the dialecticians collapsed—one could say, all along the line—under the impact of the counter-arguments from the Warsaw school.60 It is a bit too simple to attribute an epistemological naïvety, as Habermas does, to the theoreticians who were compelled to relinquish untenable positions in the face of the critical arguments of philosophers who belonged to a dominant tradition in the theory of knowledge. Leszek Kolakowski's retreat to a 'methodological rationalism' and a more 'positivistic revisionism', which Habermas so sharply criticizes, was motivated by a challenge to which our own inheritors of Hegelian thought must first prove equal, before they have cause to dismiss lightly the results of the Polish discussion.61

57 It is interesting that in the Third Reich Carl Schmitt's 'decisionism' which yielded to a 'concrete thought devoted to the upholding of order (Ordnungsdenken)' readily recalls Hegel, as attested to by the Hegelian Karl Larenz at that time; see Karl Larenz's review of Carl Schmitt's book, Über die drei Arten des rechfswissenschaftlichen Denkens (Hamburg, 1934), in Zeitschrift für Deutsche Kulturphilosophie, vol. 1, 1935, pp. 112ff. This periodical also contains testimonies to a mode of thought which draws considerably upon Hegel and is right-wing in orientation. It is not difficult to incorporate it into the realm of fascist ideology.

58 See Ernst Topitsch's paper 'Max Weber and sociology today' in O. Stammer (ed.). Max Weber and Sociology Today (Oxford, 1971). Also very interesting in this respect is the book by Z. A. Jordan, Philosophy and Ideology. The Development of Philosophy and Marxism-Leninism in Poland since the Second World War (Dordrecht, 1963), in which the confrontation between the Warsaw school of philosophy, which ought to fall under Habermas' broad concept of 'positivism', and the dialectically orientated Polish Marxism, is analysed in detail.

59 See Theorie und Praxis, loc. cit., pp. 324ff. This is the final section—‘Immanente Kritik am Marxismus’—of a very interesting essay, 'Zur philosophischen Diskussion um Marx und den Marxismus' which also includes a discussion of Sartre and Marcuse. In this essay, Habermas' intentions concerning a philosophy of history with practical intent, one which reworks the insights of the empirical social sciences, are well expressed.

60 See the above mentioned book by Jordan, Philosophy and Ideology, parts 4-6. The relevant argument for Habermas' conception is to be found in part 6: 'Marxist-Leninist Historicism and the Concept of Ideology.'

61 This is especially true since one can hardly claim that the Polish Marxists did not have access to the arguments which our representatives of dialectical thought believe they have at their disposal.

   It seems to me that a close connection exists between the particular features of dialectical thought and the fact that dialectical attempts to interpret reality, in contrast to the 'positivism' which Habermas criticizes, are frequently quite popular in totalitarian societies. One can recognize a basic achievement of such forms of thought precisely in the fact that they are appropriate for disguising random decisions as knowledge, and thereby legitimating them in such a way as to remove them from the possibility of discussion.62 A 'decision' veiled in this manner, will look no better even in the light of reason—however comprehensive it may be—than that 'mere' decision which one imagines one can overcome in this way. Unmasking through critical analysis can then, only with difficulty, be criticized in the name of reason.63

62 See, for example, the critical examination by Ernst Topitsch in his book Sozialphilosophie zwischen Ideologie und Wissenschaft, loc. cit., and also his essay 'Entfremdung und Ideologie. Zur Entmythologisierung des Marxismus' in Hamburger Jahrbuch für Wirtschafts-und Gesellschaftspolitik, 9, 1964.

63 The 'superficial' enlightenment, which has to be overcome dialectically seems to me largely identical with the 'flat' and 'shallow' enlightenment which, for a long time in Germany, has been met with suspicion as a dubious metaphysics of the state, or as the name of concrete life-references; on this subject see Karl Popper,  'Emancipation Through Knowledge', loc. cit., Ernst Topitsch, Sozialphilosophie zwischen Ideologie und Wissenschaft,, loc. cit., and my contribution to the Jahrbuch für  Kritische Aufklärung 'Club Voltaire', I (Munich, 1963), 'Die Idee der kritischen Vernunft'.

