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the lifeworld

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  • Matthew Piscioneri
    best wishes to the List for 2009 and thanks again to Gary for maintaining this wonderful Habermas resource In _Between Facts & Norms_ JH writes of the
    Message 1 of 7 , Jan 12, 2009
      best wishes to the List for 2009 and thanks again to Gary for
      maintaining this wonderful Habermas resource

      In _Between Facts & Norms_ JH writes of the lifeworld:

      "This all-penetrating, yet latent and unnoticed presence of the
      background of communicative action [the lifeworld] can be described as
      a more intense yet deficient form of knowledge and ability. To begin
      with, we make use of this knowledge involuntarily, without
      reflectively knowing that we possess it at all Habermas (1996: 22)."

      It started me thinking whether JH considered all distinct social
      groups "had" lifeworlds...perhaps an oxymoron...a socio-cultural
      grouping is definable by having a distinct lifeworld etc

      A fairly strong point JH makes in TCA and elsewhere I think is that
      the lifeworld 'operates behind our backs' as it were..."To begin with,
      we make use of this knowledge involuntarily, without reflectively
      knowing that we possess it at all".

      If we accept Habermas's notion of the lifeworld, I am wondering
      whether external observers (from other lifeworlds) can see "our"
      internalized lifeworld more transparently than we can? The musings
      actually relate to discussion of NESB international students and their
      potential participation in Western academic discourse
      communities...the ease or otherwise of developing an awareness of
      a "new" culture of inquiry given JH's conception of the lifeworld.

      any thoughts welcome,

      mattP
    • Tommy
      Hi Matthew, all I think this insistence of Habermas is what makes his work at this time so valuable. I tend to resynthesize this lifeworld in the context of
      Message 2 of 7 , Jan 13, 2009
        Hi Matthew, all

        I think this insistence of Habermas is what makes his work at this
        time so valuable.

        I tend to resynthesize this "lifeworld" in the context of Habermas'
        Marxist, Frankfurt School roots, but acknowledging how far we have
        come from the old, revolutionary "the proletariat shall inherit the
        earth" Marxism.

        The point is that the Lifeworld - or society, if you like - can only
        exist in the tension produced by the opposing forces of Labour and
        Capital, which tension also produces the material means of human
        existence. Society is not a Hobbesian war of all against all but
        instead relies on pursuit of common interest and, to a remarkable
        extent, cooperation.

        It was as wrong of Lenin to interpret Marxism as indicating that the
        proletariat would seize the means of production this rendering the
        owning classes redundant, as it was for Margaret Thatcher to declare
        "there is no such thing as society" and then proceed, even more
        absurdly, to attempt to construct an "ownership society".

        Both the soviet experiment and, now the capitalist "ownership society"
        in their respective countries have now conclusively failed;
        paradoxically for identical reasons. This is because they both
        attempted to instrumentalise "society" and/or the means of production
        to their own partisan ends, neglecting to nourish the lifeworld which
        can ONLY subsist through a communicative tension between the poles of
        labour and capital.

        No wonder the global chickens are coming home to roost now, and
        methinks, high time they did.

        Tommy Beavitt



        On 13 Jan 2009, at 04:05, "Matthew Piscioneri"
        <mpiscioneri@...> wrote:

        > best wishes to the List for 2009 and thanks again to Gary for
        > maintaining this wonderful Habermas resource
        >
        > In _Between Facts & Norms_ JH writes of the lifeworld:
        >
        > "This all-penetrating, yet latent and unnoticed presence of the
        > background of communicative action [the lifeworld] can be described as
        > a more intense yet deficient form of knowledge and ability. To begin
        > with, we make use of this knowledge involuntarily, without
        > reflectively knowing that we possess it at all Habermas (1996: 22)."
        >
        > It started me thinking whether JH considered all distinct social
        > groups "had" lifeworlds...perhaps an oxymoron...a socio-cultural
        > grouping is definable by having a distinct lifeworld etc
        >
        > A fairly strong point JH makes in TCA and elsewhere I think is that
        > the lifeworld 'operates behind our backs' as it were..."To begin with,
        > we make use of this knowledge involuntarily, without reflectively
        > knowing that we possess it at all".
        >
        > If we accept Habermas's notion of the lifeworld, I am wondering
        > whether external observers (from other lifeworlds) can see "our"
        > internalized lifeworld more transparently than we can? The musings
        > actually relate to discussion of NESB international students and their
        > potential participation in Western academic discourse
        > communities...the ease or otherwise of developing an awareness of
        > a "new" culture of inquiry given JH's conception of the lifeworld.
        >
        > any thoughts welcome,
        >
        > mattP
        >
        >


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Stephen Evans
        any thoughts welcome Alright then, I ll bite. JH s notion of the lifeworld as knowledge that (paradoxically) we don t know we have, operating behind our
        Message 3 of 7 , Jan 14, 2009
          "any thoughts welcome"

