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Source: PRAXISInternational(PRAXISInternational),issue:3/1985,pages:268282,


Praxis International


John McCumber
In contrast to his predecessors at the Frankfurt School and indeed to what Charles Taylor has called a whole tradition of social critique, Jrgen Habermas undertakes to articulate and justify the positive standards in terms of which he criticizes existing institutions.1 Also in contrast to the classical Frankfurt writers, he does not accord aesthetics an important place in this thought. Their aesthetic concerns, he writes, reflected a completely affirmative attitude to . . . the art of the bourgeois epoch, and in effect delivered criticism over to the measure of the age. In Habermas own view, art is an expression of needs (individual or cultural) which exploits an intentional confusion between being and appearance: the audiences suspension of disbelief is a category mistake which founds an illusion.2 Art would thus seem for Habermas to have no promise as a source of standards for social critique. But in his Bewusstmachende oder rettende Kritikdie Aktualitt Walter Benjamins, Habermas indicates otherwise. Sharply distinguishing freedom from happiness, he suggests that Benjamins conception of critique as the aesthetic redemption of lost semantic potentials be viewed as conducive to the latter alone. Aesthetic experience would thus provide a basis for criticizing institutions, not for being unfree, but for being unhappy.3 But even if this divorce of freedom from happiness is accepted, Benjamins redemptive critique cannot be fully legitimated in Habermasian terms because it fails to justify the positive standards on which it is based. Benjamin must be in possession of such standards, because he is able to discriminate semantic potentials which are beneficial to mankind from those which are not. The ancient meanings deposited in Genesis myth of the Fall, for example, are salutary; but Benjamins retrieval from the myths of Niobe and Prometheus of the principle of all mythic rectification (Rechtsetzung) reveals that principle to be force, which is deleterious.4 Habermas shows, in effect, that Benjamin has two incompatible accounts of his standards for such discriminations. On the one hand, he derives them from what he calls the divine element in artan element which itself is susceptible, Habermas argues, only of an idealistic justification. On the other hand, Benjamin evaluates semantic potentials in terms of historical materialism.5 Even in the case of Benjamin, then, aesthetic experience is unable to provide positive standards for social critique. But Benjamins is not the only possible approach. Habermas own universal pragmatics furnishes, I suggest, a framework in terms of which to consider the emancipatory potential of aesthetic experience. In part I below, I argue that Habermas does not include certain types of poetry within his account of the forms of communication, and in part II

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suggest how this can be done. The resulting account of aesthetic interaction will turn out to be paradigmatic of a wider sort of human communication. Adopting the breadth of reference (though not, as will be seen, the exact meaning) of the Greek @, I will call this broader mode of speech poetic interaction. Part III will examine three ways in which such interaction can be said to be emancipated; part IV will use these senses to formulate positive standards for social critique, and will suggest how the present undertaking is related to Habermas. I The relevant portion of Habermas views may be summarized from What is Universal Pragmatics?6 Whenever we engage in communicative action with others, we presuppose that the message communicated is 1. true (wahr) 2. appropriate to social norms (richtig) 3. a truthful expression of the speakers intentional state (wahrhaft) 4. intelligible (verstndlich) These four presuppositions are not always rightly made, of course.7 But are always made, and must be if we are to reach agreements and understandings with others. A second sort of presupposition follows for the speaker. In his every utterance in communicative action, any speaker engages himself, should one of these four validity-claims be challenged, to redeem or justify it. The paradigm for such justification Habermas calls discourse. Discourse ideally requires symmetry of interaction, in that all participants have equal opportunity to state their views; universality, in that no possible interlocutor be intentionally exluded from the debate; and generality, in that every claim made be viewed as open to challenge and redemption. The concept of such a general, universal, and symmetrical redemption of validity-claims is that of the ideal speech situation, which is therefore anticipated in every case of communicative action. The norms of ideal speech constitute for Habermas the positive basis for the critique of actual communication, and of the social norms and institutions within which such communication takes place.8 Habermas has been taken to claim that all human speech makes all four validity-claims.9 In fact, the theory is formulated to cover only speech acts occurring in cases of communicative action, by which Habermas means communication governed by binding consensual norms. Not all communication is of this type. In strategic action, which includes manipulation and systematically distorted communication, the sincerity-claim is suspended: in symbolic action, which includes the sorts of communication occurring in a concert or dance, the truth-claim is. Communicative action is indeed for Habermas the fundamental form of communicationbut not, as Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns makes clear, in the sense that it is a base from which other types are formed or to which they are added (this role would belong, if anywhere, to ideological action and its communicative counterpart, strategic action). Rather, communicative action is fundamental because it is complete:


