Saturday, April 14, 2007

Habermas vs. Heidegger in ‘Derrida’

Habermas associates Derrida’s performativity with Adorno’s “Praxis” in his remembrance of Derrida, soon after Derrida died: “Derrida’s deconstruction, like Adorno’s negative dialectics, is essentially a performative exercise, a Praxis” [end of paragraph (i.e., passing comment)], Derrida-Habermas Reader, p.307. That seems to me to “essentially” express a misunderstanding of Derrida.

An oddness about Habermas’ comment is that, since all communicative action has a performative component, there seems to be an emptiness to calling negative dialectic “performative,” as if other action is something else. Perhaps, Habermas means by ’performative’: emancipatory efficacy, which is the perlocutionary effect (or unforced force) of critique. Certainly, the best sense of immanent critique (a longstanding value of the Marxian tradition) is exhibited by Derridean deconstruction: framing the self-betraying text, whose enactivity undermines itself in terms of what it enacts. This suggests Habermas’ later notion of performative contradiction.

The Habermas-Derrida relation is very interesting. It can be quite apparent that Habermas doesn’t read Heidegger validly (I would argue), so no wonder Habermas misreads Derrida (as Derrida claimed against Habermas’ critique). Given that, it’s fascinating to understand what’s going on in the misreading (i.e., what “Derrida” there is with Habermas), which, I think, derives from Habermas’ “Heidegger.” The tragedy of Habermas’ misreading of Heidegger is a matter of fated lost opportunity for thinking by Habermas, which now becomes others’ opportunity, especially through Derrida’s profound example (beyond merely counterpointing the two or reading one in terms of the other).

A deconstructive keynote here would have to be deconstructive reading of Habermas reading Derrida and Heidegger. That wouldn’t be basically a matter of a Derridean/Heideggerian disclosure of misreading; rather a disclosure of what Habermas is doing in his reading, i.e., emplacing “Derrida” in the Habermasian condition (distinct, perhaps, from Habermas’ own account of Derrida’s lack of place). I’ve been long intrigued by the aporia of, on the one hand, Habermas’ own thinking—his own insightfulness toward those epecially “Habermasian” issues that define his singularity—vis-à-vis, on the other hand, his lack of insight toward Heideggerians (including Foucault?)—an alleged lack, of course, that I would have to explicate. But it’s so ridiculous to associate Heidegger with “subject-centered reasoning” (which Habermas does in Philosophical Discourse of Modernity) that a diagnosis of scapegoating seems strongly evidenced.

Anyway, the last words of Habermas’ remembrance of Derrida are very interesting: “So it is that his [Derrida’s] oeuvre can also have an enlightening impact in Germany, because Derrida appropriated the themes of the later Heidegger without committing any neo-pagan betrayal of his own Mosaic roots” (op. cit., 306). Ha!, he thinks that Derrida—bad boy of marginality—is not a so-called neo-pagan?

Given the 20thC, one might think that Germany betrayed its own roots and that the elder Heidegger sought a renewal that had nothing neo-pagan about it—or else, what’s called “neo-pagan” was no betrayal of anything, rather a retrieval of the gifted place of rooted word in the ground of—it ultimately turns out, I think— planetary thinking (a recurrent theme in Heidegger’s later years).

The “pagan” is a fascinating creation of Western mind, such that Derrida (that dramaturgical character who writes in the third person about “Derrida” at the beginning of H.C for life, that is to say, 2006/2003) would have a lovely time with Habermas’ comment (at least as a theme of marginality). To Habermas, is it that Heidegger, too, had Mosaic roots? More likely, of course, Habermas would claim that Heidegger betrayed his own German roots.

There’s a mystery of The Root that may compel the question of rootedness that belongs to Habermas in a Same way as it belongs to Heidegger: There is a Heideggerian “belonging together in the Same” (Identity and Difference) that bridges the two Germans, roots within roots: Germany within Europe within Greco-Judaic Westernity—then rooted even further in the pagan nature of prehistorical humanity, rooted in paleoanthropology, rooted in the evolution of primate orders, rooted in the Gaiac planetarity of life, rooted in a cosmos whose psychologized heavens gave geocentric humans the Question of Being (in various ways) betrayed in “withdrawal of the gift” (Time and Being) from ontotheological Presence whose self-betraying spirit of revenge betrayed all humanity. Habermas’ “Heidegger,” then, is an expendable metonym of Germany’s betrayal of itself.

So, what is to be thought of the Jewish intimate of Heidegger’s work who did not betray his Mosaic roots? For Habermas to really read Derrida would betray a career of presumption about Heidegger’s hermeneutical dramaturgy.

The great opportunity to be found in the Derrida-Habermas relationship—the opportunity of Heideggerian-Habermasian interreading unavailable to Habermas—is not basically deconstructive, neither as (1) a detailed matter of the deconstruction of Habermas’ views on Heideggerian themes; nor (2) in terms of elaboration of kinships between deconstruction and the sense of critique belonging to Critical Theory. Rather, the great opportunity awaits in taking to heart both ways of thinking as, I would argue, two registers of Appropriative thinking intent to (now greatly oversimplifying) critically enable insightfulness and constructiveness in future-oriented openness, one with profound inwordness (attuned to a futurity unforseeable), one with profound outwordness (attuned to forseeable cosmopoly). After all, in one school of Heideggerian reading in the U.S., Heidegger is read as a pragmatist! (Dreyfus and students—but also, independently, there’s the come-lately Rorty who interfaces Heidegger and Dewey. Habermas, by the way, got his lifeworldly notion of “the Background” from Dreyfus). I know that Heidegger and Habermas can be read as primordial complements, because I’ve been doing it constructively for years!