Reason and Transition
On the Concept of Transversal Reason
Introduction: "Farewell to Reason"?
For most philosophers today reason is no longer an issue. On the contrary,
"Farewell to Reason" seems to be a motto of the age. Reason - once the center
and hallmark of philosophy - has become the victim of two strategies. On the one
side there is the open postmodern attack on reason; on the other side
we find a creeping rationalistic abolishment of reason.
1. Postmodern attacks on reason
Ever since the Dialectic of Enlightenment of the fourties and the
postmodern and poststructuralist critique throughout the last few decades,
reason has been openly accused of being dominating, oppressive, destructive,
downright male, class-based, Eurocentric or merely irrelevant. Striving for the
general and universal, reason cannot do justice to the singular, but is always
oppressive; and since no version of reason is ever in fact comprehensive and
universal, as all of them claim - and for reason's sake must claim - to be, the
concept of reason seems to be unrealizable and flawed in itself. Why not just
get rid of it?
2. Rationalistic abolishment of reason
A second, more subtle, way of doing away with reason comes from the partisans
of ever more consummate rationality. They say: we don't need reason any more,
all we need is rationality, and throughout modernity we have developed a
comprehensive range of rationalities, able to cover all conceivable questions.
Amidst these highly differentiated versions of rationality, no room and no issue
remains for reason any more. - Analytic philosophers, for example, often
practice this kind of abolishment of reason. If you dare to use the expression
`reason' when talking to them, they leave you in no doubt that they haven't the
faintest idea of what you might mean.
3. Traditional expectations: reason's substantial and
Traditionally two kinds of expectations were connected with reason: one
substantial, one formal. Reason should either give us a comprehensive view of
the world (the true vision of the world), or provide us at least with a superior
capacity for clarifying ultimate questions. Reason's distinction was either
substantial - with reason itself establishing the fundamental structure of the
world - or formal - with reason being the highest faculty of reflection.
The postmodern attack, it seems to me, tries to do away with the substantial
distinction of reason, the rationalistic attack with the formal one. The
postmodernists say the overall views brought forward in the name of reason are
mistaken from the outset; the rationalists deny the existence of any reflective
capacity higher than rationality.
In the following, however, I would like to defend reason by suggesting a
concept of reason which, in my view, is able to counter both postmodern and
rationalistic objections and to fulfil substantial as well as formal
expectations linked with reason - albeit in a manner quite different to
To give a brief overview of the structure of this quite long paper beforehand
(it, in fact, tries to summarize some 500 pages of a book)(1): In the
first section, I will try to demonstrate reason's indispensability and develop
some basic characteristics of reason by focusing on its formal aspect, its
reflective character. In the second section, I will consider reason in practice,
discuss reason's proper status as distinct from positional stances, address the
issue of reason's purity, clarify its relationship to rationality, and criticize
some traditional concepts of reason. In the third and concluding section I will
explain in more detail the transversal type of reason which I recommend and
discuss the possible fulfilment of substantial claims as well as transversal
reason's relationship to reason altogether.(2)
I. Reason's indispensability and some basic
characteristics of reason
1. The continual practice of reason
When I speak of the indispensability of reason, I do not mean that we cannot
do without reason. What I'm suggesting is even more: that we factually don't do
With the term `reason' we refer to a permanent part of our mental activity,
namely to reflection, and, more specifically, to self-reflection. Reason, in a
first, broad and, I think, unquestionable sense, designates our capacity for
self-reflection. And this capacity is in play - in various aspects and on
different levels - whenever we concentrate on our mental procedures,
considering, for example, the sequence or the form of our thinking, reflecting
on the architecture of self-reference (whether it resembles a spiral or rather a
multi-storey building), or considering the categories, patterns and logical
forms employed in thinking, or the steps and the success as well as the
potential traps and abysses in the processes named.
And we do all this quite naturally. We continue to do so despite postmodern
and rationalistic recommendations to abolish reason. What's more, even these
criticisms of reason themselves make use of the procedures named, sometimes they
even originate from specific and intensified attention to these procedures. They
too occur within the realm of reason - which by its very structure is
self-critical anyway - and could not otherwise come about.(3) -
Derrida, for example, is very aware of, and has marvelously articulated, the
complicity between reason and its critique.(4)
2. Reason and reflection in general:
the distinction between reason and rationality
I started out by saying that reason is the capacity for self-reflection. How,
then, is this related to reflection in general?
It seems appropriate to distinguish self-directed reflection from
object-directed reflection and to parallel this with the distinction between
reason and rationality - or, in older terminology, between reason and
understanding. Rational reflection (or first order reflection) refers to
objects; reason's reflection, however, is a second order reflection which refers
either to the procedures of rationality or to the procedures proper to reason.
It is, as you know, in this way that Kant distinguished between reason and
rationality: reason, he stated in his first critique, "is never in immediate
relation to an object, but only to the understanding."(5) In
other words, whereas rationality (or understanding) deals with objects, reason
deals with the forms of rationality which deal with objects.
So the specifity of reason within the realm of our mental procedures
altogether - within the realm of object-reflection as well as self-reflection -
consists in its second order status and the inward direction of its reflection:
it does not, as rationality does, reflect on objects, but on the procedures of
object-directed rationality as well as on its own, self-directed, reflection.
Let me, however, in order not to be misunderstood, clarify that reason and
rationality are indeed to be distinguished, but not to be
Rationality, we will later see, already implies procedures which come close to
those of reason; and reason is, as we have seen, to an important extent directed
towards rationality. So reason and rationality are to be distinguished well, but
not simply severed from one another. - So much for the moment about the
reason-rationality distinction (which I will come back to in more detail later).
3. Levels of reason's self-reflection
Reason's reflection exhibits a variety of different levels. Reason can
analyze first the forms and procedures of rationality, then the steps and
results of this analysis, but, in addition, also the patterns reason itself
employs in these and other reflections; furthermore, it can consider the steps
involved in this pattern-analysis, and so on. Reason's reflections seem to be
organized like a cascade which comes about through iteration to ever higher
From this description a specific feature of reason can already be made clear.
Reason can never be completely made its own object. It can certainly thematize
itself, but for any such act reason will again function as its medium and
background, and this reverse side cannot, as such, be thematized by the same
act. Reason will, as the framework of an act, always remain its backdrop. Even
for any specific reflection focusing on reason's permanent status as medium and
background precisely this functional mode of reason would again serve as its
supportive ground, which, as such, escapes the intended objectivization.
In other words, we can indeed speak, and achieve clarity, about reason's
structure as background and medium of all acts of reason, but we cannot exhaust
reason, cannot get a comprehensive look at reason. We don't get a view from
outside of reason, but only from inside reason - with reason itself being the
agent of this view and hence, for this act, its unobjectifiable background. - So
reason - by virtue of the logic of its performance - escapes total grasp.