   Habermas cannot, it is true, completely incorporate this [189/190] critique of ideology into his scheme of a technically rooted, and therefore randomly utilizable, knowledge. He is compelled to recognize a 'reified critique of ideology' which apparently has, to a certain extent, severed itself from this root,64 and in which 'honest positivists, whose laughter is dispelled by such perspectives' namely those who shrink back from irrationalism and  remythologization 'seek their foothold'. He regards the motivation of such a critique of ideology as unclarified but, this is only true because here he can hardly impute the only motive which he finds plausible, namely that of the provision of new techniques. He sees that this critique 'is making an attempt to enlighten consciousness' but fails to see from whence it draws its strength 'if reason divorced from decision must be wholly devoid of any interest in an emancipation of consciousness from dogmatic bias'.65 Here he encounters the dilemma that scientific knowledge of this sort is, in his opinion, only possible as 'a kind of committed reason, the justified possibility of which is precisely what  the critique of ideology denies' but with a renunciation of  justification however 'the dispute of reason with dogmatism itself  remains a matter of dogmatic opinion'.65a He sees behind this  dilemma the fact that 'the critique of ideology must tacitly presuppose as its own motivation just what it attacks as dogmatic, namely, the convergence of reason and decision—thus precisely a comprehensive concept of rationality'.65b In other words, this form of critique of ideology is not in a position to see through itself. Habermas, however, sees through it; it is, for him, a veiled form of decided reason, a thwarted dialectics. One sees where his restrictive interpretation of non-dialectical social science has led him.

64 See Habermas, Theory and Practice, loc. cit., pp. 267ff. He refers initially to the studies of Ernst Topitsch which are printed in Sozialphilosophie zwischen Ideologie und Wissenschaft, loc. cit. The book seems to provide him with certain difficulties of categorization.

65 Habermas, loc. cit., p. 267 (amended translation).

65a ibid., p. 268.

65b ibid., p. 268 (amended translation).

   The critique of ideology analysed in this manner can, on the other hand, readily admit an underlying interest in an 'emancipation of consciousness from dogmatic bias'. It is even capable of reflecting on its foundations without running into difficulties. But as far as Habermas' alternative of dogmatism and rational [190/191] justification is concerned it has every cause to expect information as to how dialectics is capable of solving the problem of rational justification which arises here. Above all dialectics is dependent upon such a solution since it sets out from the standpoint of the legitimation of practical intentions. Whether positivism is in a position to offer a solution, indeed whether it is interested at all in a solution of such problems, is a question whose answer will depend, amongst other things, upon what one understands by  'positivism'. We shall return to this point.

   According to Habermas, one can distinguish between one type of critique of ideology and, corresponding to it, a rationality which is only orientated to the value of scientific techniques, and another which, over and above this, also develops from 'the significance of a scientific emancipation for adult autonomy'.66 He is prepared to admit that possibly 'even in its positivistic form  the critique of ideology can pursue an interest in adult autonomy'. The Popperian conception, to which he makes this concession, apparently, in his opinion,67 comes closest to the comprehensive  rationality of the dialectical sort. For it cannot be denied that Popper's critical rationalism, which was developed precisely as a reaction to the logical positivism of the thirties, recognizes in principle no boundaries to rational discussion, and consequently can take up problems which a more narrowly understood positivism is not wont to discuss.68 But he has no cause however to attribute all such problems to positive science. Critical reason in Popper's sense does not stop at the boundaries of science. Habermas concedes to him the motive of enlightenment but   draws attention to the 'resigned reservation' which, it is claimed,  [191/192] lies in the fact that here rationalism only appears 'as his professed faith'.69 One can assume that his critique at this point is linked with the above-mentioned expectation of justification.

66 Theory and Practice, loc. cit., pp. 268ff. and p. 276.

67 Habermas, loc. cit., p. 276. Ernst Topitsch, on the other hand, if I understand correctly, must it seems be classified under the first type. I am unable to recognize the basis for this classification. Nor do I see how one can carry out a cataloguing in accordance with this scheme at all. What criteria are applied here? Does not the first form of the critique of ideology perhaps owe its fictive existence to its restrictive interpretation of scientific knowledge? 

 68 Incidentally, it is thoroughly questionable to discuss such problems against the background of the positivism of the thirties, which has long been abandoned by its early representatives. Even at that time, there was also, for example, the Warsaw school, which never indulged in some of the restrictions. Wittgenstein's statement quoted by Habermas in connection with the question of value freedom—'We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched' (p. 171)—seems to me to be rather uncharacteristic for most positivists. It has nothing to do with Popper's view, which makes its appearance in connection with a critique of Popper unintelligible.