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while other forms of communication make only some validity-claims, it makes all four, other types can be grasped as limited cases of it, but not it of them.10 Writing and reading, hearing and reciting poetry are presumably communicative activities, and the question arises of whether they are also cases of communicative action: of whether they require the raising of all four validity-claims. Habermas has not dealt with this issue in detail, but scattered remarks in his writings suggest an affirmative answer. If works of art did not claim to be intelligible, there would be no such thing as art criticism.11 If artistic expression did not imply specific norms in terms of which members of the aesthetic community relate to one another, there would be no such thing as an avant-garde.12 As an expression of needs, art comes under the sincerity-claim; and Habermas view that aesthetic understanding confuses being and appearance might be taken to imply that the two are originally distinctthat we first approach a work of art with the presupposition that its assertions are true, but then somehow bracket that claim. Not all cases of aesthetic interaction, I submit, would conform to such a model. Consider a poem as a communication from the poet. A truth-claim for the assertions it contains would for Habermas amount to the claim that those assertions could be justified as true to participants in an ideal speech situation. Someone who takes poems to make this sort of claim would be prepared to seek consensus regarding such matters as whether the Trojan War really took place as Homer recounts it, or whether summer really surprised T.S. Eliot, coming over the Starnbergersee.13 But we would, I think, suspect that such a person was not really encountering the poems as poems: that he was interested in their historical or autobiographical aspects, rather than in their poetic ones, or that he was simply uninformed about the nature of poetry in contemporary culture. An informed reader today, by contrast, is usually not prepared to investigate the truth of a poems assertions; such investigation, he is likely to tell us, is generally irrelevant to the poems status as poetic. It seems, in other words, to be an empirical fact that the interactive context for discussing poetry today forbids examining the truth of assertions a poem contains. And since to raise a truth-claim for an assertion is in Habermas view to claim that discursive examination of the assertion would yield consensus on its truth, this means that poems cannot raise truth-claims for the assertions they contain. The confusion of being and appearance to which Habermas alludes thus turns out, in the case of at least some poetry, not to be a process of first raising and then bracketing truth-claims, but an acceptance of truth-claims as only apparently raised by poemsand hence as not really raised at all.14 So the assertions contained in a poem do not claim, as poetic, to be true at all. Some sort of truth-claim may, of course, be recuperable from higher levels of poetic reading; but as will be seen, this is irrelevant to my point here. Similarly, while some poetry does claim to express the intentional states of the poet, some does not. Again, Homer is a good example: we cannot tell from his poems whether he was one person or many, and one scholar has argued that he was a woman.15 And finally, it is hard to locate transcultural moral or social norms in some poetry, which makes it hard to see how such poetry could

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claim to be appropriate to readers from another culture who may none the less appreciate it deeply. How could the Iliad, archaic in its structure and in what it depicts, in its language and its very conception of poetry, claim to be appropriate to Renaissance Italy, Victorian England, or even classical Athens? All poetry claims to be appreciable by the reader, and hence in a broad sense intelligible; but it seems that poetry does not necessarily claim truth, sincerity, or appropriateness, and that poetic communication is not necessarily governed by those binding consensual norms.16 II As Habermas notes, it is through its claims to truth, sincerity, and appropriateness that an utterance is tied to the non-linguistic components of actual situations.17 If we want to understand an utterance which does not make such claims, we must seek to do so without appeal to any particular state of affairs it describes; to the actual mental states of its utterer; or to those social norms which govern our interaction with him. Nothing is left to understand except the words themselvesthe meanings and forces (illocutionary and perlocutionary) which the utterance might have in some actual situation.18 Since the utterance does not describe any particular situation, for example, we are free to definewithin the parameters it givesthe sort of state of affairs it might describe. Similarly, we are free within limits to impute mental states to its utterer, to decide which social norms would make the utterance appropriate, and to derive for ourselves what sort of uptake it might, in various circumstances, secure. Such an utterance, in short, provides guidelines within which we are free to construct a situation for it. In contrast to Habermas model of understanding in Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns, we do not measure the utterance against presupposed worlds (natural, social, or intentional) to see whether it relates to them acceptably. We construct a world, or situation, for it.19 On the model of Rezeptionssthetik, this kind of situation-building approximates, not to literal, but to literary understanding. As Wolfgang Iser has written,
The parting of the ways between literary and ordinary speech is observed in the matter of situational context. The fictional utterance seems to be made without reference to any real situation, whereas the speech act presupposes a situation whose precise definition is essential to the success of that act . . . In simple terms, we may say that fictional language provides instructions for the building of a situation, and so for the construction of an imaginary object.20

We need not defend Rezeptionssthetik as the sole possible approach to literature to sustain the rather banal claim that some literature operates this way. Because in such cases the audience constructs the situation of a given utterance from the utterance itself, such interaction involves a production, or @, in two senses. In any communicative encounter, we may say, utterances are produced and themselves produce illocutionary and perlocutionary effects. In many cases, this proceeds in accordance with linguistic norms


