Notes From: Towards a Transformation of Philosophy

Karl-Otto Apel (trans. Glyn Adey, David Frisby), Towards a Transformation of Philosophy, Routledge and Kegal Paul, 1980 [FP 1972, 1973]


Apel's collection of essays is to reconstruct philosophy in such a manner that combines the insights of ordinary language philosophy, thus dispensing of metaphysics, but extending it to incorporate pragmatics, resulting what he calls...

"the programme of transcendental pragmatics" pix

Chapter 1: Wiggenstein and the problem of hermeneutic understanding p1-45

An essay which seeks to examine how the early Wittgenstein challenged the lack of grounding in hermeneutics, but also contained the germ for development of incorporating the insights of hermeneutics in his later works.

"the critical impulse of this hermeneutic tradition has been directed against the tendency to misunderstand the original meaning of a text, which has arisen as a result of the historical distance from the sources." (p1-2)

"In Wittgestein's view, the distinction between the problem of understanding and the problem of truth rests upon the fact that, in a language constructed in a logically perfect manner, we must presuppose that we have assigned to the words objects as their meanings; but we cannot presuppose a priori that the statements in the language are correlated with facts. (p5)

"This famous suspicion of nonsenicality with which Wittgenstein viewed traditional metaphyiscs apparently provide the absolute counterpoint to the spirit of a hermeneutic philosophy and its theory of the understanding of meaning... His critical impulse is not primarily directed at a deficient disposition on the part of the interpreter ... but rather against the meaning claims of the text itself. For him the standard of measuring the understanding of meaning is not (conscious or unconscious) human intention but simply the logical form of the language to be understood." (p7)
[on early Wittgenstein]

"It becomes clear at this juncture that the point o the reduction of the problem of consciousness to the problem of language does not lie in the denial of consciousness, soul, human subject, etc., but rather in a radical transcendalization which identified the metaphyiscal subject as the limit of the world with the logical subject of language as such:

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

The world is my world: the is manifest in the fact that the limits of language ... mean the limits of my world (5.6.2)"

"In my opinion, however, this reductio ad absurdum of hermeneutics by transcendental semantics is extremely instructive and provides that contrasting framework which hemreneutics requires for its philosophical self-understanding... Dilthey himself felt the need to revitalize or concretize Kant's historical transcendental subject so that he could realize his plan for a critique of historical reason by analogy with the critique of pure reason." (p12)

"The resulting two-dimensionality of the problem of interpretation can be related to an old semantic problem, namely that the distinction between extensional and intensional meaning." (p15)

"How cn they convince the unhappy victim of metaphysical rumination of the nonsensical nature of the questions he raises if they cannot have recourse to a theoretcial insight into the essence of language's function, of 'meaning', 'sense' and 'understanding'. an insight which must be superior to the traditional presuppositions?" (p20)

"... it seems to me that the essential change [between TLP and PI] lies in the fact that the presupposition of single precision language is abandoned. This language would be one which, by means of its 'logical form' that it shares with the describable world, lays down the framework within which every analysis of language and reality is carried out. This metaphysical or transcendental semantic presupposition is now replaced by the new worthing hypothesis of an unlimited number of different, but more or less related, 'language-games' which develop and disintegrate historically." (p21-22)

"For it is precisely the mood of a sentence (declarative, imperative, interrogative, and also indicative, subjunctive, optative, conditional, etc.) that expresses the entanglement of linguistic usage with the situational reference of the life-form in the language-game." (p23)

"If the description of language-games as units of linguistic usage, life-form and world interpretation is intended to take over the function of the hermeneutic understanding of intended meanings, then precisely the type of language-game that is related to other language-games must become a key problem for a hermeneutics based on Wittgenstein's work." (p30),

"To an extent, it is possible to establish common ground between the hermeneutic function of Wittgenstein's language-game model and Dilthey's 'common sphere' which, like Hegel, he also calls the 'sphere of the objective mind'. But the comparison between the later Wittgenstein and the later Dilthy draws upon the above-mentioned examples not, in fact, for 'hermeneutic understanding' but rather for pre-scientific 'elementary' or 'pragmatic' understanding." (p34)

Chapter 2: Scientistics, hermeneutics and the critique of ideology: outline of a theory of science from a cognitive-anthropological standpoint p46-76

A review of the problem of defining science as an explantory system in opposition to interpretative system. Associates the intersubjective with concerns of facticity of claims.