One might well object that the iteration of reason's status as medium and
background cannot contain anything new which would not already have become
evident by thematizing its first occurrences. But this is not the point. The
question is not about content but about form: it is about reason's procedures
inevitably implying an open flank which, for reasons of principle, cannot
ultimately be closed.
And it is crucially important for every analysis of reason to take this open
flank into account. Reason's inconcludability belongs among its innermost
characteristics. The constitution of reason is ultimately non-reifiable, there
always remains an aspect of opaqueness to it.
This may appear perplexing. But let me emphasize that there is nothing
mysterious to it. Rather this constitution can clearly be explained and
understood - the only constraint is that it cannot be eliminated. There is no
substance waiting at the bottom of reason which we might want to uncover but
which by itself would withstand such attempts at disclosure - or would be
accessible only by other faculties, by faculties transcending reason (mystical
experience, religious belief, or the like). The seemingly dark side of reason is
simply the reverse side of each of its acts - and not to be construed as an
ineffable underlying substance.
Let me sum up this point by saying that reason is, in all its procedures,
double-sided: forwardly directed towards its issues - be it forms of rationality
or the procedures of reason itself - and at the same time functioning as the
opaque background and medium of each of its acts. This is the natural key
constitution of reason and reasoning. Reason is constitutively Janus-faced. -
This double-structure, of course, fascinated the German idealists, and was
marvelously discussed by them.(7)
On the other hand, it is understandable that the inconcludability of reason
should have become a motive for today's widespread tendency to avoid the
thematization of reason, to try to ignore reason, or to abolish discourse on
Reason's inconcludability must be annoying and offensive for every dominative
or technical type of thinking. These will try either to make reason conclusive
or to do away with it. With respect to the framework and purpose of dominative
and technical thinking these attempts are consistent and necessary;
philosophically, however, they are insufficient. Reason can be ignored, but not
avoided, and the philosophical task, it seems to me, consists in exposing and
enduring reason's constitution.
5. The primacy of self-understanding over
Having explicated one of reason's most elementary features, its
inconcludability, I'd like to return to the question of reason's
indispensability and to emphasize that all our self-understanding is bound up
with reason. Reason is the medium and the driving force of all
self-understanding - be it processes of reflection, or of the interpretation of
subjective as well as objective issues.
The specific point I want to make here is that even all intersubjective
communication is based on this subject-internal deployment of reason. All our
communication processes require an understanding of the argument and the
viewpoint of the other person. And this is only possible by virtue of
considering them in the immanence of subject-internal reflection. Without this,
one could neither disagree, nor agree, with them. Hence the primacy of
subject-internal over intersubjective communication.(8) Inner
communication is an elementary precondition for outer communication.
6. The prevalence of theoretical reason
One concluding remark to this section, in which I have attempted to point out
the indispensability and primacy of reason: what I referred to with the term
`reason' was - from self-reflection through to inner communication - a type of
theoretical reason. At least, compared with practical and aesthetic reason (if
there is such a thing), we would best call it theoretical reason. Not because it
refers to specifically theoretical questions as distinguished from practical or
aesthetic ones, but because reflection and self-reflection, it seems to me, are
the common denominator and the permanent medium of all these kinds of reasoning,
and reflection in this pure form is most proper to theoretical reasoning. In
this sense theoretical reason - or the prototype of reflection represented by it
- comprehends the more specific kinds of theoretical, practical, and aesthetic
II. Reason's deployment, purity status, meta-order
denial, and its relation to rationality
In this second section I' d like to develop a series of further decisive
characteristics of reason which will finally lead to my concept of transversal
A. Reason in interpretative practice - progressing from
ordinary debate to reciprocal interpretation
Firstly, I want to take a closer look at reason in practice - following my
initial statement that factually we don't do without reason. On the whole my
intention is not to speculate about a conceptual entity or idea or phantom
called `reason', but to analyze the extent to which our mental procedures imply
practices of reason and to consider what reason's constitution must be like in
order to allow such practice.
1. Reconstructing objections within the framework of the
I'd like to take an everyday situation in philosophy as starting point, the
situation where one position finds itself questioned by another position. Let us
further assume that one somehow feels that the other position has a point
against one's own position - perhaps not ultimately, but the objection is at
least worth consideration. - What should we do in a situation of this kind?
We hardly have a choice. We must certainly, in the first place, try to
achieve a sufficient understanding of the alternative position and its
objection. Otherwise - by just ignoring or simply rejecting any objection - we
would not be upholding our position in a truly reasonable way. We would not be
meeting the standards we are obliged to meet.
Also, in feeling that the other position might have a point, we have already
attributed it with potential validity, which, of course, then requires
Finally, there is no doubt that objections from alternative positions are
possible, that they can have a point, at least in those cases where the
competing positions are not completely heterogeneous but have some intersection,
for example, in referring to common issues (like the concept of philosophy, the
relevance of science, the destiny of humankind, or the like) - issues which have
an explication already external and prior to the assessment which the positions
in question make of these matters.(10) - So,
in short, an examination of the objection is possible as well as obligatory.
This examination first requires a reconstruction of the opponent's objection,
because the validity of any argument is primarily related to the net of its
underlying premises. You have to find out what grounds and evidence support the
objection, or what aspects are responsible for its validity in the opponent's
view. In other words, you have to step back to the framework and premises of the
opponent's thinking, within which her objection makes sense - and possibly good
sense. You are obliged to reconstruct the objection within the opponent's own
framework. This reconstruction work is a precondition for any counter-argument's
being reasonable, instead of just strategic.
Next you may consider the validity of the objection with respect to your own
position. Different results are conceivable. You may discover that the objection
does not apply to your position at all - say because the two positions use a
term equivocally, so that the objection is based on conceptual misunderstanding.
Or you may discover that the objection is valid: that the argument brought
forward makes sense not only within the alternative framework, but represents a
real challenge to your own position and beliefs.
Or you may just not know if the objection is applicable at all, and whether
it would topple your position or not. You are, for the time being, just too
uncertain about the relationship between the two positions. You will need to
consider the matter further, to go into it more deeply.
