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Knowledge & Human Interests 2nd Printing October 1972 Edition
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In KHI, Habermas argues that our "interests," by which he means our basic life concerns--almost in a Maslow-like sense--from survival to meaning, are ultimately evolutionarily rooted. Knowledge does "ride on top of" these interests--thus keeping, barely Marx's distinction between "base" and "superstructure"--in the sense that we want to know things because we are the sort of creature who know in order to survive, to live together, to find meaning in life, etc. But since knowledge--culture in all its forms--is the tool we use, as it were, to meet our needs (to address our interests), what we need to pay attention to in order to meet the needs of our bodies and selves is culture, human understanding.
Habermas evidently felt that with KHI he had reached a dead end. During the 1970s (following lectures at Princeton) he set off to ground social theory in social existence--that is, in our relationships as they occur by means of talking with each other. This led to his magnum opus, "The Theory of Communicative Action." His work in the 1980s and 1990s was a defense and elaboration of TCA, especially in the direction of political and legal philosophy.Read more ›
Habermas sees the empirical, natural sciences as being transcendentally grounded in our interest in the technical control of nature. Our interest in increasing our technical control over the natural world in our effort to survive determines the way in which nature is objectified in the natural sciences and the form that our scientific theories take (hypothetico-deductive connections of propositions, which permit the deduction of law-like hypotheses with empirical content, pg308) as well as the way those theories are tested and corroborated (the experimental method which is based on scientists ability to physically reproduce the same phenomena given identical initial conditions). There are definitely echoes of Nietzsche and Heidegger here in the notion that science is ultimately a means for technical control as opposed to pure theoretical speculation. The interest in technical control finds its ground in 'work' which, as Marx argued, is the process whereby the species reproduces itself in a physical sense. The process of work provides a feedback loop between theory and pragmatic testing (what works survives; what does not work is abandoned) which is similar to the method of the natural sciences and which leads to technological advance.Read more ›
He wrote in the Preface to this 1968 book, “I am undertaking a historically oriented attempt to reconstruct the prehistory of modern positivism with the systematic intention of analyzing the connections between knowledge and human interests… The analysis of the connection between knowledge and interest should support the assertion that a radical critique of knowledge is possible only as social theory. This idea is implicit in Marx’s theory of society, even though it cannot be gathered from the self-understanding of Marx or of Marxism.Read more ›
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This is Habermas's best book. In my humble view, I think KHI is one of the most important works of the twentieth century. Read morePublished 4 months ago by A