"By 'cognitive anthropology' I mean an approach which enlarges the Kantian question of the 'preconditions for the possibility of knowledge' in the sense that not only the preconditions for an objectively valid, unified world conception for a 'consciousness as such' specified, but so too are all the preconditions that make possible a scientific problem as a meaningful one." (p46)

"In my opinion, the meaning of the problem of physics, for example, cannot be made intelligible solely be recourse to 'unifying' (synthetic) functions of consciousness ('categories'). The meaning also presuppose a 'unified interpretation' on the basis of a linguistic 'agreement' by the investigators of nature as well as their possibility of a realization of the question by an instrumental intervention in nature." (p46-47)

"From a cognitive-anthropological viewpoint, linguistic signs no more belong to the objects of knowledge than do the sense organs or the technical instruments that mediate their intervention in external nature. For the signs, too, as preconditions for the possibility of any intended meaning, are already presupposed in orer for objects of knowledge to be constituted.... It seems to be that the life a priori of knowledge stands in a complementary relationship to the a priori of consciousness." (p48)

"The presuppositions for the idea of a 'unified' science ... may be illustrated by the manner in which neopositivism judges the distinction between so-called 'causal explanatory' natural science and 'interpretative' human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) tht has been drawn by Dilthey and others... In so far as epistemological status is claimed for this distinction, it is declared to be an ideology-laden metaphysics..." (p51)

"In contrast, in my opinion, genuine hermeneutic inquiry stands in a complementary relationship to natural scientific objectification and explanation of events. Both types of inquiry are mutually exclusive and yet none the less thereby suppkement one another." p58

"A natural scientist, as solus ipse cannot seek to explain something for himself alone... Yet this agreement at the level of intersubjectivity, precisely because it is a precondition for the possibility of objective science, can never be replaced by a mode of procedure of objective science." (p58)

"The actual problem of the philosophical foundation of hermeneutics, i.e., the studyt of the scientific interpretation of .. meaning may be formulated, in my opinion, in the following question: Is there a methodological abstraction through which scientific investigation of intended or expressed meaning is possible at the level of intersubjective agreement between human subjects?" (p61)

"... the hermeneutic human sciences become just as ideologically corrupted through the (existentialist or even Marxist) demand for binding application of their understanding as they do through a positivistic non-reflection, i.e., repression, of historical engagement as a precondition for their understanding of meaning." (p65)

Chapter 3: From Kant to Pierce: the semiotical transformation of transcendental logic p77-92

How Pierce engages in a transformation of Kant's logic via semiotics and intersubjectivity.

"Kant's concern is to make the objective validity of science understandable. For this purpose he puts transcendental logic in the place of the psychology of knowledge as it was developed by Locke and Hume; but his method of inquiry is still related to the 'synthetic unity of consciousness' as its 'highest point'." (p77)

"In the meantime, however, it became clear that neither the logical consistency nor, far less, the empirical testability of science can be warranted by the logical syntax and semantic of one language of things or facts. It proved necessary in two places to introduce the so-called pragmatic dimension i.e., the dimension of the interpretation of signs, as a comndition of the possibility and validity of scientific propositions." (p78)

"A formalized language of science just cannot make use of the one postulated logical form of language or of the world, which, according to the early Wittgenstein, is transcendental. A formalized language of science has to be introduced and legitimized as a conventional framework by scientists, who can and must provide the framework with a pragmatic interpretation in a meta-language... The pragmatic dimension may rather by considered as the semiotical analogue to the transcendental synthesis of apperception postulated by Kant." (p79)

".. the 'highest point' of Pierce's transformation of Kant's transcendental logic is the 'ultimate opinion' of the 'indefinite community of investigators'." (p87)

Chapter 4: Scientism or transcendental hermeneutics? on the question of the subject of the interpretation of signs in the semiotics of pragmatism p93-135

A critique of the proposal that the human subject and their behaviour reducible to statements of facts alone, and that this exposition is necessarily in competition to interpretative hermeneutics.