Whatever the situation may be, let us consider for a moment what the practice
described so far implies. In taking the objection seriously and considering its
validity within the alternative position, one has already transcended the
exclusivity of the position one holds.(11) One
has come to discover and admit the specifity of one's own position. It is not
all embracing. Alternatives - other approaches which might be comparably valid -
To be sure, one might still consider one's own position better than any
other, but no longer as being in sole possession of all truth. Not only because
the objection and its position might have a point, but also because it might
turn out to be very difficult to establish a non-circular criterion of `better'
- one which hadn't been taken from and thereby naturally privileged one's own
If the matter cannot easily be settled (as it can in the case of equivocacy),
the next move may consist in examining your own framework, its basic beliefs and
premises as well as its rational architecture. Because reconstructing the
opponent's position has helped you to a less involved view of your own
philosophical home ground. By examining it in a more detached way you may
discover some unclear or superfluous assumptions and even flaws. Then you may
start working on this - and perhaps be lucky: you manage to sort out the
Finally, having gained this more detached view of the whole matter, you may
move on to an interesting intellectual experiment. I call it `reciprocal
You consider how the things you say come to stand in the opponent's position
(quite altered and estranged, of course), and how his or her beliefs look when
put in your idiom (certainly equally estranged). You develop mutual
representations of central topics of the respective positions. And you do this
not in the sense of the `hermeneutics with polemical intent' which Richard Rorty
once suggested - just holding on to your own position and aiming at parodying
the other's,(12) but
in a truly balanced manner: you put devotion to your own position more and more
on hold and turn instead to a free examination of the advantages of your own, as
well as of the other, position. You no longer - and be it just for the moment -
act as a partisan of your accustomed position, but just as distanced from, and
interested in, this as any other position. - Let us now look in more detail at
the steps and requirements involved in this process of reciprocal
Firstly, the alternative representations - position A viewed from B, B viewed
from A - are to be established.(13) They
constitute the material for the further steps of reciprocal interpretation. Such
alternative representations are, of course, deeply position-bound (their view is
determined by the framework of the respective position), and whenever we
encounter not just ready-made alternative interpretations, but first have to
develop them,(14) we
too will do this as faithfully as possible to the frameworks of the respective
positions - no matter how much one-sidedness and position-bound blindness this
imposes on us.
b. Reflecting on the findings and experiences of
Next we reflect on these mutual representations - on their design
and status, on their mutual validity and impact, as well as on their
one-sidedness and injustice and on possibilities of getting beyond these
The first point you may turn to is the obvious one-sidedness of mutual
representations: Wittgenstein's representation of traditional philosophy's
emphasis on theory amounts to a caricature rather than a fair representation,
and a traditional assessment of Wittgenstein's recourse to language games will
not do justice to his position either. The second point, however, which you will
immediately run into, is the fact that these mutual assessments are, although
apparently injust, obviously consistent nonetheless and even necessary within
the framework of each position.(15)
The insight that reciprocal representations are inadequate yet consistent -
and necessarily so, due to their positional frameworks - will motivate you to
get beyond them. And you will already have received a hint as to the conditions
in which this could be done: you would have to get beyond the grasp of the
frameworks of reference.
There is a further motivation for attempting this: with respect to the
controversial topics, one will certainly want to develop a reasonable judgment
as to which position is right and which is wrong. But as long as one remains on
the same level as such positions every argument one may bring forward will
itself be position-bound and thereby unfairly favor one of the positions instead
of correctly settling their conflict.(16) But
you will definitely want to improve on this status, because otherwise all
argument would be condemned to being merely strategic and polemic instead of
truly reasonable - it would not live up to the expectations connected with
argumentation. - But how can one get beyond positional frameworks?
cc. The failure of attempts to draw on common ground
Common ground between positions seems to provide a way out. By referring to
such a fair comparison and decision with respect to points of difference should
become possible. But this attempt fails.
Taking Wittgenstein and Aristotle again as examples, one might cite as such
common ground the ultimate perspective of a fulfilled life, or the insight into
the difference between what's evident to us and what's evident by itself, or the
emphasis on clarity and transparency. But close analysis of this common ground
shows a difference in understanding in each case. Whereas Aristotle conceives of
the ultimate sense of life as strictly philosophical and theoretical,
Wittgenstein situates it beyond philosophy; what's ultimately evident by itself
according to Aristotle is a set of abstract principles of thought, according to
Wittgenstein, however, a set of concrete grammatical structures; and ultimate
clarity for Aristotle arises in the self-transparency of thinking, for
Wittgenstein, however, it is connected with the insight into the limits of
Finally, consider Wittgenstein's famous phrase "don't think, but look!"(18) - a
clearly paradoxical phrase on an Aristotelean account, where the very nature of
thinking is seen as consisting in looking,(19)
whereas what Wittgenstein has in mind is directing attention away from thinking
to the consideration of language and life forms.
So the consideration of apparent common ground only leads back to basic
differences again. The positions may have many declarations and terms in common,
but their understanding in each case turns out to be characteristically
different, with the communality amounting to hardly anything more than
equivocacy. The difference in the frameworks of reference proves to be decisive
one more time. Therefore the attempt to get beyond the framework difference
through reference to common ground and thus to achieve a common basis for
settling conflicts and arriving at fair decisions in reciprocal argumentation
dd. Consequences: dizziness, suspension of firm ground,
liquefaction of thinking
This experience, however, is not just negative, it is also enlightening.
Through it you acquire a better understanding not only of the specific design of
the single positions, but of the general structure of conflicts between
positions altogether. You become familiar with the logic of positionality and
perspectivity. You begin to understanding why it is perfectly possible that what
appears right in one of these positions is downright wrong or nonsensical in the
other, and vice versa.
Likewise, the shift in the meaning of terms from one position to the other is
enlightening. What is obviously lacking is an obligatory definition of these
terms. Whenever you think you have one, you will soon recognize that it is bound
just as much to a specific position as every other one. There is no safe ground
below or beyond the individual positions. When you move from one position to
another, everything can be changed, even the most basic concepts can undergo
changes in their meaning, validity, and applicability. The more you explore and
the deeper you penetrate the field of reciprocal interpretation, the more
everything starts reeling - this is reminiscent of Hegel's remark on the
"bacchanalian frenzy" of truth,(20) it's
just that this frenzy is not due to your being drunk, but to your ongoing and
The effect on your own beliefs will be threefold. Firstly, with respect to
the position you originally held, you will have to recognize that it is just one
of several possible positions, in principle neither more reliable nor doubtful
than others. The certainty of your position, one previously so apparent,
Secondly, with respect to the voyages between positions which you perform in
these processes of reciprocal interpretation, you discover that ultimately you
can do nothing but move between these positions - every position you might want
to use as a stable basis from which all this can be considered, would itself,
inevitably, remain within the dynamics of positionality and reciprocal
interpretations, unable to maintain the somehow Archimedean privilege you wanted
to preserve for it.
