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Wolfgang Welsch

Rationality and Reason Today

The Zeitgeist is not well disposed to reason. Reason stands in the crossfire of criticism. There are two kinds of attack. One is well-known: For decades reason has been criticized as being dominating, oppressive, destructive, downright Eurocentric or merely irrelevant. One might at best still speak of rationality, but on no account of reason. "Farewell to Reason" is a motto of the age.

The second, more subtle kind of attack comes not from the enemies of reason, but from those who claim themselves to be defenders of occidental 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.

Opposing both kinds of attack, I will outline a concept of reason which might be appropriate today. I will call it "transversal reason." I develop this concept in two stages. In the first part of this article I explain the situation of rationality as I see it. My thesis is that the contemporary shape of rationality requires and also makes possible a new concept of reason, which I then discuss in the second part.(1)

I. The New Constitution of Rationality

Let me first offer a summary definition of rationality. 1. We speak of rationality whenever people follow a specific set of principles which determine the realm of their validity, identify their objectives, define the aims to be achieved, the methods to be followed, and the criteria to be applied. 2. These principles must be coherent with one another in order to allow coherent usage. 3. Therefore, to be rational simply means to follow the rules suggested by these principles. In doing this, we are rational in the sense of the respective version of rationality. - This is, of course, a very technical definition, but its advantage is that it fits any kind of rationality.

Modern rationality now displays unaccustomed contours. Three main factors determine its new structure: pluralization, entanglement, disorderliness.

1. Pluralization

First of all, the modern field of rationality is distinguished by the emergence of manifold self-willed forms of rationality.

a. Two Types of Pluralization: Differentiation and Paradigm Pluralization

With regard to this pluralization, two types are to be distinguished. First, pluralization, conventionally, has the meaning of `differentiation'. The one reason of old has, in modern times, come asunder in a number of self-willed rationalities - such is the understanding from Immanuel Kant, via Max Weber, through to Jürgen Habermas. One thinks in particular of a tripartition of cognitive, moral-practical, and aesthetic rationality.

Second, within these types of rationality divergent paradigms emerged, each proposing its own definitions, potentially for all dimensions of rationality (object, domain, methods, criteria, aims). I call this second form, the paradigm pluralization, pluralization in the actual sense. It, in particular, is responsible for the new profile of rationality. In its context, the contented order of ideally suited forms of rationality welded onto one another, as might still have seemed believable based on differentiation, is definitively over with. Paradigm pluralization transfers the field of rationality into a medley of conflicting versions. Until now, the theory of rationality has restricted itself too much, I think, to the first step, to differentiation. What matters is to direct attention to the second step, to paradigm pluralization. It is far more resultful.

b. Consequences of Paradigm Pluralization

In this context all determinations become disputable. Different paradigms take hold of the same objects, but define the dimensions of their rationality in varying ways. This begins with the specificity of the objects, and proceeds through methods, criteria and aims, to the number of, and the delimitation of, domains. Logical purists will apprehend the cognitive narrowly, contextualists on the other hand broadly. Popperians insist on drawing a sharp border between science and art, whereas Kuhnians and Feyerabendians consider the common factors between the sciences and the arts to be particularly instructive in matters of cognition too. Understandably, respective controversies about methods and aims go along with this.

First, different paradigms determine both the inner configuration and the outer delimitation of their domains differently. (Which is why to speak of a domain of rationality from now on inevitably means to speak of a definition of the domain specific to a particular paradigm, as distinct from other, competing, definitions.) Second, this effects the arrangement, delimitation and number of neighbouring domains. Whoever, for example, wants to understand by cognitive questions simply the explanation of that which is the case, achieves by this means a clear demarcation towards aesthetic and ethic questions. Should the analysis only of general structures and repeatable relationships belong to the tasks of cognitive operations, then the circle of possible questions described becomes even more narrow - everything relating to individual events falls away. If, on the other hand, one also attributes the analysis of statements about non-cognitive phenomena to the domain of cognition, then one makes, through this - seemingly small - change, aesthetics and ethics sub-disciplines of cognition. In this way singular definitions of paradigms potentially affect the whole terrain of rationality.