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and conventions clearly in force, on the Austinian model Habermas uses.21 But in some cases, such an unequivocal set of conventions is not in force, nor intended to be; the procedures for understanding the utterance are not univocally dictated, and are up to the hearers to derive (in senses yet to be discussed). Those procedures then amount to rules for constructing a situation around the utterance, within and for which it will be acceptable or unacceptable. The effects an utterance achieves on a given occasion will in part be determined by which procedures the hearers derive. Thus, if I view Molly Blooms soliloquy at the end of Ulysses as merely the musings of a faithless housewife, I have opted for a very different set of ways of understanding her final yes I will yes than if I view it as the primordian night-language of Mother Earth. The point is that, as a literary work, Ulysses explicitly forbids neither view. It leaves me free to decide how I will understand the passage, thus permitting me to produce (or adduce) the procedure in terms of which I construct a situation for it. It is with reference to this second-order production of understanding-procedure that I call this sort of speech poetic.22 Poetic interaction so understood, however, occurs outside contexts we would properly call literary or aesthetic.23 We can show this by modifying Sartres famous treatment, in Being and Nothing, of the couple in the cafe.24 Suppose a man and woman are having a business lunch, and she has just outlined to him her plan for a daring and resourceful coup d affaires. Turning to her, gazing deep into her eyes, he blurts out I think youre the most fantastic co-worker Ive ever had. In trying to understand this utterance, the woman would be ill-advised to speculate on whether she is really the most fantastic employee of the firm; the utterance is too vague to have any assignable truth-value and even if it were not, its truth or falsity would help little towards understanding it. It is also irrelevant whether the man is sincere in claiming that the woman is his most fantastic co-worker, and just what his intentions arewhether he is genuinely complimenting her acumen or is expressing a quite different emotionis unclear. Let us assume, in fact, that he does not know himselfthat the utterance just escaped him, that he does not know just what his feeling are, and so does not know what sort of action he is performing with his statement. Because of all this, the woman suddenly does not know what norms are governing the encounterthose of friendly collaboration, of entrepreneurial inquiry, of flirtation or perhaps of some other kind altogether. The question of whether the utterance is appropriate or not cannot then be resolved until the situation is further defined. The woman is thus in the uncomfortable position of not knowing what the mans utterance actually means in the given situationnot just because she doesnt know what the situation is (neither does he), but because in a sense there will be no situation until she makes her response. Her task is not to come to an understanding with the man about what is happening, but to make something happen. The situation has been left up to her to construct, and the encounter thus exhibits the structure of double @ that we found in some literary discourse. Unlike the situational frame presupposed by speech act theory,

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writes Iser, the fictional situation does not exist until it is produced.25 The same goes for some very non-fictional situations as well. Just what sorts of situation these might be is an issue that, fortunately, need not be addressed here. Consider, for example, Lakoff and Johnsons view of metaphors as partially structuring our understanding of situations. The very partiality of this structuring can be viewed as making the understanding it leads to creative, in the sense that those operating with a given metaphor are free to define for themselves whatever aspects of their current situation are not covered by that metaphor. Given the pervasiveness of metaphor in ordinary and even in specialized discourse (also amply shown by Lakoff and Johnson), it becomes plausible that poetic interaction refers less to a specific class of utterances and responses than to a way of operating with language that occurs across the spectrum of human interaction.26 But the question of which cases of interaction are to be classed as poetic is of no immediate concern, as long as it is recognized that they are not all literary or aesthetic. Poetic interaction, if instantiated par excellence in literary discourse, is as I have presented it also to be found, in greater or lesser degree, in other realms of interaction.27 Poetic interaction is not communicative action in Habermas sense because an utterance in it does not claim to be true, sincere, or appropriate. A poetic utterance claims, at most, that situations can be constructed in which it would have (or not have) those characters. Poetic interaction is not strategic, because it is neither manipulative nor necessarily success-oriented: if the man in the cafe does not know himself what response he wants from the woman, his utterance cannot be aimed at bringing about any particular response from her. And, unlike dances and concerts, poetic interaction contains utterances which are propositional in form; it cannot be symbolic interaction. It can, however, be construed within Habermas basic framework as speech in which only the intelligibility-claim is directly in force; for the mans words, whatever they may be decided to mean, claim from the outset to mean something. III If poetic interaction is a distinguishable type of human communication, the question arises of whether, like communicative action, it can provide positive standards for the critique of actually existing social institutions. To answer this, we must clarify the senses in which poetic interaction can be called emancipated. I will discuss three such senses. But a complete account of the emancipatory potential of poetic interaction cannot, even in principle, be given. This is because, unlike Habermas ideal speech situation, situation-building speech is not a conceptual construct but, on the testimony adduced, an empirical given. Its basic structures call, not for argument, but for description; and empirical description can never be complete. Neither, therefore, can an account of the emancipatory potential of what is being described. In what follows, I will assume as a basis only what has been argued so far: that there is a kind of interaction in which the hearers of an utterance themselves derive procedures for understanding it. My account will flesh this out to some