You will furthermore learn that each of these positions is valuable in some,
and insufficient in other, respects. Positions are like boats, efficient and
durable to a certain extent, and yet all in all you are left rocking on an
Finally, it will become clear that you only ever get a hold on such boats,
never on the sea itself. Each of your steps may be precise, but all firm ground
is suspended. You've got to enter the dizzying play and interplay of different
So far the result of such reciprocal interpretation - which I strongly
recommend as intellectual exercise - is the evaporation of your positional
certainty, a liquefaction of your positional rigidness, and an enhancement of
the flexibility of your thinking. You might even start supposing that proper
thinking altogether has its place between rather than within positions.
But there is a third consequence. A puzzling question remains. What is the
capacity which allows us to perform all the procedures described? It seems to be
a mysterious one, because on the one hand it cannot be represented by any one of
the positions in play in reciprocal interpretation, on the other hand there
seems to be nothing else in play than these positions. Yet there must be a
further capacity in play - one which is not restricted to one of the single
positions and is nonetheless permanently involved in considering their
This capacity is involved from the start, and from the start exhibits the
most amazing characteristics. It is not bound to a specific position (otherwise
it could not develop every position's alternative interpretation of another
position's topics); it is extremely flexible (otherwise it would not be able to
establish the whole range of alternative interpretations); it is able to adjust
perfectly on the spot (otherwise it could not develop these interpretations in a
manner truly faithful to the single positions' stances); and it is neutral
(otherwise it could not provide a fair comparison of different reciprocal
interpretations - through to stating their equal validity and ultimate
And not only on this first level (with respect to the positions und their
interrelationship) does this capacity prove to be distinguished, but equally so
on the level of reflecting on the all the findings and experiences made in
reciprocal interpretation. It is this capacity which recognizes the limits of
positional thinking, effects the liquefaction of the concepts involved, and
constitutes the relentless power of reflection on these matters.
B. Reason's purity and dynamics of
1. Reason as the capacity for making assessments between
What can be said about this capacity in more detail? It will come as no
surprise that I believe it to be identified as reason. Relentless reflection and
self-reflection is its core, and this is what, according to the previous
analysis, is constitutive for reason.
a. Refutation of the substitution of third positions for
But perhaps another possibility has not been ruled out sufficiently so far:
the idea that reciprocal interpretation is effected by a third position.
However, this cannot be the case. Firstly, because every assessment of a
conflict between positions like A and B through a position C would necessarily
be biased again - being simply determined by the standards of C. Secondly, this
way of dealing with the matter would only delay the whole problem, with one now
having to consider the relationship not only between A and B, but between A, B
and C. In other words: the question pursued before - how a fair assessment of
the positions involved is possible and which capacity is effecting it - would
not be solved, but only reiterated. The perspective identified as that of reason
cannot be bypassed by introducing ever more and ever higher positions.
b. Reason's proper activity in reciprocal interpretation
Once again: positions are the object of reciprocal interpretation, its proper
medium, however, is reflection. Already the selection of the topics relevant for
alternative interpretation and the establishment of these interpretations (so
far as they are not already available) is effected by reflection. The same holds
for all closer consideration as well as for potential alterations of these
topics. It is through reflection that we judge former points incomplete or
insufficient and choose new ones. The same applies to the consideration of
mutual representations as well as to our experiences in doing this. It is
through reflection that we discover the shifts in meaning which a term undergoes
when placed in a different framework. Reflection operates here with the sharp
tools of identity and difference - detecting differences in the seemingly
identical or similar, and discovering similarities within a sphere of apparently
pure heterogeneity. Another tool employed by reflection is the precise pursuit
of respects (this venerable method introduced by Aristotle). Reflection
discriminates in which respect positional utterances are comparable, similar, or
different. Finally, it is through reflection that the structure of all these
procedures becomes clear. - Everything we have been developing (and the reader
considering) is the work of reflection, not of positional declarations.
Content-bound positions are the objects, not possible agents of this type of
consideration. The latter is reflection. It is the medium of these processes,
and the driving force of the discoveries made and the insights gained through
2. Reason's purity
I now want to point out what we can conclude from these considerations about
the constitution of reason.
We found reason to be not position-bound, but rather a capacity for taking
any position into account, neutrally and fairly analyzing the various positions'
relations, and also reflecting on its own experiences and insights arising in
this analysis. In all this, reason, compared to the single positions, proves to
be sovereign. It is in no way bound to specific contents (sets of beliefs,
positional standards, single views of the world) as is characteristic of
positional rationalities. Reason is free of such presuppositions and prejudices.
In other words: reason is pure reason - else it could not be reason at all.
But what kind of purity is at stake here? Reason cannot be completely pure,
totally devoid of any possessions. Such nihilism with regard to reason would
come far too close to the defeatisms about reason mentioned at the beginning, it
would eliminate reason one more time.
As the capacity of reflection - and of unlimited reflection - reason is in
possession of some properties - but of logical properties alone. Reason is the
holder of logic operators such as the principle of contradiction, elementary
categories like identity and difference, singularity, multiplicity and totality,
constancy and change, cause and effect, ground and consequence, conformity and
contradiction, potentiality and necessity, unity, particularity, coherence, and
so on. No operation of reflection can be carried out without having these
concepts at one's disposal and employing some of them. Reason is essentially a
So reason's properties are logical, formal ones - and in no way material,
contentful ones. It is in this sense that reason is to be called pure. And
precisely through this reason is distinguished from rationality. Reason's
principles are universal and logical ones, rationality's principles are
particular and contentful ones. Reason's purity is equivalent to its logical
status, and it is this purity which is responsible for reason's sovereignty and
universality. It allows reason to be neutral, to keep equal distance from, and
do equal justice to, the single positions.
b. Reason as the capacity for - and the implicit
obligation to - self-purification
One might, however, object that reason rarely seems to be pure factually,
that in its practice it often contains problematic presuppositions and remnants
of one-sidedness so that we find a greater affinity to one position than the
other. There seems to be no case (at least through detailed and critical
analysis this may become clear) in which reason is truly neutral, truly pure.
Admitted. But what follows from this? That the definition of reason as pure
reason is mistaken? That there is no such thing as reason at all, but only a
misleading pretence of reason - which in fact serves to hide positional
one-sidedness and encourages tacit oppression?
The objection I have just outlined does not touch the core of my proposition:
that reason is the holder of logical principles and is in this sense pure, and
that it has to be pure to deserve the name of reason. There is no dispute, but
consensus on this point. What, however, is contested is that reason ever could
live up to its logical nature.
But this assertion is doubly mistaken. Firstly, because logical operators
precisely represent the tools for reason's self-purification. Whenever reason
proceeds in the manner of consistent self-reflection - and to do so is an inner
demand of reason - it will, by using these operators as tools for
self-purification, be able to free itself from positional one-sidedness and
Secondly, the assertion mentioned fails to recognize that it also allows
one-sidednesses to be got hold of, and, as a consequence, possibly overcome.