69 Habermas, Theory and Practice, loc. cit., p. 276.

    Undoubtedly this expectation remains unfulfilled. Popper develops his view in a confrontation with a 'comprehensive rationalism' which is uncritical in so far as it—analogous to the paradox of the liar—implies its own transcendence.70 Since, for logical reasons, a self-grounding of rationalism is impossible, Popper calls the assumption of a rationalist attitude a decision which, because it logically lies prior to the application of rational arguments, can be termed irrational.71 However, he then makes a sharp distinction between a blind decision and one taken with  open eyes, that is, with a clear knowledge of its consequences. What is Habermas' position on this problem? He passes over it, presumably on the assumption that a dialectician is not confronted with it.72 He does not take up Popper's arguments against comprehensive rationalism. He admits that 'if scientific insight purged of the interest of reason is devoid of all immanent reference to praxis and if, inversely, every normative content is detached nominalistically from insights into its real relation to life—as Popper presupposes undialectically—then indeed the dilemma must be conceded: that I cannot rationally compel anyone to support his assumptions with arguments and evidence from experiences'.73 He does not show, however, how far the assumption [192/193]  of an 'immanent reference to praxis' in knowledge, or a combination of normative content and insight into things can be relevant here. His remarks,, in the last analysis, amount to the fact that the problems of a comprehensive 'decided' reason can be adequately resolved. One does not learn, however, what this solution looks like. His idea that 'in rational discussion as such a tendency is inherent, irrevocably, which is precisely a decisive commitment entailed by rationality itself, and which therefore does not require arbitrary decision, or pure faith',74 presupposes rational discussion as a fact, and consequently overlooks the problem raised by Popper. The thesis that even 'in the simplest discussion of methodological question . . . a prior understanding of a rationality is presupposed that is not yet divested of its normative elements,'75 is scarcely appropriate as an objection to Popper, who has not denied the normative background of such discussions but rather has analysed it. Once again, Habermas' tendency to point to 'naked' facts instead of discussing problems and solutions to problems is revealed.

70 Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, loc. cit., p. 230.

71 One can argue here as to whether the expressions used are problematical in so far as they can possibly evoke misleading associations. One could, for example, restrict the use of the dichotomy 'rational-irrational' to cases in which both possibilities exist. The word 'faith' which appears in this context in Popper is similarly loaded in many respects, above all on account of the widespread idea that there hardly exists a connection between faith and knowledge. But, despite this, it is not here primarily a matter of the mode of expression.

72 It is not without interest in this connection that the founder of dialectics, in the form in which it is played oft against 'positivism' by Habermas, failed to get by without a 'resolution' 'which one can also regard as an arbitrary action'; see G. F. W. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik, edited by Georg Lasson, Erster Teil, vol. 56 of the Meiner Library, p. 54. Jürgen von Kempski has specifically drawn attention to this point in the essay already mentioned, ‘Voraussetzungslosigkeit’ in Brechungen, loc. cit., p. 142, p. 146 and passim. Besides this von Kempski points out that 'the so-called German idealists have made the Kantian position on the primacy of practical reason and the doctrine of postulates into a focal point for a reinterpretation of the critique of reason—a reinterpretation subservient, in the last analysis, to theological motives', loc. cit., p. 146.

73 Habermas, Theory and Practice, loc. cit., p. 276.

74 Habermas, loc. cit., p. 279 (amended translation).

75 Habermas refers here to David Pole's interesting book. Conditions of Rational Inquiry (London, 1961), a book which, despite partial critique of Popper, adopts a great number of his views. Pole discusses his work The Open Society and its Enemies but not, however, later publications in which Popper has further developed his critical rationalism.

   In the meantime, Popper has further developed his views in a way that should be relevant to the problems which Habermas treats.76 He aims at the transcendence of views which are directed towards the idea of positive justification,77 and he opposes to this the idea of the critical test, detached from justificatory thought, which only has the choice between an infinite regress that cannot be fulfilled, and a dogmatic solution. Habermas, too, is still in the grip of this justificatory thought when he has recourse to factual certainties of some kind, when he wishes to legitimate practical intentions from an objective context, and when he expects that meta-ethical criteria be derived and justified from underlying  [193/194] interests.78 The alternative of dogmatism and rational justification, which he considers important is affected, no matter how obvious it sounds, by the argument that recourse to positive reasons is itself a dogmatic procedure. The demand for legitimation which Habermas' philosophy of history with practical intent inspires, makes respectable the recourse to dogmas which can only be obscured by dialectics. The critique of ideology aims at making such obscurations transparent, at laying bare the dogmatic core of such arguments, and relating them to the social context of consequences in which they fulfill their legitimating function. In this respect, it counteracts precisely such edifices of statement as Habermas demands for the normative orientation of practice—it must provide not legitimating but critical achievements. Anyone undertaking to solve the problem of the relationships between theory and practice, between social science and politics from the perspective of justification is left—if he wishes to avoid open recourse to a normative dogmatics—only with retreat to a form of obscurantism such as can be achieved by means of dialectical or hermeneutic thought. In this, language plays no small part; namely, one which stands in the way of a clear and precise formulation of ideas. That such a language dominates even methodological reflections which precede the actual undertaking, and also the confrontation with other conceptions on this level, can presumably only be understood from the angle of aesthetic motives if one disregards the obvious idea of a strategy of relative immunization. 79