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degree, but will necessarily remain abstract. The discussion can at most point to the need for a fuller reconstruction of the nature of poetic interaction. If we understand derive in the above formulation as choose, then the procedures applied to a given utterance in poetic encounter are selected by the hearers of that utterance from a repertoire of understanding-procedures with which they are already acquainted.28 Thus, we may assume that the woman in the cafe knows the social norms governing both intellectual collaboration and dating, and in that case her understanding-procedure will be to select the set to apply to the mans utterance. By allowing such selection, poetic interaction allows for a greater freedom of choice than do interactions which proceed on the basis of a single set of conventions already clearly in force. However, not all choices are emancipatory. Suppose that I choose to regard a given utterance as an insult, though nothing in the utterance itself or its attendant circumstances requires me to do so. I am then committed to a course of action which includes quarrelling, breaking off communication, or even (in some cultures) a duel or vendetta. Are we to say that my free choice of an understanding-procedure was in any important sense emancipated? We may meet this by distinguishing responses which continue a given encounter as poetic from responses which either break it off altogether or convert it to a non-poetic one. In general, we may say that once a single, unequivocal procedure is chosen and applied to a given utterance in such a way that the response to that utterance cannot be understood as itself poetic, the poetic encounter as such is terminated. Poetic interaction, which as interactive must consist, at a minimum, of an utterance plus the response it evokes, then falls into two types. In terminating poetic interaction, we will say, one of the possible understandings of an utterance is selected as that in terms of which the response to the utterance is made, and the participants are committed to an unequivocal course of action (which may be communicative action) on that basis; their encounter, whatever forms it may then take, is no longer poetic. In non-terminating poetic interaction, the utterance elicits a response which itself is poetic and can be understood in a variety of ways. Such interaction is inherently open-ended: either side is free, at any stage, to select procedures for understanding in terms of which to formulate his response. The freedom of choice inherent in poetic encounter thus becomes symmetrical, and its emancipated character is not defeated by either sides commitment to a single course of action. Such non-action-oriented encounter cannot, of course, be a means of resolving political (or other) issues. But the sort of freedom it involves can, as I will argue below, serve as a standard in terms of which to assess actually existing norms and institutions. There is another traditional view of freedom, perhaps most vigorously represented by Aristotle and Schiller, with which poetic interaction can be connected. For Aristotle, an action is in the strict sense voluntary when it results from deliberation, from the coincidence of reason with appetite. When reason tells me that what I desire is in fact good for me, and shows me how to obtain it, I choose to pursue the desired object or state of affairs.29 For Schiller, freedom is the unification of the sensory and intellectual components

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of mans being.30 We may express this view of freedom as a sort of human wholeness more generally by saying that an act is free in so far as it is determined by a broader spectrum of the psychosomatic factorsneeds, desires, dispositions, beliefs, background knowledge, etc.present in the actor at the time of the action, and unfree in so far as that spectrum is narrowed by social or institutional constraints. We may also suppose that, in some if not all cases, the repertoire of procedures from which the hearer of a poetic utterance selects those which he will apply to that utterance is conditioned by psychosomatic factors present in his make-up at that time. If the woman in the cafe is from a culture in which flirting does not occur, for example, those norms may not be part of her background knowledge and she may not be able to understand the mans utterance as flirtatious. If she is fighting Asian flu, those norms may be temporarily absent from her make-up. A restriction on the repertoire of understanding-procedures thus restricts as well the variety of psychosomatic factors which will be allowed to play a role in producing the response to a given utterance. Suppose that other workers are present at the business lunch. The norms of discourse in this situation, enforced now by the presence of others, do not allow anyone to speak flirtatiously; and if the man in fact comes out with his utterance, the woman will not be free to select an understanding-procedure which will give it a sexual meaning. She is permitted to respond in terms of only some of the factors present in her psychosomatic make-up and her response is, to that degree, unfree. In poetic interaction, by contrast, a single set of understanding-procedures is not specified. The hearers choice among possible procedures thus allows her, in principle, to take account of a wider variety of factors in her current individual make-up, and does not require her to suppress all but a single set of such factors (though she may in fact choose to do so). In this sense, even a terminating poetic encounter can be viewed as negatively free: it does not enforce as partial a response as do situations that are clearly defined from the outset. If the encounter is non-terminating, then the hearer can not only allow a variety of psychosomatic factors to condition her response, but can actually allow her response itself to express or convey a variety of such factorsas if the womans response in the cafe were to convey at once a desire for sex and for business collaboration. In such a case, diverse psychosomatic factors cooperate to produce a response. The response itself can be viewed as the expression of a (relatively) unified self, rather than as resulting from a fragmentation of the self via the suppression or selection of some of its current constituents. Such a response we will call positively emancipated.31 This second account of the emancipatory potential of poetic interaction, like the previous one, points to the limits of poetic concepts of emancipation. The open-ended character of non-terminating poetic interaction meant that actionoriented communication was in a sense not emancipated. Neither, it now appears, is any interaction which proceeds in accordance with univocally determined understanding-procedures. However, action-oriented, normgoverned, interaction clearly possesses, as Habermas thought shows, eman-


