Critically and comprehensively examining the works of Habermas and Foucault, two giants of 20th century continental philosophy, this book illuminates the effects of scientific reason as it migrates from its specialized institutions into society. It explores how science permeates shared human consciousness, to produce effects that ripple through the entire social body to restructure relations between persons, discourses, institutions, and power in ways which we are barely conscious of. The book shows how science, through its entwinement with power, discourses, and practices, presents certain social arrangements as natural and certain courses of action as beyond question. By arguing for a non-reductive, liberal scientific naturalism that sees science as one form of rationality amongst others, it opens possibilities for thought and action beyond scientific knowledge.
Examining the shifting relations between science and other social institutions, discourses and power, the book addresses the narrowing of freedom by the instrumental modes of thinking that accompany scientific and technological change. McIntyre simultaneously raises the question of the good life and the question of a philosophical critique both directed towards science and, at the same time, shaped by, and responsive to it. By analysing the works of Foucault and Habermas in terms of their social, political, and historical contexts it reveals the two thinkers as linked by a commitment to the Enlightenment tradition and its emancipatory telos. The significant differences between the two are seen to result from Foucault’s radicalization of this tradition, a radicalization which is, at the same time, implicit within the Enlightenment project itself.
John McIntyre is a research affiliate at the University of Sydney. He has tutored and lectured at University of Sydney and Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy. His research is focussed on science, technology and their relationship to society and draws on philosophical thought from across both the analytic and continental philosophical traditions. Prior to commencing formal studies in philosophy, McIntyre worked as an environmental planner.
CHAPTER 1. Modernity’s Nagging Question
Science and Society / The Aim and Contents of this Book / Philosophy and Its Contexts / Habermas and Foucault: Lives and Motivations / Modernity Science and Philosophy
CHAPTER 2. Habermas’ Critique of Positivism
Habermas’ Response to Positivism / Knowledge and Human Interests / Habermas’ Theoretical Partitions
CHAPTER 3. Science, Modernity and Communicative Action
Habermas Linguistic Turn / Lifeworld, System and the Rationalisation of Society / The Diagnosis of Modernity / Insights and Aporias / Reinterpreting Habermas
CHAPTER 4. Science and Deliberative Democracy
Between Facts and Norms / Philosophy and Science / The Future of Human Nature. / Free Will and Determinism / Concluding Thoughts
CHAPTER 5. Foucault’s Archaeology of Scientific Knowledge
Foucault’s Radicalisation of Critique / Madness / Archaeology and the History of Science / Order and The Sciences / Concluding Thoughts
CHAPTER 6. Science and Power
From Archaeology to Genealogy / The Emergence and Dissemination of Modern / Power/Knowledge / The Constitution of The Subject / The Natural Sciences / The Normalisation of Society / Bio-Power and Governmentality / Normative Confusions
CHAPTER 7. Science and the Genealogy of the Subject
Later Foucault’s Broader Framework / Ethics, Aesthetics and Spirituality / The Genealogy of The Subject / Philosophy and Science after Kant
CHAPTER 8. Science, Philosophy and Modernity
The Reconcilability of Habermas and Foucault / Reflexivity and its Modern Radicalisation / Discovery and Self-Transformation / Normative Foundations and Confusions. / Wrapping up the debate / Concluding Reflections
In this well-written and tightly argued work, John McIntyre takes a fresh look at the work of two major intellectuals who, half a century ago, brought into question common assumptions about the nature of science and the role it plays in society. The powerful and often conflicting writings of Jürgen Habermas and Michael Foucault questioned the detachment of the sciences from the play of political forces structuring social life, revealing the different ways in which the perspectives of scientist as observer of and participant in life can be entwined. This is a particularly relevant contribution to the debate about the authority of science at a time in which crudely irrational forms of scientific scepticism are often met with renewed forms of the type of obfuscating scientism earlier critiqued by both Habermas and Foucault.
With “science” more hotly debated than ever, McIntyre’s book brilliantly demonstrates the importance of distinctive, opposing forms of philosophical attention to contemporary scientific rationalities and practices. By presenting Foucault and Habermas through their evolving reflections on science and showing the value of their divergent approaches today, McIntyre offers a great introduction to each and an original contribution to critical theory.
This illuminating book offers a comprehensive overview of the work of Habermas and Foucault. It shows how both philosophers, in their different ways, answer the need for critical reflection on science, the dominant form of rationality in our society. And it gives us a fresh take on how these two often combative thinkers stand in relation to one another.
John McIntyre’s book is a high-quality analysis of two of the great contemporary philosophers: Jurgen Habermas and Michel Foucault who have had a world wide impact in Europe, the US, Asia and Australia.
McIntyre takes contemporary science as the focus for his comparative analysis, a not often discussed aspect of their work. There are also very few commentators who have discussed these thinkers against the lens of their origins in their native traditions. Each thinker has their own partisan defenders with savage critiques of the other. Unlike them, McIntyre brings these two very different traditions and personalities into comparative dialogue around the key features of their work and contemporary science. In many ways this book is a textbook of the history of philosophy turning from the 20th century history into the early decades of the 21st, focusing on the self-understanding of modern science.
Only a handful of modern philosophers have aspired to create a global understanding of both the evolution of modern society and its philosophical self-reflection and in this regard, McIntyre has selected two of the truly great thinkers. Throughout McIntyre’s eight chapters the reader follows the breadth and depth of the evolution of their works and is treated to a careful critique and dissection of some of the major commentators that zeroes in on such continuing hotly disputed theoretical and practical questions as the role of normative values in their respective works. Such disputes are not likely to be resolved by McIntyre’s conclusions, however, he allows each thinker to present their best arguments in their own words and carefully clarifies and assesses their arguments allowing readers and scholars to see their relative strengths and weaknesses. For both it is highly recommended.