          Alright then, I'll bite. JH's notion of the lifeworld as knowledge that
          (paradoxically) we don't know we have, operating behind our backs as it
          were, yet heavily colouring, almost determining, the way we see the
          world and respond to and within it, goes a long way towards
          illuminating the difficulty that non-western cultures have in successfully
          building modern-western style educational institutions and that non-
          western scholars have in entering into western scholarly discourse (and,
          by the way, that non-western localities have in forming modern nation-
          states with Euro-American style democracies). Discourse and styles of
          discourse are cultural/lifeworld behaviours and in spite of JH's heroic
          efforts to show the contrary, neither the Discourse Principle nor the
          Universalization Principle (MCCA) can be taken as culturally neutral. JH
          himself implicitly, if incompletely, recognizes this: "It would be utterly
          pointless to engage in a practical discourse without a horizon provided
          by the lifeworld of a specific social group and without real conflicts in a
          concrete situation in which the actors consider it incumbent upon them
          to reach a consensual means of regulating some controversial social
          matter" (MCCA, p. 103).

          I am acutely aware of the situation in academia to which Mathew
          refers, teaching philosophy at Mahachula Uni in Thailand and having
          worked with a number of Asian students on their Doctoral work
          (including at major western universities), as well as having taught in the
          U.S. with a few international students. To a greater or lesser degree
          the universities here in Thailand are a kind of communal mimetic
          enactment of their impression of U.S. or British universities, with very
          little comprehension of what scholarship is or what a uni is supposed to
          be. (I suspect, though, that the science and technology education is
          somewhat "better".) Examples: rigid and rigidly enforced rules for how
          examinations are to be conducted—but I am not permitted to give
          anyone less than a `B'. Term papers are routinely, almost universally,
          plagiarized—but that is expected. Indeed at the undergraduate level
          students are taught to write papers by copying something already
          published. Demanding entrance exams with absurd questions ("Who
          was the third rector of the University?"). Course catalogues with course
          descriptions plagiarized from western university web sites and that do
          not describe the actual course taught. Rigid format requirements for
          Master's & Doctoral theses with little attention to content (examiners
          measuring margins with rulers). It is almost as if acting out the
          perceived roles, the "moves", of a western uni, as it were theatrically,
          were a magical rite that would evoke the exotic myth of the West: that
          would call forth that mythology and make it real. Did I say "almost"?
          (BTW until recently, "democratic" politics in Thailand have been carried
          out in much the same spirit, a sort of magically evocative rite. The
          recent unrest has been a healthy sign of an emerging public just
          beginning to discover and to experiment with its powers.)

          Having said that, I want to clarify that I am convinced that all societies
          and their institutions are to a large extent magical-ritual enactments of
          their central mythologies, such enactment expected to evoke and make
          those mythologies real (founding father's myths, social contract), but
          that we do not recognize as such. That non-recognition may be
          particularly strong in the west, since part of our mythology is the
          enlightenment's liberation from mythology (digression on Dialectic of
          Enlightenment skipped; but this is beginning to sound like the lifeworld
          operating behind our backs).

          The point, then, is not that non-western academics (i.e. institutions,
          scholars and practices) are mythology bound while western academics
          are rational and mythology-free, rather that academics in different
          societies are enactments of different dominant mythologies, or, if you
          will, manifestations of different lifeworlds. The problem in places like
          Thailand is an unrecognized conflict of incommensurable mythologies—
          A Thai Buddhist-animist-monarchist lifeworld acting out a western post-
          enlightenment-rational-democratic mythology (or rather, acting out a
          misperception of same). But the problem is not, of course, simply west
          vs. non-west. There are many different non-western societies with their
          different cultures/lifeworlds/mythologies (I know that these are not
          identical concepts...) with multiple, multifaceted, multidirectional
          incommensurabilities among them. Mathew wonders whether "whether
          external observers (from other lifeworlds) can see `our' internalized
          lifeworld more transparently than we can?" I suspect that people from
          one culture can see //that// people in other cultures act in ways that are
          not transparent and articulate to themselves, that, e.g. they
          don't "know" the "reasons" for their own actions. People from one
          culture easily see that the actions of their cultural others "don't make
          sense". The interpretations they give to the cultural wellsprings
          (lifeworld/mythology etc.) of the "other's" actions, no matter how well
          intentioned, enlightened and well researched are likely to be profoundly
          wrong, because "our" interpretation of the "others" is necessarily made
          in the terms of our own lifeworld. I see this again and again the more
          deeply immersed I become in Thai culture (actual several cultures). A
          trivial example: the westies who have studied and "practiced" Buddhism
          in the west then come to Asia and shocked by what they see cry
          out, "this isn't //true// Buddhism." Their "Buddhism" in the west was
          (necessarily) a misinterpretation, and they cannot understand what they
          find here.

          An aside: An anthropologist's main measuring tool is himself,; the tool
          is broken with every measurement.