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cipatory potential of its own. Poetic emancipation can thus be at most one particular type of freedoma species, not the genus, as I will argue below. Finally, it is not necessary to view the derivation of understandingprocedures as a process of selection at all. It can happen that a poetic utterance consists of words and phrases combined in truly new ways, and that consequently no situation can be constructed for it that greatly resembles any situation in which its hearers have previously been. The hearers are thus required, not to decide which of a set of previously known procedures to apply to the utterance, but to extrapolate new procedures to cover it. This corresponds broadly to what Richard Rorty calls abnormal discourse,32 and I will refer to it as abnormal poetic interaction, as distinct from the normal varieties so far considered. An utterance in abnormal poetic interaction, since it cannot be understood by any currently known procedures, first appears as unintelligible. Its hearers are free to retain the canonical status of previously known procedures, either by applying them to the utterance as far as they will go or by rejecting it as altogether nonsensical (as Carnap did with Heideggers das Nichts nichtet).33 In such cases, an abnormal poetic utterance does not lead to a poetic encounter. But even an abnormal utterance, simply by being uttered, makes a claim to intelligibility of some sort, and if its hearers are not wholly wedded to the canonical repertoire they may undertake to formulate new procedures for understanding the utterance. Such abnormal poetic encounters can, again, be either terminating or non-terminating. If a single, new set of procedures is extrapolated, an alternative is presented to the current repertoire.34 Dependence on that repertoire is correspondingly reduced; the hearers are liberated from its limits. Such interaction is not only emancipatory, but emancipated: it can only proceed if the hearers are liberated from the canonical repertoire enough to be willing to countenance alternatives to it. In a non-terminating abnormal poetic encounter, no single new set of procedures for understanding is arrived at. Rather, the encounter continues with a response that is itself abnormal, and which requires a further extrapolation of new procedures.35 Instead of reducing dependence on a particular repertoire of currently existing procedures, such encounter reduces dependence on established procedures for understanding as such. It corresponds, presumably, to what Rorty calls edification in philosophy, as opposed to the sort of revolution brought about by great thinkers who institute new but unequivocal procedures for speech and response.36 The question of whether poetic interaction is or is not emancipated cannot, in sum, be given a simple answer. The concept of emancipation, like the correlative notion of freedom, is almost perversely polymorphic.37 This leads to a dilemma. Attempts to impose uniform meanings on such terms seem themselves (paradoxically) authoritarian. On the other hand, to remain content with affirmations of the concrete heterogeneity of meanings for freedom and emancipation would amount to abjuring the search for positive formulations, as did Adorno et al. The concept of poetic interaction would, I suspect, allow us to resolve this dilemma more in the spirit of Habermas. The typology offered here of poetic

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interaction is at bottom descriptive, and can claim neither completeness nor finality. But it does seem that at least some traditional meanings of freedom and emancipation correspond to the various forms of poetic interaction that have presented themselves. And this suggests that further investigations of the latter may yield a key to understanding certain rational structures of the formersomewhat as Habermas analyses of communicative competence have illuminated and helped structure the manifold data of developmental psychology.38 If we have no proof that the genus poetic interaction is necessarily emancipated, we do have patterns of correlation that invite further investigation.39 IV Because we have no unified concept of poetic emancipation, we cannot formulate a unified set of standards for evaluating existing institutions. The various correlative senses of poetic interaction and emancipation do, however, yield a looser set of standards, more or less mutually independent. If we define an institution as an established pattern of human interaction which includes verbal behaviour, we can say that any poetically emancipated institution satisfies one or more of the following conditions: 1. It allows any utterance which occurs as part of its distinctive pattern of interaction to be understood in any of a plurality of ways, i.e., to produce any of a variety of illocutionary and perlocutionary effects. Just which effects is up to the hearers. (This standard is derived from terminating normal poetic interaction.) 2. It does not enforce the univocality of responses to such utterances, which as we saw means that the encounters it contains must be open-ended and symmetrical (non-terminating poetic interaction). 3. It does not exclude in advance any type of psychosomatic factor which may be currently present in the hearer from conditioning his repertoire of understanding-procedures (terminating normal poetic interaction) or from actually playing a role, simultaneously with others, in the production of a response (non-terminating normal poetic interaction). 4. It has no predetermined criteria of what is to count as nonsense within its pattern of interaction, but leaves this up to the hearers in each case (abnormal poetic interaction). 5. It does not require that a response conform to established procedures for understanding, whether those procedures be, (a) known at the outset of the encounter (terminating abnormal poetic interaction), or (b) extrapolated from an utterance occurring within the encounter (non-terminating abnormal poetic interaction). It is clear that, while these conditions are not mutually incompatible, at least some of them can be fulfilled independently of one another (e.g., 1 and 2-5; 4 and 1-3). Poetic emancipation is not a unified ideal, then, but a family of them. On the other hand, (5) cannot be met without (1) and neither can (3): as the preliminary typology I have given also suggests, this family has a tree, a pattern of interrelationships which I will not explore further here.