While, in view of factual impurities, it denies reason's chance of being pure,
it takes advantage itself of the critical potential of reason. It asserts that
hidden boundness can be discovered. But then it restricts itself to the
defeatist conclusion of reason's permanent impurity.
However, if it is possible to recognize one-sidedness, then it is also
possible to overcome it, because such recognition is always concrete, not simply
abstract: you learn what the problematic point is, so you can work on it and
sort out the mistake. Admittedly, other aspects of one-sidedness remain when you
get rid of one, but then the same applies again: once you recognize them you can
When we discover, through reflection, one-sidedness in our - for example,
western - way of thinking, then this may be inspired by the experience of a
different - a culturally different - way of thinking (within our own or a
different tradition), but the discovery itself is an effect of reflection and
not bound to a cultural standpoint (only the object found to be one-sided is
bound in this way). And this discovery aims at overcoming the one-sidedness.
There are many examples of the possible success of such attempts. Once
discovered, you can overcome Eurocentrism or phallogocentrism.
And to do so is an inner demand of reason itself. Due to its logical
constitution, reason objects to all factual one-sidedness and provides the tools
to recognize and overcome it. Reason carries with it the obligation to
self-purification as well as the means for self-criticism.
Hence it always makes sense to ask oneself if reason is truly pure in
practice. To question - at least from time to time - the points one considers
most natural is a strategy worth recommending highly, as, for example, Nietzsche
did when speaking about the honesty of thinking: "Never keep back or bury in
silence that which can be thought against your thought! Give it praise! It is
among the foremost requirements of honesty of thought. Every day you must
conduct your campaign [...] against yourself."(21) -
This, it seems to me, is a maxim of reason.(22)
We may very well never know to what extent we have achieved the goal of
purity. But we can be sure that reason calls for this and that it represents the
capacity to move towards it. Every reason which fails in doing so, is a wavering
form of reason. Kant, critically, called it "lazy reason".(23) The
ideal and imperative of purity is built in to every process of
reasoning. Self-purification represents an indisputable dynamic of reason.
C. The other side of reason's purity: the impossibility of a meta-order
1. Reason, being devoid of material content, cannot
establish a meta-order
I now turn to another - and very important - consequence of reason's purity.
If reason contains logical principles alone - in other words, if it does not
carry with it any material content like first principles, fundamental orderings,
basic beliefs and the like - then it cannot establish or decree a meta-order,
cannot provide fundamental and unchangeable principles, laws, and orderings(24) - as
was traditionally assumed. Being either pure or inexistent, it cannot ordain a
meta-order. Rather it represents the faculty of questioning and reflecting on
all content, all allegedly basic sets of principles, all orders. This point is
crucial for the present discussion of reason and for my own idea of transversal
2. Departure from the meta-ideal - an on-principle
rethink of reason
It was, however, central to traditional philosophizing to understand reason
the other way round: as being in possession of first principles and establishing
a meta-order. This is what the substantial claims connected with reason were all
about. At this point a decisive rethink is called for. Reason - apprehended in
its purity and as the relentless capacity for reflection - does not guarantee,
but instead refuses any meta-order.
Incidentally, as with almost everything important today, Wittgenstein already
pointed this out when he said that there is no "metaphilosophy," a remark to
which he added: "We might so present all that we have to say that [i.e. the
impossibility of a metaphilosophy] this would appear as a leading principle."(25) And
Wittgenstein was very aware that this meant destroying one of philosophy's
innermost idols - and this he understood as being philosophy's contemporary task
altogether: "All that philosophy can do is to destroy idols. And that means not
making any new ones - say out of `the absence of idols'".(26)
3. The traditional misunderstanding of reason
Or, to put the argument the other way round: if things were any different, if
reason were indeed to possess or decree a set of fundamental and contentful
principles, and thereby issue a meta-order for all our understanding, our
thinking, our conceptual activities, then reason would not be reason, but merely
another kind of rationality. Advocating contentful principles and thus making
primary statements about objects and stipulating the fundamental order of a
field of cognition is the hallmark of rationality. Putting this harshly, one has
to say that the traditional notion of reason falls short of its concept in the
most fundamental way. It wrongly turns reason into hyperrationality. In so
doing, it paralyzes the concept of reason. If this traditional notion of reason
were in fact right, there would be no reason at all.
Whereas some aspects in my preceeding account of reason may have seemed very
much in accordance with traditional philosophy (and, indeed, I hope they are),
the strict understanding of purity I advocate and the turn away from the fantasy
of a meta-order are probably fairly unaccustomed. In my view, however, these
aspects, which break with the traditional expectations towards reason,
consistently follow from reason's core - from reflection - upon which the
traditional understanding had already focused, but perhaps not incisively
D. Reason and rationality
I will now briefly reconsider reason's relationship to rationality. Earlier I
pointed out the difference between rationality's object-directed and reason's
self-directed character. However, I also emphasized that reason and rationality
are only to be distinguished, but not separated, from one another. By virtue of
the clarifications reached in the meantime we now can better understand the
communality as well as the difference between reason and rationality.
1. Thanks to its logical character reason is already
inbuilt into rationality
Reason is, in one respect, inherent to rationality, because rationality too,
in all its procedures, makes use of the logical operators which we identified as
the central content of reason. Whether ordering its fields of reference,
providing grounds for its assessments, clarifying the architecture of its
arguments and examining the coherence of its assertions, or determining its
relation to other fields and types of rationality - in all of this rationality
employs logical operators. There is no rationality without logical, and thusfar
reasonable, operations, no reason-free base to rationality. Reason is an
inherent and necessary element of rationality.
The difference, then, between reason and rationality is one of their ultimate
perspectives. The distinction mentioned before - that rationality's interest is
to establish the structure of a field of cognition, reason's however to analyze
and clarify the full range of its own procedures - is connected with
rationality's perspective ultimately being domain-specific, whereas reason
reaches out into totality.
I will briefly explain rationality's perspective by referring just to the
commonly acknowledged types of rationality: to cognitive, moral and aesthetic
rationality. Each of them is obviously related to a specific domain of objects,
and, by establishing appropriate categories and corresponding methods, aims at
instituting the rational order of this domain. Rationality provides the
principles constitutive for a domain. Even when one of these rationalities looks
beyond its domain, it does so in order to secure its own space and property.(27) It is
for this kind of purpose that rationality employs the logical potential assured
by the inherence of reason in rationality.
Reason's orientation is different. Reason problematizes and transcends
domains and their limits. Reason strives for totality. It tends to consider
everything, always to make one step more, to enquire beyond the apparent limits,
to consider how things might ultimately be related to one another.