          All this goes to say that the efforts to draw more and more non-western
          scholars into discourse with western scholars is necessarily as well as
          actually fraught with difficulty and more problematic that any of us had
          thought, say, 40 years ago. Offering a seat at the table is not sufficient.
          Those efforts nonetheless must be continued and intensified, but
          realizing that there is going to be at least as much misunderstanding as
          understanding and consequent tension and conflict. Many
          differences //cannot// be explained and //cannot// be "understood"
          across lifeworlds: as Wittgenstein somewhere wrote, sometimes we
          just have to fight it out. But lifeworlds are not rigidly fixed, they change
          and adapt and the very fact of contact with an incomprehensible "other"
          sparks adaptations. The thing is to try and structure those contacts so
          that the adaptations will be "constructive" rather than "destructive"
          (recognizing that even those concepts will vary across lifeworlds).
          Habermasian-style discourse may be the best starting place that anyone
          has articulated for structuring such contacts in "constructive" ways;
          although simply engaging in such discourse would be a major cultural
          leap for many.

          Again JH seems to acknowledge the problems. Discourse, as he
          envisions it, requires a way of life that meets it "halfway" (MCCA, p.
          207). "There has to be a modicum of congruence between morality and
          the practices of socialization and education" (MCCA, p. 208). And there
          is often the necessity of "collective efforts and sacrifices made by
          sociopolitical movements" (MCCA, p. 208) and "social movements and
          political struggles" (JA, p. 15).

          In my opinion, however, JH's concept of the lifeworld remains vague
          and lacks the conceptual apparatus to make the most of it. I am thinking
          here of Pierre Bourdieu, and wondering at the apparent total ignorance
          that JH and PB have of one another. Many of PB's constructs apply quite
          nicely for an analytical exploration of what JH calls the lifeworld. For
          example, habitus (sort of personal culture) field (the social arena of any
          given human endeavour), capital (social, cultural etc). Thus I would
          rather have spoken above of a Thai "habitus" attempting to enact Euro-
          American mythology, and as a result constructing a field with strictly
          incommensurable elements and/or thrusting students and instructors
          into the intersection of incommensurable fields where many of their
          actions are self-contradictory (i.e. the same action is functional in one
          field but dysfunctional in the other. When a student gives me a
          gift //what is she doing?//. When she makes a comment in class, sits
          for an examination, writes a term paper: //what is she doing?//
          Engaging simultaneously in two very different rituals).

          But one of PB's most important contributions to JH discussions might be
          the notion of a "logic of practice". It is /not/ that we have knowledge
          that paradoxically we don't know that we have, not a "deficient form of
          knowledge and ability [that we make use of] involuntarily", rather that
          behaviour has its own "logic" that is not logical in the sense of a set of
          cognitive rules. Habitus is /the way we behave/ and has its own priority.
          Thus practice is not the manifestation of a set of not-yet-articulated
          rules, rather often the reverse: the rules that sociologists,
          anthropologists, etc. use to /explain/ repeated practices are rather
          posterior to them, the rules only /describe/ the observed behaviour. As
          with JH's notion of the influence of the lifeworld, social structures and
          practices unfold not just in accord with articulated plans and intentions;
          but they do so not "behind our backs" but by the "practical logic" of
          habitus and fields. We do what we do no less intentionally for the
          intentions being inarticulate and often inarticulable.

          One implication of this is that we can only explain so much across
          cultures not even being sure when we begin to be misunderstood. This
          is more so in that speech, including explanations, is also behaviour,
          practice, following also a non-articulate logic (as well as the logic of
          articulate discourse). What am I /doing/ when I recite a Buddhist text,
          as Buddhists have been doing for millennia? What is an Oxford
          scholar /doing/ when he studies that same text as western scholars
          have been doing for about 150 years? Does the text mean the same in
          both cases? Not at all—and it would seem that the meaning unlocked in
          the one practice is inaccessible to the other. (Something I'm working,
          on by the way.) A related implication is that our ability to understanding
          other cultures (or: the transparency of other lifeworlds) is limited not
          only because the cognitive elements of the "understanding" are not the
          same as the cognitive (if inarticulate) contents of the other lifeworld, but
          also because much of the lifeworlds (both ours /with/ which we
          understand and the other that is the /object/ of understanding) is not
          cognitive at all, neither articulate nor articulable, but strictly practical.
          Any explanation, then, even our own explanation of ourselves,
          necessarily is a misunderstanding to the extent that what is explained is
          strictly practical.

          The only route to understanding is direct practical engagement, which is
          also a spontaneous mutual adaptation.

          Whew! One last comment: obviously some cultural/lifeworld
          things /are/ cognitive, articulable and explicable. Else I could not have
          written the above...