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These standards can presumably be applied to any institution as defined above. But they may not tell very much about its overall worth. Natural science, at least as normally understood, requires the rigorous exclusion of certain types of motivation (e.g., desire for personal gain) from its institutionalized discourse-patterns, and has rigorous standards for what is to count, within those patterns, as nonsense. According to the standards of poetic interaction, then, discourse in the natural sciences is in certain senses unfree. But we would hardly condemn natural science on these grounds, or wish humanity to be emancipated from it; so the standards of poetic emancipation are not the only standards in terms of which to judge an institution. The fact that they are not privileged, however, does not mean that they are uninformative. Discourse in the natural sciences is in some senses unfree as compared, for example, with some forms of artistic discourse. The persistent tendency of the epoch to canonize scientific discourse as the only paradigm of rationality suggests that it would be important to have a full account of just what those senses are. But the standards of assessment opened up by the concept of poetic interaction do not even cover all of emancipation. For our account of such interaction is parasitic upon Habermas account of universal pragmaticsand that account, of course, also admits of a very different view of emancipation. How are these two views related? Habermas has claimed, throughout his development, that reflection is necessary for emancipation.40 Though there is nothing in the types of poetic interaction so far considered to exclude reflective procedures, there is also nothing to require them. We can select procedures for understanding without being aware that we are doing so, and can extrapolate new procedures while thinking that we are only clarifying old ones. Thus, the question of how the present view relates to Habermas can be approached through the question of the relation of reflective to non-reflective forms of emancipation. In so far as interaction is norm-governed, i.e., is in Habermas sense communicative action, the governing norms can be viewed as constraints inherent in interaction itself. Such constraints can, presumably, only be changed by conscious intervention. The intervening parties must first become aware of them, and then undertake to question their validity. Such intervention must be reflective and, in Habermas sense, discursive. But not all interaction, as has been seen, is of this type; in poetic interaction, norms of encounter can be selected or extrapolated. Such encounter is as such emancipated from some of the very norms, among others, which reflection seeks to dethrone. Each paradigm of interaction, then leads to a different sort of critical theory. Focusing on communicative action, Habermas critical theory seeks to reconstruct its presuppositions and emancipatory potential.41 Also possible, though not as difficult and (given the peripheral nature of poetry in all senses to modern society) probably not as important is a critical theory which would undertake to elucidate the structures and conditions of non-reflective processes of emancipation, as evidenced here by poetic interaction. Such a critical theory would, I think, have two major applications. First, directed to given empirical cases of poetic interaction, it would seek to understand their exact nature, by reconstructing the repertoires of the