The result of paradigm pluralization is that throughout the scope of rationality varying options oppose one another at every point and in every issue. Within the perspective of singular paradigms everything appears to be clear; if one considers the multitude of conflicting paradigms, everything becomes unclear.

c. Paradigms as the Radicals of Rationality

The consequences of paradigm pluralization are so farreaching because paradigms represent the actual radicals within the field of rationality. Conventionally, in the context of differentiation, this role had been ascribed to the types of rationality which were thought to prescribe binding rules for the paradigms. In fact, it's the other way round. Paradigms in no way run through a program stipulated by rationality types; instead, they treat all stipulations as disposable. Self-willed, they potentially lay down all dimensions of their version of rationality from the specific rules for the constitution of their objects and the rules for linking their assertions, to the criteria for validity and completeness. Hence paradigms represent the radicals and the actual versions of rationality, whereas the so-called rationality types are large secondary groups arising through the intersections between paradigms, held together by family resemblances alone.

2. Entanglements

Another point of view needs fundamental consideration: paradigms are distinguished through entanglements. In their inner structure they exhibit links with elements of other paradigms and domains.

a. The Interparadigmatic Structure of Paradigms

Entanglements often originate from the fact that paradigms are designed in opposition to other paradigms, and hence bear inscriptions of deposition, reinterpretation or rejection, or, as the case may be, of affiliation, resumption, articulation anew. In addition, paradigms frequently exhibit entanglements with far-distant domains. For example, the universally pragmatic paradigm of morality relies upon a whole series of assumptions from anthropology, analytic philosophy and evolutionary theory, whose substantiation is to be guaranteed not from within this paradigm itself, but from elsewhere. Or take social-Darwinistic theories: they presuppose not only biological Darwinism, but take their hold only in a competitive society and under additional conditions such as moral crises or the pressure of overpopulation. Finally, ethical models, even where they don't argue historically, are forged by historical experience and current configurations of problems. Such entanglements are frequently of constitutive importance to the respective paradigms. A paradigm's decisive substantiations can lie outside of it.

b. From the Independency Premise to the State of Entanglement

This interparadigmatic structure of paradigms necessitates a rethinking of principles in matters of rationality. Paradigms are not constituted independently, but as networks. They represent complexes, not solitaires. Until now, people have allowed themselves to be guided by the expectation of autonomous and well-defined rationality types, that is by paradigms. Connections were regarded as secondary. In fact, it's the other way round. Paradigms, and with this the radicals of rationality, are determined by entanglements. The independence of rational forms is merely a secondary appearance on the basis of a fundamentally network-like organization. The independency axiom has been the proton pseudos of rationality theory until now.(2) Today, it is a question of proceeding to a profoundly non-separatist design of rationality.

3. Disorderliness

As a result of changes in the field of rationality, rationality itself is distinguished by a peculiar disorderliness. Rationality is certainly intended to establish and guarantee order. But disorder is an inevitable consequence of the modern development of rationality, characterized by pluralization and entanglements.

The disorderliness begins within the domains of singular rationality. It is based on the conflict between diverse paradigms, which makes every issue controversial. The disorderliness continues with different options regarding the number, arrangement, and delimitation of domains. Moreover, it is fortified by the tangled character of paradigms, so far as these give rise to a complex architecture of paradigms. However, the entanglements not only establish coherencies, but are simultaneously linked with manifold shifts in the meaning of common elements in transition from one paradigm to another. Finally, the contravention of differing options recurs on the level of interpretations of rationality as a whole. A number of paradigms, in consequence of their reaching out interparadigmatically, advocate options with regard to the structure of rationality as a whole. But different paradigms sketch different pictures of the whole. Hence, in the attempt to provide a unitary structure of the whole, the variance recurs ironically one more time.(3)

Altogether, the constitution of rationality based on paradigm pluralization presents itself as a state of medley and conflict. Varying options within a vast and complex structure compete at every point. An ordering of rationality as a whole no longer comes into sight. Quite the contrary - the more we get into details, or reach out to the whole, the more reasons come to light as to why an order of this type is no longer to be reckoned with. From its microstructure through to its macrostructure, the field of rationality has become a highly complex sphere of rational disorderliness.

