Locke & Habermas

If someone pulls the “Locke-Habermas” flashcard on you, you’ll probably mutter something along the lines of “critique by the latter of the belief of the former in the compatibility of capitalism and freedom mine’s a pint.” So it’s interesting to note–spin aside–how close the two seem to each other, as well as to certain dead Greeks, when they come to set out a theory of knowledge. I read Knowledge and Human Interests ages ago, thinking (wrongly) that it would impress a phenomenally attractive Indian anthropologist I had met, but I hadn’t seen the Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding until prompted by this Mark Liberman post. Here’s a summary of Habermas with Locke tucked round the back:

knowledge-constitutive interests the different sciences forms of social action locke
Technical: concerned with control and survival Empirical-analytical sciences Labour Physica
Practical: seeking mutual understanding within a common tradition Historical-hermeneutical sciences Social interaction Practica
Emancipatory: freedom from a dogmatic and controlling past Socially-critical sciences Communication via the ideal speech situation Semeiotike

The first three columns are nicked from Dermot Lane’s “Habermas and praxis” in Foundations for a Social Theology, via Richard Kearney’s Modern Movements in European Philosophy, but I did actually read the original (in German), and it has to be said that, in terms of clarity, Locke has his nose in front.

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