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participants, determining which understanding-procedures were selected or extrapolated, and examining the resulting situation to see what sort of emancipation, if any, was achieved. Such critical theory would then take the form of a reflective reconstruction of non-reflective processes of emancipation. Second, critical theory could apply itself more generally to patterns of interaction within a society, evaluating them by the standards of poetic emancipation. Its aim would be to diagnose suppressions of poetic interaction in the hope of facilitating its emancipatory potential where it is unnecessarily restricted by existing institutions. The object domain of critical theory would not be extended by the sort of additional approach I am suggesting here. But critical theory as a whole would have a wider variety of standards in terms of which to carry out its critique, and a broader concept of emancipation. These would be, I think, worthwhile additions to its repertoire.
1 Jrgen Habermas, Moral Development and Ego-Identity, in Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon, 1979), p. 72ff. (hereafter CES); Summation and Response, Continuum 8 (1970); 128f; for Taylors clearly polemical remarks, see Charles Taylor, Hegel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 559. I am much indebted to Richard J. Bernstein, Nancy Fraser, and Franoise Lionnet-McCumber for their incisive critiques of earlier versions of this paper. Jrgen Habermas, Moral Development and Ego Identity, CES, p. 93; Some Distinctions in Universal Pragmatics, Theory and Society 3 (1976): 167; Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns, 2 Vols. (Frankfurt; Suhrkamp, 1981), 2:559f. (hereafter TKH); for the view that the needs expressed in art need not be merely individual, cf. TKH 1:36, 136. Jrgen Habermas, Bewusstmachende oder rettende Kritik in Habermas, Kultur und Kritik (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973), pp. 339-344. Walter Benjamin, Zur Kritik der Gewalt, in Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften 3, ed. Paula Tiedemann-Bartels (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1972), pp. 198ff; ber Sprache berhaupt und ber die Sprache des Menschen, in Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften 2, ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhuser (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1977), p. 153. Habermas, op. cit., p. 330f. Jrgen Habermas, What is Universal Pragmatics? CES 67; On Systematically Distorted Communication, Inquiry 13 (1970): 206; Wahrheitstheorien, in Wirklichkeit und Reflexion: Walter Schulz zum 60en Geburtstag (Pfllingen: Neske, 1973), pp. 221f, 238; Theorie der Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie: Was leistet die Systemforschung? (with Niklas Luhmann) (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1971), p. 189. In his later work, Habermas reassigns intelligibility to the presuppositions of communicative action, instead of viewing it as a claim raised in such interaction (Some Distinctions in Universal Pragmatics, p. 159; TKH 1:147ff ). Because this issue concerns Habermas view of intelligibility as syntactic well-formedness, it does not seem to bear on my argument here, which construes intelligibility more broadly as the capacity to achieve illocutionary and perlocutionary effects in rational, i.e., criticizable, ways (for this concept of rationality, cf. TKH 1:25-71). Jrgen Habermas, What is Universal Pragmatics? CES, p. 3; Wahrheitstheorien, pp. 255f. Jrgen Habermas, What is Universal Pragmatics? CES, pp. 61-65; Theorie der Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie: Was leistet die Systemforschung?, pp. 101f, 139, 190, 224;

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Towards a Theory of Communicative Competence, Inquiry 13 (1970): 371f. The demand for generality follows from Habermas stated requirement of unimpaired self-presentation in ideal speech, which I take to entail that any validity-claim a participant thinks should be challenged is in fact open to challenge: Wahrheitstheorien, op. cit., pp. 255f. This question is not to be confused with that of Habermas transcendental turn, for which see Thomas McCarthy, The Critical Theory of Jrgen Habermas (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1978), pp. 272-279, and TKH 1: 199. At issue is not whether ideal speech can be reconstructed as a necessary presupposition of communicative action, but whether the domain of the latter is to be equated with all human language. Authors who think it is include: B.C. Birchall, Radicalization of the Critique of Knowledge: Epistemology Overcome or Reinstatement of an Error? Man and World 10 (1977): 375f. Eva-Marie Engels, Mndigkeit: eine anthropologische Kategorie? Zeitschrift fr Philosophische Forschung 33 (1979): 403; Raymond Geuss, The Idea of a Critical Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 65ff; Dieter Misgeld, Discourse and Conversation, Cultural Hermeneutics 4 (1977): 328. TKH 1: 126-151. For Habermas views on the nature of artistic criticism, see TKH 1: 41f, 70; again, I am using intelligible in the broad sense. For problems of the avant-garde, cf. Jrgen Habermas, Toward a Rational Society, trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro, (Boston: Beacon, 1975), pp. 78, 84-86. Jrgen Habermas, Wahrheitstheorien, pp. 218, 239f. In the case of Eliot, we cannot even begin to inquire about the truth of the opening lines of the Wasteland because the syntax is designed to leave it unclear whether it was we or summer coming over the Starnberger See. Cf. T.S. Eliot, Selected Poems (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich, 1934), p. 51. Cf. Dennis Rasmussen, Poetry and Truth (The Hague: Mouton, 1974), pp. 15f. Samuel Butler, The Authoress of the Odyssey (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967); also cf. the article by C.M. Bowra on Homer in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970), pp. 524ff. Similar issues have been raised by Dominick LaCapra, Habermas and the Grounding of Critical Theory, History and Theory, 16 (1977): 237-264; Michael Ryan, New French Theory in New German Critique, New German Critique 28 (1981); and John B. Thompson, Universal Pragmatics, in Habermas: Critical Debates, ed. John B. Thompson and David Held (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1982), p. 126. On the view that art (and especially poetry) does not make all four validity-claims, cf. also Martin Heidegger, The Origin of the Work of Art, in Heidegger, Poetry Language Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp. 50-52 (vs. truth), 66 (vs. sincerity), 68 (vs. appropriateness); and Michael Oakeshott, The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind, in Oakeshott, Rationalism in Politics (London: McThuen, 1972), pp. 226-230 (vs. truth), 230-234 (vs. sincerity), 240-244 (less-perspicuously, vs. appropriateness). For a general consideration of the relevance of poetry to politics, cf. Fred Dallmayr, Language and Politics (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), pp. 148-192. Jrgen Habermas, What is Universal Pragmatics? CES, pp. 65-68. J.L. Austin, How to do Things with Words (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965), pp. 99f. Such an utterance can, of course, portray social norms, intentional states, and truth claims. But the norms, etc. so portrayed are not themselves binding on the reader or hearer of the utterance, who retains his freedom to accept, reject, or interpret them. Wolfgang Iser finds such non-binding portrayal of norms to be itself emancipatory: Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 1978), p. 74. Cf. TKH 1: 400. Iser, op. cit., pp. 63f. Austin, op. cit., pp. 101f; for Habermas critical appropriation of Austin, cf. What is