Charles W. Morris, foundation of semiotics provides for syntactis (e.g., Carnap, Logical Syntax of Language), semantics (Tarski), pragmatics.

"... within logical empiricism, the problem of the empirical criterion of meaning (originally termed the 'verification principle') could not be resolved by the construction of the 'logical syntax' or 'logical semantics' of the language of science." (p94)

"The crucial point of scientism lies in its belief that whereas philosophical self-reflection of the subective preconditions of science is impossible, it must be possible to reduce the human subject of science to an object of science. For scientism, a pragmatically orientated philosophy of science is a social science of science as behaviour." (p97)

"... the transcendental philosophical alternative to scientism will not be developed by the young Wittgenstein, but rather as an answer to the question concerning the subject of the pragmatic dimension of the sign function or of science." (p99)

"The consensus postulated with the aid of a critique of meaning guarantees the objectivity of knowledge and replaces Kant's transcendental 'consciousness as such'. In fact, it functions as a regulative principle which, as an ideal of the community, must first be realized in and by the real community.... this is Pierce's principle of 'logical socialism'. In this principle, the problem of a dialectical mediation between theoretical and practical reason is expressed for the first time in Pierce's writings, but the envisaged mediation is suggested in such a manner that there can be no doubt about its transcendental-philosophical normative character." p105

"Indeed, nothing was further from Pierce's intention when introduced the 'pragmatic maxim' of the elucidation of meaning of ideas by the observation or description of their actual consequences." (p107)

"Ultimately, pre-semiotic epistemology [Kant, Schleiermacher, Dilthey] - one that is bound to the subject-object-relationship and is methodologically solipsistic - can only comprehend hermeneutic 'understanding', it it reflects on such subject matter at all, as a method which is in competition with the scientific 'explanation' of the observational data... In contrast with this theory, the transcendental hermeneutic interpretation of hermeneutics, as outlined by Royce, is able to demonstrate that 'understanding' cannot be understood as a rival enterprise to 'explanation' but rather as a cognitive phenomenon that is complementary to the scientific knowledge of objective facts." (p112)

"In Royce's philosophy of interpretation which, to some extent, translates Pierce's semiotics from the pragmatic transformation of Kant into a neo-idealist transformation of Hegel, the supreme point of affinity between American philosophy and the German tradition of philosophical hermeneutics is reached." (p115-116)

"By extending Pierce's semiotics, once can claim that we are dealing with the interpreting community of an unlimited community of interaction." p122.

"Mead's interactionism and social pragmatism between the secret philosophy of American social psychology. Royce's transcendental hermeneutics, on the other hand, fell into oblivion along with the philosophy of idealism. As a result, American philosophy produced no synthesis of the two approaches, which ... could have complemented Pierce's answer to the question of the subject of sign interpretation and provided a definitive answer." p126-127

Chapter 5: The communication community as the transcendental presupposition for the social sciences p136-179

Methodological solipsism does not provide the conditions to develop a social science, let alone any sort of science. Instead, communication community is required, which is founded on a species-universality found in all language games

"... a modern transcendental philosophy is primarily concerned with reflection upon the meaning - and thus also upon the implication of the meaning - of argument as such. This is manifestly what is ultimate and irreducible for those who argue - no matter what their position." (p138)

"One cannot decide to affirm or negate the norms of the transcendental language-game from a position outside the language-game. The negation of this constitutes the basic error of methodological solipsism." (p138-139).