This reaching outwards for totality belongs to, and stems from, the dynamics
of reason itself. It is not that totality exists objectively, being in need of
clarification, and that we then, fortunately, have reason at our disposal as a
faculty to answer this question. Logically, it is far more the other way round.
Reason - and it alone - engenders the horizon of totality and is at the same
time the sole faculty for its clarification.(28)
3. Reason going beyond rationality's assessments and
usage of the logical potential
So, in a sense, the tasks and interests of reason start where those of
rationality end. Whilst one type of rationality considers its relation to other
types and domains only secondarily and in a strategic and self-assuring,
self-stabilizing and self-defending manner, reason - by virtue of its interest
in recognizing how things are related altogether - focuses precisely on these
second-order issues, on the relation between rationalities' orderings. Moreover,
reason's enterprise is undertaken in a spirit of ongoing clarification instead
of defence, and of reasonable justice instead of rational self-assertion.
In making the proper constitution of rationality its object of consideration,
reason's use of logical potential is different from rationality's. Reason makes
unrestricted use of this logical potential, one which is not bound to interests
of domination, but tries to develop fully the logical structure inherent in
rationality. Thus reason leads to a correction of the narrowness of
rationalities and transfers the forms and statements of rationality into their
truly reasonable form.
4. Functional difference, complementarity and unsubstitutability between reason and rationality
From this difference in orientation and practice it is clear that reason and
rationality cannot deputize for one another. Reason cannot take on rationality's
responsibility to make assertions about objects and to constitute domains.
Conversely, rationality cannot fulfil the responsibility of reason to clarify
the relations between rationalities. Reason and rationality - though different -
form a pair. They stand in a matched relationship which cannot be foreshortened
with impunity to just one of its sides.
In particular this means that the aforementioned rationalistic objection to
even talking about reason - the claim that all conceivable questions are already
answered through the many versions of rationality, so that no room and no issue
at all remains for reason - is obviously false. As the types of rationality are
restricted to their specific perspectives and domains, the question of their
interrelationship can be adequately evaluated only by reason. No comprehensive
analysis of rationality can ultimately avoid shifting to a practice of reason.
III. Transversal reason
Let me now, finally, turn to a more specific explanation of transversal
1. Reason and transition
The crucial point in my exposition was that reason cannot operate from an
Archimedean, contentful position - that its sovereignty is not to be understood
in the style of a metaposition. In what way, then, does reason operate and
With the departure from the Archimedean conception of reason, the axis of
reason rotates from verticality to horizontality. Reason becomes a faculty of
transitions. Instead of contemplating from a lofty viewpoint (from a God's-eye
standpoint), it passes between the forms of rationality and its own procedures.
Reason is thus transformed from a static and principle-oriented faculty into a
dynamic and intermediary faculty. It operates processually. All reason's
activities take place in transitions. These form the proprium and the
central activity of reason. In view of this transitional character, I designate
the form of reason thus outlined as "transversal reason".
2. Kinds of transition
What can be said more specifically about these transitions?
Firstly, they are effected between the various forms of rationality which
reason takes into consideration (the forms of rationality being, so to speak,
the matter upon which reason exerts its activity in the first place). Secondly,
these transitional activities (which can have the form of comparison,
opposition, combination, reciprocal interpretation, consequential analysis,
etc.) are effected along the lines of logical operators, with these serving as
guidelines and tools for this analysis. Reason uses viewpoints like identity and
difference, foundation and consequence, particularity and universality in order
to figure out the proper relation between the forms of rationality concerned.
Inventive skills, too, are implied in these processes: you have to find out what
the promising viewpoints might be.
Although forms of rationality are the primary matter of reason's activity, it
should not be overlooked that reason also (and, from time to time, already
within its analysis of rationality) reflects on its own procedures - from the
primary through to the final levels. These self-reflections are also
transitional and effected according to the logical forms.(29)
In these analyses, inconcludability comes to the fore again. Reason's
procedures do not lead to a final synthesis or an absolute end - neither on the
level of rationality's examination, nor on that of reason.
a. With respect to rationality: connections and ruptures - no system
In its analysis of the forms of rationality reason aims at the most complete
comprehension of their relations. Striving for totality, it tries to find out
how things are related altogether. The transitions serve this purpose. Yet they
don't lead to an ultimate and all-embracing synthesis. The connections and
relations discovered between various rational types might well reach far, but
ultimately the quasi-systems which come into view through this will turn out to
be disputed by other orderings and quasi-systems. And between these a synthetic
assessment will no longer be possible because the frameworks common to the
connectible forms prove to be irreconcilable with one another - no super-system
of various quasi-systems is conceivable.(30)
Reason's task, then, is to clarify this situation of insurmountable dissent -
instead of covering it with emphatic declarations, which may appeal to the heart
but cannot satisfy the head. Reason enables us to understand and accept, to
think and to live with this constitution of ultimate irreconcilability.
Secondly, nor do reason's self-reflective processes necessarily lead to a
conclusive overall structure. They always have an open flank: the reflective
inconcludability of reason mentioned above; and also that of an unforeseeable
potential for new openings. Reason's activities can sketch quite different
geographies and landscapes, whose interrelation it will be hard to grasp
ultimately. Remember Wittgenstein's remark from the Preface to his
Philosophical Investigations that his "thoughts were soon crippled"
when he "tried to force them on in any single direction against their natural
inclination", which of course, he added, was "connected with the very nature of
Certainly we can still perform transitions between these heterogeneous
complexes. We have to do so - and do actually do so: how else could we ascertain
their heterogeneity? But we cannot establish a conclusive account of their
relation. We cannot speak a final word. It is this impossibility of a final word
which leaves open the space for new - and different - approaches and findings.
4. Decision-making as an exemplary case
A look at decision-making may serve as an example that there exist reasonable
limits to the expectation of conclusivity. It can also help us to recognize that
transversal reason - though seemingly weak compared to traditional (in my view,
however, untenable) concepts of reason - can be quite efficient, and how - in an
altered manner - it meets substantial expectations connected with reason.
a. Limits of substantiability of decisions
In decision-making situations, reasonable analysis will demand, first of all,
consideration of all alternatives, and clarity with respect to the premises and
consequences of singular alternatives. Furthermore, it will demand consistency:
the decision to be met must be in agreement with the chosen premises. But then,
more fundamentally, what about the choice of premises? Obviously this is subject
to given or preferred standards. Different positions find themselves convinced
by different axioms. Can one overcome the divergence of these elementary
decisions through reasonable reasoning?