          Cheers to all,
          Stephen A. Evans


          --- In habermas@yahoogroups.com, "Matthew Piscioneri"
          <mpiscioneri@...> wrote:
          >
          > best wishes to the List for 2009 and thanks again to Gary for
          > maintaining this wonderful Habermas resource
          >
          > In _Between Facts & Norms_ JH writes of the lifeworld:
          >
          > "This all-penetrating, yet latent and unnoticed presence of the
          > background of communicative action [the lifeworld] can be described
          as
          > a more intense yet deficient form of knowledge and ability. To begin
          > with, we make use of this knowledge involuntarily, without
          > reflectively knowing that we possess it at all Habermas (1996: 22)."
          >
          > It started me thinking whether JH considered all distinct social
          > groups "had" lifeworlds...perhaps an oxymoron...a socio-cultural
          > grouping is definable by having a distinct lifeworld etc
          >
          > A fairly strong point JH makes in TCA and elsewhere I think is that
          > the lifeworld 'operates behind our backs' as it were..."To begin with,
          > we make use of this knowledge involuntarily, without reflectively
          > knowing that we possess it at all".
          >
          > If we accept Habermas's notion of the lifeworld, I am wondering
          > whether external observers (from other lifeworlds) can see "our"
          > internalized lifeworld more transparently than we can? The musings
          > actually relate to discussion of NESB international students and their
          > potential participation in Western academic discourse
          > communities...the ease or otherwise of developing an awareness of
          > a "new" culture of inquiry given JH's conception of the lifeworld.
          >
          > any thoughts welcome,
          >
          > mattP
          >
        • rhetter2
          Re: [Habermas] Re: the lifeworld From: Stephen Evans Date: January 14, 2009 10:39:55 PM EST Just a brief response. I am teaching at the
          Message 4 of 7 , Jan 15, 2009
            Re: [Habermas] Re: the lifeworld
            From: "Stephen Evans" <sae57@...>
            Date: January 14, 2009 10:39:55 PM EST


            Just a brief response. I am teaching at the City University of New York (CUNY) and have been engaging my graduate students for many years now (over 40) in discourse with the aim of consensus formation, following HB's intent as I understand it. My students come from all over the world, East and West. I have been able to show that in relation to certain critical issues a consensus can be formed, i,e,. in relation to the problematics encountered by certain human genetic manipulations such as designer babies. A copy of this and other related articles is available upon request. Sal
          • Gary E. Davis
            Stephen,   Your posting of January, in response to Matt, is remarkable. I m very sorry I haven t caught up on group postings until now. All subscribers should
            Message 5 of 7 , Mar 30, 2009
              Stephen,
               
              Your posting of January, in response to Matt, is remarkable. I'm very sorry I haven't caught up on group postings until now. All subscribers should feel bad about not at least acknowledging your immensely informative and thought-provoking discussion, and I do feel bad. I'll respond soon on the topic, beginning with Matt's posting.
               
              Though I'm ordinarily against re-sending someone's long posting appended to a short reply, I'm doing that now because it's been a couple of months since you posted it. It deserves attention.
               
              Gary
               
               
              --- On Wed, 1/14/09, Stephen Evans <sae57@...> wrote:

              From: Stephen Evans <sae57@...>
              Subject: [Habermas] Re: the lifeworld
              To: habermas@yahoogroups.com
              Date: Wednesday, January 14, 2009, 7:39 PM






              "any thoughts welcome"

              Alright then, I'll bite. JH's notion of the lifeworld as knowledge that
              (paradoxically) we don't know we have, operating behind our backs as it
              were, yet heavily colouring, almost determining, the way we see the
              world and respond to and within it, goes a long way towards
              illuminating the difficulty that non-western cultures have in successfully
              building modern-western style educational institutions and that non-
              western scholars have in entering into western scholarly discourse (and,
              by the way, that non-western localities have in forming modern nation-
              states with Euro-American style democracies) . Discourse and styles of
              discourse are cultural/lifeworld behaviours and in spite of JH's heroic
              efforts to show the contrary, neither the Discourse Principle nor the
              Universalization Principle (MCCA) can be taken as culturally neutral. JH
              himself implicitly, if incompletely, recognizes this: "It would be utterly
              pointless to engage in a practical discourse without a horizon provided
              by the lifeworld of a specific social group and without real conflicts in a
              concrete situation in which the actors consider it incumbent upon them
              to reach a consensual means of regulating some controversial social
              matter" (MCCA, p. 103).

              I am acutely aware of the situation in academia to which Mathew
              refers, teaching philosophy at Mahachula Uni in Thailand and having
              worked with a number of Asian students on their Doctoral work
              (including at major western universities) , as well as having taught in the
              U.S. with a few international students. To a greater or lesser degree
              the universities here in Thailand are a kind of communal mimetic
              enactment of their impression of U.S. or British universities, with very
              little comprehension of what scholarship is or what a uni is supposed to
              be. (I suspect, though, that the science and technology education is
              somewhat "better".) Examples: rigid and rigidly enforced rules for how
              examinations are to be conducted—but I am not permitted to give
              anyone less than a `B'. Term papers are routinely, almost universally,
              plagiarized—but that is expected. Indeed at the undergraduate level
              students are taught to write papers by copying something already
              published. Demanding entrance exams with absurd questions ("Who
              was the third rector of the University?" ). Course catalogues with course
              descriptions plagiarized from western university web sites and that do
              not describe the actual course taught. Rigid format requirements for
              Master's & Doctoral theses with little attention to content (examiners
              measuring margins with rulers). It is almost as if acting out the
              perceived roles, the "moves", of a western uni, as it were theatrically,
              were a magical rite that would evoke the exotic myth of the West: that
              would call forth that mythology and make it real. Did I say "almost"?
              (BTW until recently, "democratic" politics in Thailand have been carried
              out in much the same spirit, a sort of magically evocative rite. The
              recent unrest has been a healthy sign of an emerging public just
              beginning to discover and to experiment with its powers.)