"... the realization of truth depends a priori upon the realization of the unlimited communication community within the historically given society... This does not imply that ... normative standards can be derived from the empirical." (p143)

"Like Descartes, Locke, Russell, and even Husserl, neopositivism ultimately also commences from the presupposition that, in principle, 'one alone' could recognize something as something and practise science in such a manner. In so far as neopositivism, like the traditional metaphysics of the subject, fails to take into account the fact that knowledge based on observation at the level of the subject-object relationship always supposed knowledge as understanding of meaning at the level of subject-cosubject relationship..." (p148)

"Hence, according to Wittgenstein, the transcendental unity of the self lies in the transcendental unity of language, which, for its part, is the precondition for the possibility and validity (natural) science..." (p152)

"In Wittgenstein's later work the central problem seems to me to be precisely that which was raised but remained unreflected upon in the neopositivist 'logic of science' by the transition from the metaphysics of 'logical atomism' to the 'conventionality principle' of constructive semantics: the problem of the transcendental-pragmatic foundation of the conventions for establishing an interpreting rules." (p157)

"... linguistic agreement itself is a priori bound to rules in each possible language-game that cannot be first established by 'conventions', but rather that make 'conventions' possible at all... (p158-159)

"In the notion participation in a common language-game ... there is opened up precisely that transcendence of the subject-object separation which can only be meaningfully required for the interpretative or social sciences.." (p162)

"... it is the comparative general circumstances of life as the common 'paradigms' of all human language-games that are to make understanding possible... this already presupposes a linguistic competence in the sense of 'grammatical competence' (Chomsky) and, over and above that, in the sense of 'communicative competence' (Habermas) that all human beings have in common." (p167)

Chapter 6: Noam Chomsky's theory of language and contemporary philosophy: a case study in the philosophy of science p180-224

Chomsky's theory of language represents a monological capacity on an anthropological level. It needs to expand the syntax-semantic dichotomy to incorporate pragmatics.

"Chomsky's writings which take up problems within the philosophy of science ... represent a concerted plea for strong theory-formation along the lines of critical-rationalism and against all those 'discovery procedures' of so-called 'modern linguistics', which are considered to be inductive and related to observation in the sense of logical empiricism." (p186-187)

"When Chomsky draws upon traditional rationalism he assumes, as it were self-evident, that such doctrines concerning the a priori preconditions for cognition are not themselves a priori. (p187)

[Chomsky] "... assumes that we would also discover these empirical-universal limitations and consequently demonstrate that they can be transcended." (p188)

"According to Chomsky, linguistics is also concerned with the partial conditions of internalization itself as language acquisition. What must be explained in this connection by means the hypothesis of innate dispositions ... is itself presupposed as an anthropological conditio sine qua non for the unconscious following of grammatical rules." (p193)

"In short, the rules of grammar, even if they are selected quasi-automatically by everyone by virtue of an innate instinctive device from a class of possible systems of rules, are nevertheless internalized as a component of social norms." (p196)

"For the construction and programming of abstract automata, like the construction of formalized calculus language, must be looked upon as the indirect procedure for a reconstruction of human rule-based competences." (p199)

"As Habermas emphasizes, a theory which regarded linguistic competence as 'monological capacity' would logically have to conceive of communication itself monologically, since the linguistic competence of the individual participants in communication is supposed to contain a priori all the linguistic preconditions for communication." (p204)

"... a linguistically moulded communicative competence must be acquired. For, on the one hand, there can be no grammatical (syntactic and semantic) competence with pragmatic, communicative competence. But on the other hand, without grammatic competence in the CHomsky's sense there can be no pragmatic communicative competence of the sense of linguistic behaviour." (p206)

"It is through ... interweaving of grammatical and communicative competence that the simultaneity of 'rule-governed creativity' and 'rule-changing creativity' in Chomsky's sense becomes at all intelligible." (p211)

Chapter 7: The a priori of the communication community and the foundation of ethics: the problem of a rational foundation of ethics in the scientific age

Moral statements and their ethical application can not be reduced to claims of facticity alone. From whence can a rational moral statement come from?

