Philosophy and the Dialectic of Modernity

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Philosophy and the Dialectic of Modernity

ABSTRACT: Habermas' social philosophy can now be perceived in its oppositional structures and their symbolic meaning. His repetition of structural opposition finds its expression in the symbolism which pervades The Philosophic Discourse of Modernity in the opposition between the dreaded myth of the Dialectic of Enlightenment and the redemptive fantasy of the path yet to be taken. More significant for the intellectual culture of modernity is the neglect, by erasure on the part of this esteemed philosopher, of the great drama of philosophy in our time. This is the drama occasioned by the dialectical struggle, rushing to climax in the 20th Century, between Enlightenment reason and its Counterenlightenment opponent. The struggle between these philosophical constellations is refracted in the great wars of this century. Thus the drama of the philosophical thought of the century and its historical development is lost. The philosophic discourse of modernity has yet to be written. Its text, once it has been freed from the tenacity of ideological hostilities and their erasures and concealing circumlocutions, will at the same time provide the sought-for foundation for social philosophy and a just society: it is the philosophic framework of Modernity itself which is the foundation of all modern philosophies, in the dialectic of Enlightenment and its Counterenlightenment other.

The social philosophy of Jurgen Habermas, outstanding philosopher and master dialectician of our time, has an immediate appeal to American philosophers, educated in the history of the Protestant migrations to the New World in search of religious freedom; educated also in the Founding Fathers who drew up a constitution for a modern republic heralded by Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence proclaiming the universality of human equality and natural rights; educated as well in the social philosophy of American pragmatism, in which Enlightenment principles of democracy and science become normative social processes.

The appeal of Habermas to American philosophers long acculturated in the Enlightenment tradition is that of a voice speaking for reason and justice; he stands forth philosophically on behalf of "rehabilitating the Enlightenment" in the face of various current modes of thought engaged in its undermining. Habermas has been widely commended for his strong unequivocal stand as a German intellectual against the Nazi movement and the Holocaust it produced, and against any revisionist circumlocutions seeking to obscure those atrocities. Habermas is also commended for his repudiation of Martin Heidegger's complicity with Nazism and his retreat to linguistic mysticism.
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