              Having said that, I want to clarify that I am convinced that all societies
              and their institutions are to a large extent magical-ritual enactments of
              their central mythologies, such enactment expected to evoke and make
              those mythologies real (founding father's myths, social contract), but
              that we do not recognize as such. That non-recognition may be
              particularly strong in the west, since part of our mythology is the
              enlightenment' s liberation from mythology (digression on Dialectic of
              Enlightenment skipped; but this is beginning to sound like the lifeworld
              operating behind our backs).

              The point, then, is not that non-western academics (i.e. institutions,
              scholars and practices) are mythology bound while western academics
              are rational and mythology-free, rather that academics in different
              societies are enactments of different dominant mythologies, or, if you
              will, manifestations of different lifeworlds. The problem in places like
              Thailand is an unrecognized conflict of incommensurable mythologies—
              A Thai Buddhist-animist- monarchist lifeworld acting out a western post-
              enlightenment- rational- democratic mythology (or rather, acting out a
              misperception of same). But the problem is not, of course, simply west
              vs. non-west. There are many different non-western societies with their
              different cultures/lifeworlds /mythologies (I know that these are not
              identical concepts...) with multiple, multifaceted, multidirectional
              incommensurabilitie s among them. Mathew wonders whether "whether
              external observers (from other lifeworlds) can see `our' internalized
              lifeworld more transparently than we can?" I suspect that people from
              one culture can see //that// people in other cultures act in ways that are
              not transparent and articulate to themselves, that, e.g. they
              don't "know" the "reasons" for their own actions. People from one
              culture easily see that the actions of their cultural others "don't make
              sense". The interpretations they give to the cultural wellsprings
              (lifeworld/mytholog y etc.) of the "other's" actions, no matter how well
              intentioned, enlightened and well researched are likely to be profoundly
              wrong, because "our" interpretation of the "others" is necessarily made
              in the terms of our own lifeworld. I see this again and again the more
              deeply immersed I become in Thai culture (actual several cultures). A
              trivial example: the westies who have studied and "practiced" Buddhism
              in the west then come to Asia and shocked by what they see cry
              out, "this isn't //true// Buddhism." Their "Buddhism" in the west was
              (necessarily) a misinterpretation, and they cannot understand what they
              find here.

              An aside: An anthropologist' s main measuring tool is himself,; the tool
              is broken with every measurement.

              All this goes to say that the efforts to draw more and more non-western
              scholars into discourse with western scholars is necessarily as well as
              actually fraught with difficulty and more problematic that any of us had
              thought, say, 40 years ago. Offering a seat at the table is not sufficient.
              Those efforts nonetheless must be continued and intensified, but
              realizing that there is going to be at least as much misunderstanding as
              understanding and consequent tension and conflict. Many
              differences //cannot// be explained and //cannot// be "understood"
              across lifeworlds: as Wittgenstein somewhere wrote, sometimes we
              just have to fight it out. But lifeworlds are not rigidly fixed, they change
              and adapt and the very fact of contact with an incomprehensible "other"
              sparks adaptations. The thing is to try and structure those contacts so
              that the adaptations will be "constructive" rather than "destructive"
              (recognizing that even those concepts will vary across lifeworlds).
              Habermasian- style discourse may be the best starting place that anyone
              has articulated for structuring such contacts in "constructive" ways;
              although simply engaging in such discourse would be a major cultural
              leap for many.

              Again JH seems to acknowledge the problems. Discourse, as he
              envisions it, requires a way of life that meets it "halfway" (MCCA, p.
              207). "There has to be a modicum of congruence between morality and
              the practices of socialization and education" (MCCA, p. 208). And there
              is often the necessity of "collective efforts and sacrifices made by
              sociopolitical movements" (MCCA, p. 208) and "social movements and
              political struggles" (JA, p. 15).

              In my opinion, however, JH's concept of the lifeworld remains vague
              and lacks the conceptual apparatus to make the most of it. I am thinking
              here of Pierre Bourdieu, and wondering at the apparent total ignorance
              that JH and PB have of one another. Many of PB's constructs apply quite
              nicely for an analytical exploration of what JH calls the lifeworld. For
              example, habitus (sort of personal culture) field (the social arena of any
              given human endeavour), capital (social, cultural etc). Thus I would
              rather have spoken above of a Thai "habitus" attempting to enact Euro-
              American mythology, and as a result constructing a field with strictly
              incommensurable elements and/or thrusting students and instructors
              into the intersection of incommensurable fields where many of their
              actions are self-contradictory (i.e. the same action is functional in one
              field but dysfunctional in the other. When a student gives me a
              gift //what is she doing?//. When she makes a comment in class, sits
              for an examination, writes a term paper: //what is she doing?//
              Engaging simultaneously in two very different rituals).