76 See in particular his essay 'On the Sources of Knowledge and Ignorance' in Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. XL VI, 1960, reprinted in Conjectures and Refutations; see also William Warren Bartley, The Retreat to Commitment (New York, 1962); Paul K. Feyerabend, Knowledge without Foundations (Oberlin/Ohio, 1961), and my above-mentioned contribution, 'Die Idee der kritischen Vernunft'.

 77 Even in his Logik der Forschung (Vienna, 1955), one can find the basis for this development; see his treatment of the Friesian trilemma of dogmatism, infinite regress and psychologism in the chapter on the problem of an empirical basis.

78 See Theory and Practice, loc. cit., p. 280, where he discusses my essay 'Ethik und Meta-Ethik' which appears in Archiv für Philosophie, vol. n, 1961. In my treatment of the problem of corroboration for ethical systems, he objects to the fact that here the positivistic limitations would involuntarily become evident, since substantive questions would be prejudiced in the form of methodological decisions, and the practical consequences of the application of the relevant criteria would be excluded from reflection. Instead of this, he suggests a hermeneutic clarification of historically appropriate concepts and, in addition, the justification from interests mentioned.  Just before this, however, he quotes a passage of mine from which it becomes clear that a rational discussion of such criteria is quite possible. Here nothing is excluded from reflection nor is anything prejudiced in the sense of decisions which cannot be revised. It would be difficult to determine whether something is 'in itself’ a 'substantive question' and, for this reason, has to be discussed on a quite specific level.

79 However, one has the impression that wherever this language makes an appearance in works by members of the Frankfürt School, even when their ideas seem quite interesting, they are themselves 'setting up a hedgehog defence' (einigeln) in advance against possible critics.  



 The problem of the relations between theory and practice, central to Habermas' thought, is interesting from many standpoints. The representatives of other views also have to come to grips with this.80 It is a problem in whose treatment philosophical views inevitably play a role. This may lead to useful solutions, but may also in certain circumstances render a solution more difficult. Habermas' manner of tackling the problem suffers from the fact that he exaggerates the difficulties of the views he criticizes by means of restrictive interpretations and, at best, indicates his own solutions vaguely and in metaphorical turns of phrase.81 He behaves hypocritically towards his opponents but more than  generously towards dialecticians. He is unsparing with advice to his opponents that they should overcome their restrictedness by creating the unity of reason and decision, the transition to a comprehensive rationality, and whatever other formulations he might suggest. But what he positively opposes to their 'specific' rationality are more metaphors than methods. He makes thorough use of the advantage that lies in the fact that Popper, for instance, formulates his views clearly, but he exposes his readers to the disadvantage that they must painstakingly find their way through his own exposition.

 80 Over a long period, for example, Gerhard Weisser, schooled in the Fries-Nelson version of Kantianism, has concerned himself with this problem. In economics we find the so-called welfare-economics, which primarily has utilitarian roots. Particularly in this discipline it has become evident what difficulties the undertaking of the justification of political measures through theoretical considerations faces. It frequently seems here that the greatest difficulties lie in the details.

81 I do not in any way wish to dispute that his book Theory and Practice contains interesting, partly historical analyses and confrontations which I cannot discuss within the framework of the problems at hand. I have only been able here to deal with systematic ideas which are important for his critique of 'positivism'. The relevant sections may not necessarily be decisive for an appreciation of the book as a whole.

   Substantively, the fundamental weakness of his presentation lies in the manner in which he outlines the problem situation. His instrumentalist interpretation of the theoretical empirical sciences forces him towards an interpretation of the 'positivistic' critique of ideology for which there are surely no indications in social reality. Where he cannot help but concede the motive of enlightenment, the emancipation of consciousness from dogmatic bias, he [195/196] indicates restrictions which are difficult to identify merely on the basis of his formulations. The thesis of the complementarity of positivism and decisionism which he upholds does not lack a certain plausibility, if one relates it to the unreflected 'positivism' of everyday life. It may even have something in its favour if one presupposes his instrumentalist interpretation of science, but it can hardly be applied in a meaningful manner to the philosophical views which he wishes to attack with his thesis. In his attempts to demonstrate the questionability of the distinction between facts and decisions, between natural laws and norms, distinctions which he regards as mistaken oppositions, he has to constantly presuppose such distinction. It is precisely because of the obliteration of the distinction that a clarification of the relations between these things is made more difficult. That there are relations between them is in no way denied in the views he criticizes. Instead, such relations are analysed.

