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Knowledge & Human Interests 2nd Printing October 1972 Edition

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ISBN-13: 004-6442015417
ISBN-10: 0807015415
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Editorial Reviews

Review

For those concerned with the relationships between thought and action, Knowledge and Human Interests will quickly be recognized as a brilliant book -- and a bold outline for a new social theory. --Times Literary Supplement

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; 2nd Printing October 1972 edition (February 1, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807015415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807015414
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,122,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Mark G. Thames on June 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Habermas says in an interview that he has basically followed the same research program since 1970--that is, since "Knowledge and Human Interests." (KHI) In many ways, KHI marks the peak of Habermas's effort to carry out the classic program of the critical theory of the Frankfurt School. In this, one crucial question is how to integrate the individual psychology of Freud with the sociology of Marx. Another is how to integrate a generally Darwinian paradigm into the Continental philosophical tradition stemming from Hegel.

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.
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This is a very interesting book and well worth reading. Habermas's primary thesis is that knowledge is transcendentally grounded in various interests which have a natural basis in our evolutionary history and an historical basis in our cultural, social and economic history.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Jürgen Habermas (born 1929) is a German philosopher and sociologist who is one of the leading figures of the Frankfurt School. He wrote many books, such as The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society, The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 2: Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Truth and Justification, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, etc.

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.
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