Towards A Critique of Cultural Reason, is sequel to the author's Innovative Competence and Social Change and a prelude to his The Primacy of the Political, seeks to develop a Kantian perspective on the theory of culture, based on the notion of the regulative judgement and the idea of an exemplar in Kant's Critique of Judgement. After a brief critical discussion of the Marxist view of the relation between culture and politics, the author develops a theory of discourse which he believes would enable us to understand how meanings may transcend contextuality and function as exemplars having a symbolic rather than merely a significational context. These exemplary unites of meaning, which may be called symbols of transcendence, constitute the fabric of culture, which in terms of its context-transcending role, may serve as sources of validation for similar exemplary actions. The book then moves on to a study of the inter-relationship between meaning and action. In the concluding portion the author seeks to develop some suggestions towards a hermeneutical understanding of culture and politics. As elements of the overall discussion, the book also deals with such themes as the Kantian notion of Critique, Dilthey's project of a Hermeneutics of Historical Reason, Ricoeur's perspective on speech and textual discourse and Husserl's reflections on the life-world.
The present work is a continuation, on the theoretical plane, of my earlier work Innovative Competence and Social Change (University of Pune, Poona, 1986). The earlier work had ended with the issue of a proper theoretical framework for understanding the relationship between Culture and Politics. It is precisely with this problem that the present work begins. A Accordingly, the first part, Culture and Politics: Some Problems jar Marxism raises certain serious philosophical issues regarding theory and praxis. It is suggested that we may have to distinguish three forms of this interrelationship, namely, (1) Theory of Action, (2) Theory for Action, and (3) Theory in Action. The first, ‘Theory of Action’, is the context of methodology while the second, ‘Theory for Action’, is the domain of discussions of strategy and tactics. While these two forms of interrelationship between theory and practice have been widely studied, the third, namely, ‘Theory in Action’, is a relatively neglected area of inquiry. Hence, the first part concentrates on this idea of meanings and principles (theory) as constituting practice. This idea is developed in the form of a theory of communicative practices (against the backdrop of the theory of speech acts). The essential feature of the theory is the distinction between two levels of the communicative process- signification and symbolization. Basing myself on the work of Paul Ricoeur and others in general hermeneutic theory, I distinguish signification as the expression of contextualized and situation- specific meanings, from symbolization as the ‘moment’ within the process of communication itself as the transcendence of such contextuality. Accordingly, the discussion turns upon the possibility and modes of such transcendence. Signification and Symbolization are here understood as two levels of the semiotic process and their differentiation in terms of subject, addressee and reference are worked out.
A Using the theory of symbolic transcendence suggested in the first part, the investigation takes a transcendental turn in the second part—The Analytic of Cultural Reason. The inquiry is transcendental in the sense that it asks for the grounds of possibility of a certain given phenomenon, namely, that human subjects are capable of expressing themselves at both the signific and symbolic levels. The fact that meanings are communicated at both the levels is shown to be essential for the possibility of culture and hence the transcendental inquiry, at this stage, shapes itself as a Critique of Cultural Reason, patterned after the Kantian Critical Programme. Kantian Critique, as is well known, has two major parts—the Analytic and the Dialectic.1n general the Analytic is a positive argumentation whose objective is to work out a conceptual framework within which alone the phenomenon under consideration becomes intelligible. In the present case the quaestio facti from which we start is that men are capable of expressing meanings at both the signific and symbolic levels, i.e. that men interpret themselves and their experiences in terms of culture. The questio juris, in this case, is to derive the framework of categorial principles in terms of which such cultural understandings may be made intelligible. Using the model of the critical project, we may call this the transcendental deduction of cultural reason. Of course, the project of a transcendental deduction of cultural reason in all its complexity is not attempted here rather, Part only attempts what may be called a prolegomenon to such a transcendental deduction of culture, In this prolegomenon, the theoretical framework of Kant’s own Critique of judgement is used as a point of departure. Part 2 describes two modes of transcendence of situationality, firstly at the level of meanings and secondly at the level of actions——these two modes of transcendence are cal- led respectively, exemplars of meaning and exemplars of action. The interrelationship of these two types of exemplars is studied with the hope that such an investigation may provide a Kantian framework for the discussion of culture and politics with which the project started.
Part 3, The Dialectic of Cultural Reason, continues the critical programme in so far as it works out the antinomies of culture theory in the form of Kantian dialectics. The general principles of a Kantain dialectic are formulated and then applied to the specific case of culture. Also, the previously formulated distinction between signification and symbolization is used as the framework for a consideration of the relativistic and universalistic understandings of culture. The problematic of cultural relativism is articulated within this framework and is also shown how the basic notions developed in the course of the earlier discussion, namely, exemplary meanings and exemplary comprehension, may help us to overcome the limitations of relativism. Part 3, therefore, fulfills two functions: (1) on the meta-level, it situates the debate over cultural relativism in anthropological theory within a transcendental framework, thereby serving to reconcile the antithetic claims.
The salience of critical philosophy for anthropological theory, which was the presupposition of Part 3, therefore, fulfills two functions: (1) on the meta-level, it extends the project of a Critique of Cultural Reason and (2) on the substantive level, it situates the debate over cultural relativism in anthropological theory within a transcendental framework, thereby serving to reconcile the antithetic claims.
The salience of critical philosophy for anthropological theory, which was the presupposition of Part 3, becomes the focus of attention in Part 4, Anthropology, Philosophy and Critique of Cultural Reason. 'this part has two major concerns: on the one hand, the notion of symbolic transcendence, which has been the moving principle of the hermeneutic programme of the present project, needs to be examined in the light of the philosophical understanding of transcendence. Accordingly, section l of the present part, entitled Transcendence and Hermeneutics, reviews the emergence of the Kantian programme of finite transcendence against the metaphysical theories of transcendence in Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz. If section l is concerned with the formation of Critique in the context of Pre—Kantian thought, section 2 on Critique, Hermeneutics and Politics seeks to place the critical programme in the context of the development of post-Kantian thought. Here an attempt is made to link together hermeneutics and transcendental critique in the form of a discussion of Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Husserl and Heidegger. The discussion gravitates towards Heidegger’s Kant-interpretation in the form of a fundamental ontology. But what perhaps marks off the present investigation from that of Heidegger are (i) unlike Heidegger’s Kant and the Problem of (Metaphysics, the present essay is more closely tuned to Kant’s Critique of judgement, (ii) it seeks to provide a transcendental grounding for a theory of politics. Indeed, this last theme is the concern of section 2 and thus the project comes back to its basic problematic-the understanding of the relationship between culture and politics. A number of friends, students, research scholars and colleagues have helped me greatly in ways more numerous than I can mention in the course of the present work. I wish to express my appreciation and thanks for their help and concern with my work. But there are others who have helped me more specifically during distinct stages of the present investigations. Of these, I would like to mention Dr Probal Dasgupta (Deccan College, Pune), Dr Ashok Kelkar (Deccan College, Pune), Professor Ram Bapat (Department of Politics, University of Poona, Pune), Dr Dharmendra Goel and Dr (Miss) Bhuvan Chandel (Department of Philosophy, Panjab University, Chandigarh) and finally Professor Mrinal Miri and Dr (Mrs.) Sujata Miri (Department of Philosophy, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong).
My wife, Saroja Sundara Rajan, has been of invaluable help and assistance to me in the present work. Apart from such help as proof correction, preparation of bibliography, notes, etc. she has helped me to clarify my thoughts and focus them more precisely and pointedly by means of her discussion and comments on almost all parts of the present work. For all this and more, I would like to record my appreciation and thanks.
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