   The crude 'positivism' of common sense may tend not only to distinguish pure theories, bare facts, and mere decisions but also to isolate them from one another if it seeks to free itself from the original fusion of these elements in the language and thought of everyday life. But this is in no way true of the philosophical views which Habermas criticizes. Instead, they reveal manifold relations between these moments which can be relevant for knowledge and action. The facts then appear as theoretically interpreted aspects of reality,82 the theories as selective interpretations in whose judgment facts once again play a part and whose acceptance involves decisions. These decisions are made according to standpoints which, on a meta-theoretical level, are accessible to objective discussion.83 As far as the decisions of practical life are concerned, they can be made in the light of a situational analysis which makes use of theoretical results and takes into consideration consequences which are actually expected. The distinction between facts and decisions, nomological and normative statements, [196/197] theories and states of affairs, in no way involves a lack of connection. It would hardly be meaningful to 'dialectically transcend' all such distinctions in a unity of reason and decision postulated ad hoc, and thus to allow the various aspects of problems and the levels of argumentation to perish in a totality which may certainly encompass all simultaneously, but which then makes it necessary to solve all the problems simultaneously. Such a procedure can only lead to problems being hinted at but no longer analysed, to a pretence at solutions but not their implementation. The dialectical cult of total reason is too fastidious to content itself with 'specific' solutions. Since there are no solutions which meet its demands, it is forced to rest content with insinuation, allusion and metaphor.

82 See, for example, Karl R. Popper 'Why are the Calculi of Logic and Arithmetic Applicable to Reality?' in Conjectures and Refutations, loc. cit., esp. pp. 213f.

83 Habermas admits (Theory and Practice, loc. cit., pp. 280-1) that 'as soon as argument with rational warrants is carried on at the methodological—the so-called meta-theoretical and meta-ethical—level, the threshold to the dimension of comprehensive rationality has already been breached', as if the discussion of such problems with critical arguments had not always been characteristic precisely for the types of rationalistic view which he covers with the collective name of positivism. One only has to glance at certain periodicals to determine this.

   Habermas is not in agreement with the solutions to problems offered by his partners in discussion. That is his right. They themselves are now particularly satisfied with them. They are prepared to discuss alternatives if these are offered, and to respond to critical reflections in so far as arguments can be recognized in them. They do not suffer from that restriction of rationality to problems of positive science which Habermas frequently believes he has to impute to them, nor do they suffer under the restrictive interpretation of scientific knowledge which he makes the foundation of his critique. They do not see, in the positive sciences, simply the means of technical rationalization, but instead, in particular, a paradigm of critical rationality, a social realm in which the solution of problems using critical arguments was developed in a way which can be of great significance for other realms.84 They believe, however, that they must meet the dialectics which Habermas favours with scepticism, among other reasons because, with its assistance, pure decisions can so easily be masked and dogmatized as knowledge. If he sets store by the elucidation of the connections between theory and practice, and not merely by their metaphorical paraphrase, then Habermas has sought out the false opponents, and a false ally; for dialectics will offer him not solutions, but simply masks under which lurk unsolved problems.

84 That even science is not immune from dogmatization is quite familiar to them, since science too is a human undertaking; see, for example, Paul K. Feyerabend,  'Uber konservative Züge in den Wissenschaftcn und insbesondere in der Quantentheorie und ihre Beseitigung' in Club Voltaire, Jahrbuch für kritiscbe Aufklärung I, edited by Gerhard Szczesny (Munich, 1963).

SOURCE: Albert, Hans. "The Myth of Total Reason: Dialectical Claims in the Light of Undialectical Criticism," in The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology, translated by Glyn Adey and David Frisby (London: Heinemann, 1976), pp. 163-197.

Note: The footnote marked with asterisks was not in the original publication.

A Positivistically Bisected Rationalism by Jürgen Habermas

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The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology:
Notes, Questions & Comments by Ralph Dumain:
I: Adorno's Introduction

Vienna Circle, Karl Popper, Frankfurt School, Marxism, McCarthyism & American Philosophy: Selected Bibliography

Theodor W. Adorno Study Guide

The Frankfurt School: Philosophy in Relation to Social Theory, Cultural Theory, Science, and Interdisciplinary Research.
Phase 1: Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse in the 1930s. Study Group Syllabus
by R. Dumain

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