              But one of PB's most important contributions to JH discussions might be
              the notion of a "logic of practice". It is /not/ that we have knowledge
              that paradoxically we don't know that we have, not a "deficient form of
              knowledge and ability [that we make use of] involuntarily" , rather that
              behaviour has its own "logic" that is not logical in the sense of a set of
              cognitive rules. Habitus is /the way we behave/ and has its own priority.
              Thus practice is not the manifestation of a set of not-yet-articulated
              rules, rather often the reverse: the rules that sociologists,
              anthropologists, etc. use to /explain/ repeated practices are rather
              posterior to them, the rules only /describe/ the observed behaviour. As
              with JH's notion of the influence of the lifeworld, social structures and
              practices unfold not just in accord with articulated plans and intentions;
              but they do so not "behind our backs" but by the "practical logic" of
              habitus and fields. We do what we do no less intentionally for the
              intentions being inarticulate and often inarticulable.

              One implication of this is that we can only explain so much across
              cultures not even being sure when we begin to be misunderstood. This
              is more so in that speech, including explanations, is also behaviour,
              practice, following also a non-articulate logic (as well as the logic of
              articulate discourse). What am I /doing/ when I recite a Buddhist text,
              as Buddhists have been doing for millennia? What is an Oxford
              scholar /doing/ when he studies that same text as western scholars
              have been doing for about 150 years? Does the text mean the same in
              both cases? Not at all—and it would seem that the meaning unlocked in
              the one practice is inaccessible to the other. (Something I'm working,
              on by the way.) A related implication is that our ability to understanding
              other cultures (or: the transparency of other lifeworlds) is limited not
              only because the cognitive elements of the "understanding" are not the
              same as the cognitive (if inarticulate) contents of the other lifeworld, but
              also because much of the lifeworlds (both ours /with/ which we
              understand and the other that is the /object/ of understanding) is not
              cognitive at all, neither articulate nor articulable, but strictly practical.
              Any explanation, then, even our own explanation of ourselves,
              necessarily is a misunderstanding to the extent that what is explained is
              strictly practical.

              The only route to understanding is direct practical engagement, which is
              also a spontaneous mutual adaptation.

              Whew! One last comment: obviously some cultural/lifeworld
              things /are/ cognitive, articulable and explicable. Else I could not have
              written the above...

              Cheers to all,
              Stephen A. Evans

              --- In habermas@yahoogroup s.com, "Matthew Piscioneri"
              <mpiscioneri@ ...> wrote:
              >
              > best wishes to the List for 2009 and thanks again to Gary for
              > maintaining this wonderful Habermas resource
              >
              > In _Between Facts & Norms_ JH writes of the lifeworld:
              >
              > "This all-penetrating, yet latent and unnoticed presence of the
              > background of communicative action [the lifeworld] can be described
              as
              > a more intense yet deficient form of knowledge and ability. To begin
              > with, we make use of this knowledge involuntarily, without
              > reflectively knowing that we possess it at all Habermas (1996: 22)."
              >
              > It started me thinking whether JH considered all distinct social
              > groups "had" lifeworlds.. .perhaps an oxymoron...a socio-cultural
              > grouping is definable by having a distinct lifeworld etc
              >
              > A fairly strong point JH makes in TCA and elsewhere I think is that
              > the lifeworld 'operates behind our backs' as it were..."To begin with,
              > we make use of this knowledge involuntarily, without reflectively
              > knowing that we possess it at all".
              >
              > If we accept Habermas's notion of the lifeworld, I am wondering
              > whether external observers (from other lifeworlds) can see "our"
              > internalized lifeworld more transparently than we can? The musings
              > actually relate to discussion of NESB international students and their
              > potential participation in Western academic discourse
              > communities. ..the ease or otherwise of developing an awareness of
              > a "new" culture of inquiry given JH's conception of the lifeworld.
              >
              > any thoughts welcome,
              >
              > mattP
              >















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            • Gary E. Davis
              Re: Stephen Evans, re: Matt, re: the lifeworld Sorry for multiple sendings of my reply to Matt. That won t happen here. (Don t draft postings in MSWord, if
              Message 6 of 7 , Mar 31, 2009
                Re: Stephen Evans, re: Matt, re: "the lifeworld"

                Sorry for multiple sendings of my reply to Matt. That won't happen here. (Don't draft postings in MSWord, if you want your apostrophes to transpose accurately to the Yahoo! group archive.)

                --------------------------

                Stephen,

                You bring up an important kind of issue when you write that "Discourse and styles of discourse are cultural/lifeworld behaviours...." But I disagree that such *activities* (*shown* by behaviors) imply that "neither the Discourse Principle nor the Universalization Principle (MCCA) can be taken as culturally neutral."

                You claim that "JH himself implicitly, if incompletely, recognizes this," but you quote about practical discourse, not about principles that have a regulative or evaluative role in practical discourse: "It would," JH is quoted, "be utterly pointless to engage in a practical discourse without a horizon provided by the lifeworld of a specific social group and without real conflicts in a concrete situation in which the actors consider it incumbent upon them to reach a consensual means of regulating some controversial social matter" (MCCA, p. 103).

                A real conflict compels resolution, and all parties have common ground that makes resolution possible. Applied regulative/evaluative principles imply the existence of what they're applied to, of course. That makes regulation/evaluation defined by the purposes and contexts of action. But the principles employed aren't defined by the interests and contexts of application.