In any case, not absolutely. The reasons one will be able to bring forward in
favor of basic decisions are often good or relevant reasons only within the
framework of the respective basic decisions. Or, as Wittgenstein put it,
"Nothing we do can be defended absolutely and finally. But only by reference to
something else that is not questioned."(32)
Recognizing this circularity is equivalent to finding oneself obliged to accept
basic diversity. All that reasonable reflection can do here is clarify the
elementary decisions and, by going to and fro between them, articulate the
points which are decisive for their diversity. Instead of reaching an
irrefutable basis of acceptance or overcoming diversity, the ultimately
contingent character of these decisions will become clear. Or, quoting
Wittgenstein once again: "A style gives us satisfaction; but one style is not
more rational than another."(33)
I said at the beginning that, usually, substantial as well as formal claims
are connected with reason. Since then, however, while clarifying how formal
claims are fulfilled by reason I also had to say that reason - due to its
logical purity - cannot decree a substantial order, that it cannot fulfil
substantial expectations in this way. In which other - non-traditional - way
then is it that transversal reason is able to fulfil substantial expectations?
Let us assume one wants to defend a position, and let us further assume that
one doesn't want to do so under all circumstances and possible conceivable
conditions but with respect to a specific situation - for example, human rights
with respect to the present state of the world.(34)
Following the demands of reason, one will give a precise account of the
situation as well as of the position, and frankly and extensively consider all
potential objections to one's own description of the situation and determination
of the position.
But having done this as thoroughly as possible it is perfectly conceivable
that one will find the position well defendable against all objections - in the
given circumstances and with respect to the range of available viewpoints. It is
then reasonably justified to advocate this position. It's just that one should
be aware of, and admit to, the limits of its distinction: its situational and
temporal limits. One would, for example, not claim to have discovered the only
reasonable solution to the problem for ever - under whatever situations and
circumstances; one would hardly claim that in a thousand years from now
humankind will still best stick to this solution. But such limitations do not
minimize the validity of the solution for the situation it was deliberately
designed for (and in practical matters solutions always have to be designed for
This is an example how the practice of reason can bring about substantial and
reliable orientation. The position has been developed and tested through
reasonable examination and reflection, and by virtue of this fulfils every
reasonable expectation and standard.
The procedural and transversal character of reason prevents us from making
immediate declarations about what is right or wrong (as could be expected from a
substantial comprehension of reason). But its gains and insights are - due to
their birth through self-critical testing and reflection - more reliable.
Procedural, transversal reason, apparently weaker than substantial reason, in
fact turns out to be more powerful.
Well, some people might still want reason to be firm, decretory, more or less
fundamentalistic. But this is simply not what reason is like - this is, rather,
what reason opposes. Reason rightly appears fundamental only in the sense that
it constitutes the ultimate medium of all our processes of understanding and
clarification. This, however, is, as I've tried to show, not to be spelled out
by attributing first contents and principles to it. Reason's fundamentality is a
medial and procedural one, not one based on principles.
The situation may seem paradoxical: reason's efficiency is based on what, in
traditional respects, would engender its inefficiency; reason's power depends
upon its freedom from any standpoint.
If Novalis was right in characterizing philosophy as homesickness, then
reason's homeland is (to modify slightly a phrase from Horkheimer and Adorno)
the state of having escaped any specific homeland.(35)
Reason has no definitive place. (And probably the reasonable human being, as
such, can hardly have a place in this world.)
Or to recall a quote from Nietzsche - his aphorism no. 638 from Human,
All-Too-Human which is entitled "THE WANDERER" - "He who has attained the
freedom of reason to any extent cannot, for a long time, regard himself
otherwise than as a wanderer on the face of the earth - and not even as a
traveller towards a final goal, for there is no such thing. But he
certainly wants to observe and keep his eyes open to whatever actually happens
in the world; therefore he cannot attach his heart too firmly to anything
individual; he must have in himself something wandering that takes pleasure in
change and transitoriness."(36) - I
read this as perfectly describing the attitude of transversal reason.
4. Transversal reason and reason altogether
What, finally, of the relationship between transversal reason and reason
altogether? Clearly, transversal reason is not an absolutely new faculty. It
just reaccentuates enduringly one element which has always belonged to reason,
the element of transition. In doing this, however, transversal reason, it seems
to me, articulates the innermost trait of reason altogether.
Every historical form of reason was obliged, not simply to decree unity, but
to exhibit it in a plurality which was antecedent to it and forged by prior
interpretations. That has been the task of reason from Parmenides and
Heraclitus, via Kant and Hegel, through to our times. This has always demanded
passing between different points of view and connecting these in a holistic
organization which was not simply to extinguish, but to retain difference -
although transferring it into another form. In other words, reason has always
operated transversally, at least: also transversally.
If we inquire about the innermost efficacy of reason, we regularly encounter transversal feats and transitions - between conceptions, thoughts, phases of reflection. Such transitions form the medium of all operations of reason and its most elementary potency. Reason is elementarily determined by transversality. In this sense, transversal reason seems to me to articulate the fundamental mode of reason altogether.
1. Cf. Wolfgang Welsch, Vernunft: Die zeitgenössische Vernunftkritik und das Konzept der transversalen Vernunft (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1995, stw 1996). The first part of this book (pp. 30-424) gives an overview of current criticism of reason; in the second part (pp. 425-949) my concept of transversal reason is developed.
2. Cf. for a more summary account of these matters my "Rationality and Reason Today" (in: Criticism and Defense of Rationality in Contemporary Philosophy, eds. Dane R. Gordon and Józef Niznik, Amsterdam - Atlanta: Rodopi, 1998, pp. 17-31).
3. This, incidentally, is why it is reasonable to expect a concept of reason which takes account of these criticisms - as I intend it to - to be possible.
4. What, for example, should the capacity which reflects on the boundaries of reason - on our boundness to reason and the difficulties of going beyond it (despite the perceived need to do so), which is so marvelously thematized by Derrida - be other than reason?
5. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965), p. 532 f. [A 643].
6. Here I'd like to remind the reader of Kant's other statement "that understanding and reason [...] are not different fundamental faculties" ("The false subtlety of the four syllogistic features", in: Theoretical Philosophy, 1755-1770, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 85-105, here p. 103 [A 30 f.]).
7. There are some very interesting affinities between idealist analysis and the postmodern critique of reason - although the former seems to be emphatic, whereas the latter seems to be deprecatory, with respect to reason. In fact it was idealism which discovered and discussed the limits of reason. (Cf. Kant's statement that reason has "absolutely no constitutive principles of its own" - which I will come to later.)
8. This statement is, of course, directed against Habermas's rejection and pretended overcoming of subjective reason, against his paradigm shift to communicative reason which he is so proud of, and which he considers to set an "end" to "the philosophy of the subject" (cf. Jürgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, trans. Thomas McCarthy, 2 vols, Boston: Beacon Press, 1984/1987, vol. I, p. 390, p. 397).
