All About Habermas.

An edgy essay by Robert Whyte

Not Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas

In this occasional disquisition on the many things philosophers are not known for we come to another of the Frankfurt school, Jürgen Habermas. This is likely to be a large entry into the annals, since Habermas was not known for almost everything, certainly including:

  • nanotechnology and the prophets of doom
  • breeding Manx cats
  • crimes of fashion
  • armour-piercing rainbows
  • a nuclear device known as Davy Crockett
  • a list of colours causing unconsciousness in rats
  • why paper clips are not used in routine eye operations
  • how starfish differ from stars in an astrological sense
  • the influence of Genghis Khan on Mayan literature
  • the connection between Hackney carriage drivers, fishmongers and wax chandlers, and
  • hiking Antarctica.

The list could go on, and on, and on, and keep on going on, and on, until you screamed for mercy. However, today we are not going to enlisterate everything, we are going to focus (zoom, really, to avoid using a rude word) in on some topics where Habermas was a complete and total ignoramus.

First among these, is of course, the dangers of knitting. It’s not as if Habermas avoided this topic, he simply never considered it. He was (and still is) largely ignorant on the topic of knitting altogether, let alone its dangers. Yet almost everyone knows that while knitting needles (the word needles already sounds dangerous without going any further) are usually made out of wood, they can be made out of metal, ivory, walrus tusks, bamboo, aluminium, steel, plastic, glass and sometimes plutonium. We need say no more, but we will. Have you ever fallen on a knitting needle? Did you know it could lead to radiation poisoning?

The other principal terror and scourge of the knitting business is wool, or yarn as it is known in some less-enlightened countries. Wool is made by is made by blending wool, stretching wool and spinning wool strands into wool. It seems obvious really, and rather self-serving. Anyway, wool is clearly dangerous because if a dog, cat, or even you were to swallow wool it could get stuck in your throat causing you to choke, go into a stage of strangulation, resulting in intestinal problems and almost certain death.

Harbermas did know something about having a cleft palate because when he was born his palate was indeed cleft. He had corrective surgery twice during childhood which gave rise to a lot of thinking about palates and their cleftness which consumed most of his waking hours in speculation until World War II which gave him something else to worry about.

In some sense, probably the most important sense of all, Habermas was really two people. Firstly he was the person he was and then he was all the people he wasn’t. This paralleled the things he was known for and not known for in an almost identical way. The people he wasn’t included, in order of importance:

  • Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • J. L. Austin
  • John Searle
  • George Herbert Mead
  • Jean Piaget
  • Lawrence Kohlberg, and
  • Karl-Otto Apel.

He also wasn’t Marlene Dietrich.

About Jürgen Habermas, there is very little left to say. In this abhorrent vacuum we could spend a little time on such concepts as Canadian history and voting behaviour in Brazil, but as it is for Habermas, the growth of ideas we might have cultivated on these topics is a lifeless desert.

Instead we could indulge in some barely controlled invective on the topic of modernization which results in the deterioration of boundaries between public and private, the individual and society, the system and the lifeworld (whatever that means).

The one thing Habermas was knowledgeable about was how to change his mind. He switched from thinking a) Derrida was a prize nincompoop to thinking b) Derrida was a really good bloke after all, not the least for predeceasing him, a status which Habermas is gleefully extending.

The fact that Habermas’s thinking was rather muddled on these questions:

  • Is a public culture of reason and ordered liberty possible in our post-metaphysical age?
  • Is philosophy permanently cut adrift from its grounding in being and anthropology?
  • Does this decline of rationality signal an opportunity or a deep crisis for religion itself?

did not stop him for trying to answer them, with disappointing results, for he failed to cotton on to the foundational role of superstition and delusion in all religious thinking.

Never mind, no one cared.


Mr Nemo, W, W, & Z, Tuesday 19 March 2019

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Mr Nemo

Mr Nemo

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.