                Recalling my claim earlier today that social groups "have" lifeworld only derivatively, only in terms of what's liveable by each member, JH's point above could just as well be made by referring to a horizon of a specific social group provided by the lifeworld. The ambiguous range of denotation which 'lifeworld' has reflects the amiguity of sociality and individuality in any individuation and in understanding any situation. Though a social *body* is a construction, gaining clarity about its real ground, relative to a given conflict, may be vital for conflict resolution in the world of real life which all parties share.

                ------------------------

                Your discussion of academia in Thailand is fascinating! I would enjoy pursuing the notion of "magical-ritual enactment" relative to the normal character of modern society, whereby understandings, regulatives, identifies, promises, and values never have greater existence than is granted by those holding them to be valid. Love doesn't exist unless you keep it alive.

                What you say about mythologies would be just as plausible by substituting 'rationalities', such that mythology is part of the content of premodern ideation. But ideation is part of human mind across time and culture. In all cases, we share interest in understanding life and the world fruitfully. Mythology embodies a legacy of ethical and ethnic validity—expressing part of an ethos—that pertains to living fruitfully and gaining peace, which can be importantly translated into, say, positive psychology, literary understanding, or secular wisdom culture.

                Again, though, your discussion is fascinating; what I've rendered here doesn't seem contrary to your discussion of Thai academics and culture.



                -------------------------------

                S> Many of [Pierre Bourdieu's] constructs apply quite nicely for an analytical exploration of what JH calls the lifeworld. For example, habitus (sort of personal culture) field (the social arena of any given human endeavour), capital (social, cultural etc).

                G: Yes. JH understands the lifeworld in terms of person, culture, and society; and details the interrelations of the 3 throughout much of _The Theory of Communicative Action_.

                S> ... one of PB's most important contributions to JH discussions might be the notion of a "logic of practice". ... behaviour has its own "logic" that is not logical in the sense of a set of cognitive rules.

                G: That's practical rationality. The centrality of this to JH's work is why he is considered a pragmatist and why so much of _TCA_ elaborates a theory of action types IN which communication takes place.

                S> Habitus is /the way we behave/ and has its own priority.

                G: But the way we behave expresses our endeavor to act. Behaviorism is not action theory. Intentionality distinguishes us from biological behavior that lacks mind. You go on to show appreciation of intentionality, but you're not making any distinctions that aren't highly developed in JH's _TCA_. Noteably, JH's work is premised on a hermeneutical or translational sense of interpersonal understanding applicable to every communicative interaction WITHIN a language.

                Gary




















                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Stephen Evans
                Gary has raised multiple issues, each deserving extended individual treatment, however I d like to attempt a single coherent response. To begin, If I seemed to
                Message 7 of 7 , Apr 6, 2009
                  Gary has raised multiple issues, each deserving extended individual treatment, however I'd like to attempt a single coherent response.

                  To begin, If I seemed to approach lifeworld and culture as objects to be perceived, it was due to responding within the framework of Mat's question. It is fully my own position that "the other person has an active role in facilitating your understanding, which likely changes the subject-to-be-understood, as well as you. In such processes, cultural self-understanding develops, as well as intercultural understanding. Ultimately, we share an evolution that allows for cultural difference, in the first place, and intercultural cohering for shared design and production of our futures." Lifeworld (as I think JH means the word) is not an object to look at but rather the position from which we look and the modes of looking that we employ (not that we cannot //make// it an object and study it, but even that is a culturally influenced activity), but since lifeworld/culture are continually constructed and reconstructed through human interaction any interaction at all between cultures (even hostile) already alters both: your very presence evokes a new and altered image of us, in our own eyes, indeed //gives// us an image and a mode of being towards you which we didn't have before. I'm thinking of little towns that put up signs defining themselves ("best little town in Texas", "12,500 friendly people") only after highways were built and the fact of strangers passing through inspired the very thought of self-definition--who are we for /you/.

                  Let me approach it this way. It is true of course that the phenomenological notion of lifeworld can only apply to individuals, but it is pretty clear to me that JH does not use the world in the strict phenomenological sense, and means to say that communities as such have lifeworlds--though certainly born along by individuals in communicative interaction. In any case I suggest that lifeworld in JH's parlance may be understood as the assumptions, stories, rules, skills, styles and patterns of behaviour etc. that are behind, undergirding and empowering, a community of discourse, with "discourse" and "assumption" extended to include not only cognitive interaction, but all meaningful interaction (JH does not use "discourse" in this way. I will call it "conversation"). Socialization is the process of bringing new members, esp. children, into the "conversation" (i.e. the totality of meaningful interaction, including e.g. cutting rice, cooking, secretly making offerings to the spirits), through which they take on personal versions of the lifeworld ("take on" as much as or more than "imparted to"). But socialization is never separate from the conversation & often occurs more as a consequence of the conversation than as a specificly intended outcome. The lifeworld is continually instantiated, as it were, or reconstituted in and through the conversation in a sort of never ending mutual socialization. The lifeworld, then, is "located" neither in individuals as such nor in the community as such, but in the interaction, the conversation itself: it exists in and through its own instantiation. Thus no one individual would "have" it as a whole, nor would it ever be wholly thematized and intentionally grasped as a whole; indeed "it" may never /be/ a unified coherent whole, so much as a communal reaching towards... I don't think that this is too far afield from JH's construction, but I present it here as my own, arrived at by different pathways. For him, the "conversation" would be communicative reason, using language to coordinate action. I mean to include that, but much more as well.

