From Reflexivity to Immediacy: Knowledge in Classical and Contemporary German Philosophy

in Transcultural Studies
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Classical German Philosophy belongs to the heritage of the European philosophical tradition, in which philosophical knowledge is defined as an epistemological reflection. Philosophy reflects on scientific knowledge to demonstrate its possibility. Thus objective knowledge is defined as a system whose principle is subjectivity. Since the 19th century, this concept of knowledge has been questioned as has subjectivity as such. Since then, philosophy in Germany has departed from comprehensive reflection and turned towards matters of detail or issues of application. In this paper I argue that the trend of skepticism about knowledge in modern German philosophy is associated with the radical social upheavals of modernity, but without being accompanied by a critical understanding of these upheavals. The first task is to reconstruct the classical concept of knowledge as it appeared in German philosophy, including its crucial relation to scientific knowledge and to history. The second task is to engage with the observation that this tradition of thought is in danger of being lost today. I will point out the role which the linguistic turn in philosophy has played and the means of deconstructing it.

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  • 23

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     Cf. Manfred Frank (ed.)Analytische Theorien des Selbstbewußtseins (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp1994) and more recently Ansgar Beckermann ʽDie Rede von dem Ich und dem Selbst. Sprachwidrig und philosophisch höchst problematischʼ in: K. Crone R. Schnepf J. Stolzenberg (ed.) Über die Seele Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2010 458–473. Beckermann attacks the linguistic use of ʽIʼ as an object: ʽthe Iʼ or ʽthe selfʼ. Finally he demands to delete these expressions in philosophy. In his argument he ignores systematically the difference between every day language and philosophical terminology. Since Aristotle philosophers are able to conceive speaking about the anima rationalis as the anima speaking about itself. Philosophical epistemology does not talk about states of mind but of the relation between the knowing subject and the known object. Thus an objective expression for subjective reflection is needed. The ancient term for this is anima rationale and the modern term is ʽIʼ or ʽselfʼ. The conditions of ist use are not linguistic but epistemological problems.

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  • 33

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     Cf. P. F. StrawsonIndividuals (London: Methuen1959). The subtitle of the book expresses the change in the concept of knowledge clearly: The tradition of reflexive epistemology is considered by Strawson as “descriptive metaphysics”.

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  • 51

     Cf. Th. W. AdornoPhilosophische Elemente einer Theorie der Gesellschaft (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp2008) 69 et seq.

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    HegelPhenomenology of Spirit579.

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    HegelScience of Logic12.

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