"As a dialectical philosophy (in the Hegelian sense), Marxism does not accept Hume's distinction between what is what ought to be as an insurmountable separation of scientifically knowable facts and subjectively established norms. In its orthodox version, at least, it adheres more or less avowedly to the classical Aristotelian-Thomist postulate of a teleological ontology, according to which what exists, if understood correctly, with what is good. Stated more precisely: Marxism, following Hegel, interprets the historically real as what is rational and the rational as what is reall." (p230)

"... the Marxist notion of a mediation between theory and practise and science and ethics must seem a dogmatic rejection of both the spirit of science and free ethical responsibility. As a historical-dialetical transformation of teleological ontology, Marxism seems to transcend the dogmatism of traditional metaphysics by a prophecy that includes future praxis. A scientific socialism, it replaces the qualified prognoses of empirical-analytical (natural) science with the unqualified prognoses of 'historicism' that Popper has criticized. On the other hand as scientific socialism it replaces the ethical justifications of social engagement with reference to the historically necessary and thereby corrupts - again, in Popper's view - ethical responsibility in the present situation by a 'moral futurism'." (p233)

"In contrast to the neo-Kantians, who still adhered to the ideas of a formal value-rational argument, Weber saw the truth of ancient polytheism reaffirmed in the sphere of ultimate value preference. Each individual must choose his god here in a situation of responsible decision-making.

It hardly needs to be mentioned that both the so-called existentialist situationist ethics (e.g., of the young Sartre) and the political decisionism (e.g., of Carl Schmitt) follow the same logic. It is the logic of the alternative between objective-science and subjective value-decision which even today largely determines the ideological structure of the mediation of theory and practise in the West." (p237)

"Analytical philosophy adheres to certain basic suppositions...

Norms cannot be derived from facts (or: prescriptive statements ... cannot be derived from descriptive statements)... Science ... deals with facts. Consequently, a scientific grounding of normative ethics is impossible... It is only science that provides us with objective knowledge. Objectivity is identical with intersubjective validity. For this reason, an intersubjective valid grounding of normative ethics is absolutely impossible." (p241).

"... the difficulties of analytical meta-ethics, and even the methodological difficulties of 'ordinary language philosophy' in general can be traced back to the failure of the later Wittgenstein to reflect upon his own communicative and reflexive relationship with the 'language-games' or 'life-forms' which he 'described'. Consequently, the represented for him both the quasi-transcendental horizons of all meaningful speech and action and the hard facts, present in the world, that - with the exception of metaphysical language-games - cannot be criticall placed in question." (p246-247)

"Communication in everyday language is only irreducible in so far as the normative ideal of communication can be realized in everyday language - and only there - and must, therefore, always be anticipated." (p251-252)

"... the normatively neutral objectivity of the empirical sciences can only appear possible if one simultaneously assumes a complementary intersubjective validity of ethical norms." (p257)

"In short, the normative logic of science (scientists) presupposes normative hermeneutics and, at the same time, normative ethics..." (p260)

"Yet we are fully aware that our reflective competence ... is concealed behind the aporia of infinite regress and makes possible something like Godel's proof of undecidability." (p264)

"This unity of interpretation must, in principle, be attainable by the unlimited community of those engaged in argumentation by virtue of the experience derived from experience and interaction, if argumentation is to have any meaning at all. To this extent, my attempt is conceived as a transformation of transcendental philosophy that is critical of meaning, one which develops from the a priori fact of argumentation as an irreducible, quasi-Cartesian starting point." (p267)

"The free acknowledgement of norms by human subject is only a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the moral validity of norms. Even immoral norms can be acknowledged as binding.." (p270)

"Yet anyone who raises the question of the justification of the moral principal ... is already participating in the discussion.. and also he should accept this principle as the precondition and validity of argumentation through conscious affirmation. Anyone who does not appreciate or accept this is automatically excluded from the discussion." (p274-275)

"The subjective, individual decisions of conscience that were demanded by the Christian tradition which was secularized during the period of liberalism and existentialism are now mediated a priori with the demand for intersubjective validity.." (p278)

"... our a priori is that it marks the principle of dialectics (on this side) of idealism and materialism. For anyone who engages in an argument automatically presupposes two things: first, a real communication community who member he has himself become through a process of socialization, and second, an ideal communication community that would basically be capable of adequately understanding the meaning of his arguments and judging their truth in a definitive manner." (p280)