9. And if one understands cognitive reasoning in the sense of theoretical reasoning - to reiterate: as reflection on reflection - then there is a good side to the often criticized primacy of cognitive reasoning.
10. Cf. on this point - which would also apply to some French or Kuhnian positions - my particular criticism of Rorty: "Richard Rorty: Philosophy beyond Argument and Truth?" (published on the Internet).
11. Which shouldn't be that difficult anyway because one has probably developed one's own position through struggles with other positions.
12. "If there is no such common ground, all we can do is to show how the other side looks from our own point of view. That is, all we can do is be hermeneutic about the opposition - trying to show how the odd or paradoxical or offensive things they say hang together with the rest of what they want to say, and how what they say looks when put in our own alternative idiom" (Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1979, p. 364 f.). - In his essay "Overcoming the Tradition: Heidegger and Dewey" however Rorty made himself a step beyond this "hermeneutics with polemical intent" and moved on to reciprocal hermeneutics: "In what follows, I propose to offer sketches of Dewey as he would presumably look to Heidegger and of Heidegger as he would presumably look to Dewey" (Richard Rorty, "Overcoming the Tradition: Heidegger and Dewey", in: Consequences of Pragmatism, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982, pp. 37-59, here p. 42).
13. Usually it is not a position in its full extent which is mirrored by the alternative position: instead the alternative representations are effected with respect to specific topics, yet to ones which are central to the respective positions. Wittgenstein, for example, gives an account of traditional philosophizing with respect to its theoretical stance, which he then ridicules as "the conception of thought as a gaseous medium" and to which he objects "we may not advance any kind of theory" (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe, New York: Macmillan, 1968, p. 47e, no. 109); Wittgenstein's view, however, could - to consider things the other way round - be countered by giving an account of his position from a traditional viewpoint, for example an Aristotelean one, and in this Wittgenstein's own characterization that through his enterprise "a whole cloud of philosophy condensed into a drop of grammar" (ibid., p. 222e) might very well be rated as the testimony of a poor mind. - In any case: the more coherent the positions are, the more such mirroring of central topics will amount to position-mirroring. (In the example just given, the emphasis versus the rejection of `theory' is an aspect so central to the comparison of Aristotelean versus Wittgensteinean philosophy, that mirroring the positions with respect to this topic leads to a mirroring of the most characteristic features of these positions altogether.)
14. Sometimes both alternative representations are already at hand, in other cases one or both of them are first to be established: Habermas' open criticism of Adorno and Adorno's more tacit criticism of Habermas are well elaborated and just have to be considered; Wittgenstein's criticism of traditional philosophy's emphasis on theory is equally elaborated, whereas an assessment of Wittgensteins's arguments from the viewpoint of theory-centered philosophy has first to be developed (for the purposes of which one could, for example, take Aristotle, Hegel, or Jaspers as a starting point); finally, there are cases where the criticism - with respect to issues and all the more to authors - is just implied and has to be made explicit in the first place (take Kant's assessment of the French Revolution in contrast to Hegel's as an example).
15. This turns out to be the case at least with respect to well-elaborated positions which are in themselves coherent.
16. Some arguments may seem exaggerated. You may feel that you would have a hard time making them your own. But closer examination will tell you that the arguments are consistent within their framework. Wittgenstein's arguments against an Aristotelean position, for example, are just as reasonable as are the arguments the other way round. You cannot criticize these arguments - except by caricature; this, however, is precisely the approach you want to overcome instead of continuing.
17. "Nothing we do can be defended absolutely and finally. But only by reference to something else that is not questioned" (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G. H. von Wright, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984, p. 16e).
18. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, p. 31e, no. 66.
19. Cf. Aristotle, Eth. Nic., X 7, 1177 b 19 f.
20. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Phenomenology of the Spirit, Preface.
21. Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the prejudices of morality, trans. R.J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 373 [no. 370].
22. Generally I don't share the evaluation of Nietzsche as a philosopher who destroyed reason. On the contrary, he was one of the most serious and intelligent philosophers on the subject of reason. Cf. my "Nietzsche über Vernunft - `meine wiederhergestellte Vernunft'" (in: Rationalität und Prärationalität, eds. Jan Beaufort and Peter Prechtl, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1998, pp. 107-118).
23. Of such "lazy reason" (ignava ratio) Kant says: "We may so entitle every principle which makes us regard our investigation into nature, on any subject, as absolutely complete, disposing reason to cease from further enquiry, as if it had entirely succeeded in the task which it had set itself" (Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 561 f. [A 689 f.]).
24. Reason has, to put it in Kantian terms, "absolutely no constitutive principles of its own" (Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1987, p. 284 [A 335]).
25. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar (Berkeley - Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974), Pt. I, 72, p. 116.
26. Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Big Typescript", p. 413, von-Wright no. 213; quoted from Anthony Kenny, "Wittgenstein on the Nature of Philosophy" (in: The Legacy of Wittgenstein, Oxford - New York: Blackwell, 1984, pp. 38-60, here p. 42).
27. And this, to be sure, makes good sense: it preserves the specific domains, for example, from being taken over by a different type of rationality which is appropriate to another domain, but inappropriate to the domain in question. It prevents the danger of rational colonization.
28. In order not to be misunderstood: this perspective of totality, which is characteristic for reason, does not logically imply that the answer to the totality question has to consist in the exhibition of ultimate unity, as was traditionally expected. Quite the contrary, radical reflection can lead to a decoupling of the totality question and the unity answer. Cf. on this point my Vernunft, pp. 639-670.
29. The complete analysis of these operations would be the task of a transversal logic exposing the set of, as well as the connection between, all these operations.
30. Cf. the more detailed analysis of rationality's constitution in my Vernunft, pp. 439-610.
31. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, p. V.
32. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p. 16.
33. Wittgenstein was convinced that our most fundamental choices are a question of style: "So with creation. God is one style; the nebula another. A style gives us satisfaction; but one style is not more rational than another. Remarks about science have nothing to do with the progress of science. They rather are a style, which gives satisfaction. `Rational' is a word whose use is similar" (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Wittgenstein's Lectures: Cambridge, 1930-1932, ed. Desmond Lee, Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1980, p. 104).
34. Cf. my more detailed analysis in Vernunft, pp. 739-747.
35. "Homeland is the state of having escaped" (Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming, New York: Continuum, 1994, p. 78).
36. Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All-Too-Human: A Book for Free Spirits, Part 1, transl. Helen Zimmern (New York: Russell & Russell Inc., 1964), p. 405 f. .
Document update 29 Oct 2000