                  According to JH, discourse, in his specific sense, occurs when the ordinary flow of the conversation, the coordination of action, is broken through missunderstandings, disagreements, etc. The participants then suspend action to reflectively discuss the terms of the conversation and achieve sufficient mutual understanding that coordinated action can resume. We might strip that down and say that when the conversation (in my broader sense) is broken or interrupted, then a sort of meta-conversation occurs in which participants seek means of resuming the (perhaps altered) conversation. To the extent that resolution (or even failure to resolve) changes the conversation, the lifeworld is altered as well. In Pierre Bourdieu's terms, persons move through and compete in a variety of social "fields" in which various forms of "capital" are exchanged according to the "rules" of each field. The fields enforce a particular range of "habitus" in the sense of habitual, "instinctive" behaviour that is successful in the competition for capital (rather as a football player has a "sense" of the game & plays at once effectively, intillegently and spontaneously). Where disparate fields intersect, or just where a given field has internal inconsistencies, (and now I'm going beyond what PB says) play may be suspended and the field restructured, e.g. through renegotiation of the rules. As with lifeworld much of the structure of fields, capital, and habitus is not thematized as objects of knowledge or even awareness.

                  But this is exactly what happens when disparate cultures come in contact. The conversation of each is interupted by dissonent, or at least missunderstood voices, and resumption of the respective conversations will require adaptation of those conversations, at the least in incorporating the /fact/ of these "others" (which may lead to the first recognition that we have a culture--that there is such a thing). But the contact itself initiates, or constitutes, a new conversation potentially embracing, or supplanting, the initial ones. OR contact between disparate cultures entails the intersection of social fields that may be incommensurable, so that the habitus that is successful in one fails in the other. (e.g. in one field banknotes bear social capital, in another they bear economic capital, so that would-be entrepreneurs often fail because they pass their money out to relatives--rather, they succeed in the social field by the same actions that bring failure in the economic field). That, in turn is going to force the restructuring of fields, the redefinition of capital, and the forming of new habitus.

                  Now, the question is whether there is a cultually neutral means of mediating misuderstandings/intersecting fields etc. or whether the very mode in which participants "step back" from coordinated action in order to resolve the terms of the coordination/restructure the fields is culture-bound. I.e. whether or not the process of restructuring fields is not itself a (meta) field with its own kinds of capital and demands on habitus. I have suggested that there is no culturally neutral avenue of mediation, but that JH's concept of discourse, or something like it, provides the best approach. I suggested, moreover that"JH himself implicitly, if incompletely, recognizes" that D and U cannot be taken as culturally neutral. No doubt JH would respond as Gary did, that my quote from MCCA was "about practical discourse, not about principles that have a regulative or evaluative role in practical discourse." Yet it seems passing strange to call principles culturally neutral that cannot, or will not, be implemented in practice in some cultures, no matter how "universal" is some other sense those principles may be. If cultures exist in which actors do not "consider it incumbent upon them to reach a consensual means of regulating some controversial social matter" (MCCA, p. 103). JH argues for universality from his analysis of language, illocution, redemption of validity claims, and while I fine all this extremely valuable, with communicative action, communicative rationality, practical rationality etc. going far to correct and fill out previous theories of action and rationality, and to get beyond the impass that Dialect of Enlightenment posed, the argument for cultural neutrality is, in the end, not convincing. JH: "cultural tradition, social integration, and socialization . . . operate only in the medium of action oriented toward reaching an understanding. There is no other . . ." (MC, p. 102). I don't think that is an empirically defensible claim: I don't want my children to understand, I want them to behave. But, living in a non-western culture (sometimes out in the hinterland which is still quite animist/"primitive"), it seems patently clear that setting up Habermasian discourse would be to set up a social field that demands habitus that are quite foriegn, and perhaps dysfunctional in other, indigenous, fields. Not that people cannot learn, but that would involve more than "cognitive development, which can be understood in non-culturally-relativistic terms" (taking Gary out of context), it would involve sometimes wrenching cultural/lifeworld changes.

                  A couple of other matters: The logic of practice (PB) is /not/ practical rationality (JH). When I wrote of habitus as being the way we behave, I meant intentional behaviour, but that the intention may be inarticulate, even inarticulable; similarly the logic of practice means that behaviours and behaviour patterns may have their own internal logic and intentionality that is neither articulate nor articulable. Said differently, there is such a thing as non-cognitive meaning. I do /not/ mean to reduce meaning to behaviour, or to de-value cognitive meaning. Finally I certainly do not pretend to be making distinctions "that aren't highly developed in JH's _TCA_"! I was only suggesting that some of PB's constructs provide useful analytical tools.

                  Cheers,
                  Stephen
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