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Universal Pragmatics? CES, pp. 44-59. Poetic discourse and interaction thus exhibit what Hans-Robert Jauss has called the norm-establishing (normbildend) function of art: H. R. Jauss, Negativitt und Identifikation, in Poetik und Hermeneutik 6 (1975): 324. In On Social Identity, Telos 19 (1974): 99f, Habermas refers to art as norm-forming, but without as far as I can see attempting to develop the idea of such norm-forming as emancipatory. Because what Jauss calls norms and what Iser calls strategies are different things from what those terms mean for Habermas, I am using the phrase understanding-procedure to cover, roughly, both notions: Jauss, ibid; op. cit., pp. 85f. Iser, as the textual citation quoted as length shows, denies this point. So does Jauss, for whom literary discourse produces distinctively aesthetic enjoyment: H.R. Jauss, Aesthetic Experience and Literary Hermeneutics, trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982), pp. 22-36. As my subsequent example will I think show, situation-building discourse need not be enjoyable. Jean-Paul Sartre, Ltre et le nant (Paris: Gallimard, 1943), pp. 94ff; my account here draws upon the analysis of flirtation in John Sabini and Maury Silver, Moralities of Everyday Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 107-123. Iser, op. cit., p. 66. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 12f., 52-55 and passim. This provides half an answer to a problem Habermas often raises: how can art, which is a distinct and often autonomous realm in modern society, undertake to liberate the whole? We are not locating emancipatory potential in art per se, but in the wider sort of interaction for which art is the paradigm. The other half of the answerthat such emancipation is not the only, or even the most important, sort, will be discussed below. See Jrgen Habermas, Modernity vs. Post-Modernity, New German Critique 22 (1981): 12; TKH 2: 586; Bewusstmachende oder rettende Kritik, pp. 339-344; and the passages cited above from Legitimation Crisis and Toward a Rational Society. For the notion of repertoire, cf. Iser, op. cit., pp. 53-85. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics II.3, 1113e; III.5, 1113b; de Anima III. 10, 433a seq. Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, trans. Reginald Snell (New York: Ungar, 1954), p. 96f. In the ideal, limiting case, all factors in the psychosomatic make-up of the individual would be positively expressed in his response or utterance; on the less stringent and less counterfactual view expressed by Aristotle and Schiller, representatives of their basic types would be. But neither needs to be the case for poetic interaction to count as relatively emancipated. Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 320-322, 387. Rudolf Carnap, The Elimination of Metaphysics Through the Logical Analysis of Language, in Logical Positivism, ed. A.J. Ayer (New York: Free Press, 1959), pp. 60-81. As Heidegger puts it, what went before is refuted in its exclusive reality by the work, in The Origin of the Work of Art, p. 75. For what seems to be a discussion of this admittedly elusive form of interaction, cf. Jacques Derrida, Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences, in Derrida, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), pp. 278-293. Derrida notes that Levi-Strauss, because of the absence of a center which would control the free play of meaning in myth, was forced in writing of myths to adopt a discourse which was itself mythic, i.e., allowed of a free play of meanings. Rorty, op. cit., p. 369. In his Two Concepts of Liberty, Isaiah Berlin refers to the more than two hundred senses


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of (freedom) recorded by historians of ideas. Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), p. 121. 38 Habermas, Moral Development and Ego identity, CES 60-94. 39 We may summarize the results of this section in the following table:
TYPE OF INTERACTION communicative action poetic interaction: normal: terminating non-terminating abnormal: terminating non-terminating STATUS OF PROCEDURES governing EMANCIPATORY CHARACTER reflective

selected selected

choice of procedures (negative) unification of self (positive) reduced dependence on previous procedures reduced dependence on established procedures as such

extrapolated extrapolated

40 41

Cf. my Reflection and Emancipation in Habermas, Southern Journal of Philosophy 225 (1984): 71-81. We may then say that Habermas has stacked the hardest case: showing that even norm-governed interaction has emancipatory potential (though not, to be sure, directly, but in so far as it anticipates discourse and ideal speech).