This rational disorderliness evidently has nothing to do with a possible tapping of irrational potentials, rather the dissolution of the clear lines of rationality results from the evolutionary process of modern rationality itself. It is a consequence of the intensified pluralization of rationality. It concerns the relationship of rationalities to one another, and is rationally reconstructible in its mechanisms and its logic. To this extent, the concern is one of a rational disorderliness in an emphatic sense. It is this rational disorderliness, which no longer seems vanquishable, which we must today face.

II. Reason

Or is reason, as the faculty traditionally superior to rationality, able to provide for order and unity once again amidst the complexity and disorderliness of rationality? I now turn to the second part of the article - to the explication of reason. In a first section (A) I make some general comments about reason, before, in the second section (B) explaining the concept of transversal reason.

A. General Considerations on Reason

1. Reason and Rationality

Reason operates on a fundamentally different level from rationality. While forms of rationality refer to objects, reason focuses on the forms of rationality. This has been the constellation of reason and rationality at least since Kant who said: "Reason is never in immediate relation to an object, but only to the understanding."(4) Nowadays, this requires reference to the highly differentiated, diverse and conflicting paradigms of rationality, because they are obviously equivalent to what was conventionally called `understanding' (Verstand). They are restricted to their specific perspectives. Reason, on the other hand, reaches further. It refers to the host of different versions of rationality, and evaluates their interrelationship. Structural considerations dictate that this responsibility cannot be fulfilled adequately by any of the rationalities, only by reason.

This is why the objection from supporters of rationality mentioned before falters, namely, the objection that all conceivable questions would already be answered by the many versions of rationality, so that absolutely no room and no issue remains for reason. By means of their diversity, rationalities might be capable of answering questions about objects in various ways, but what the relationship is between diverse rationalities - a question which is becoming all the more urgent on account of plurality - cannot be stated from the point of view of one of these rationalities, but only by means of a differently oriented faculty.

This is not to sever reason from rationality. It is just that the difference must be recognized and understood. Reason and rationality basically represent the same reflective faculty, but in different orientation and function. By `rationality' we refer to feats which thematize objects, with the expression `reason' to those referring to rationalities. The difference between rationality and reason is merely one of the direction of view and function, but this includes the fact that the one cannot deputize for the other. 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 form a pair. They stand in a matched relationship which cannot be foreshortened with impunity to just one of its sides.

2. Reason and Totality

Let me now consider the peculiar orientation towards the whole which is characteristic of reason.

This reaching outwards for totality stems from the dynamics of reason itself. It is not that totality exists objectively and is in need of clarification, and that we then, fortunately, have reason too 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.

But what answer does reason provide to the question about the whole? Traditionally it is expected to consist in the exhibition of unity. Overcoming multitude and setting aside opposites prevailed as "the sole interest of Reason."(5) This however is not absolutely compelling. It corresponds merely to traditional expectation, not to an obligation of reason altogether. Conversely, a decoupling of the question of entirety and the unity answer is coming into view. The new conditions of rationality no longer permit the demonstration of ultimate unity and order at all, rather reasonable contemplation will uncover the generative mechanisms which ultimately lead to diversity and disorderliness, and it will set out why this finding can no longer be passed beyond.

Ultimately, reason cannot overcome the `disorderliness' of rationality and establish a meta-order because such a meta-order is impossible. This claim is as strong as it is emphatic. Its substantiation leads to a central point in current debates over rationality and reason.

3. No Meta-Order

It is self-evident that none of the rationalities is able to present a meta-order, an order which is capable of comprising all versions of rationality and linking them in a conclusive overall manner. It is not that versions of rationality don't propose such overall orderings - at least some of them do. It is just that every one of these overall options is opposed by other overall options advocated by other versions of rationality, which are incompatible with the former as well as with each other. Consequently, none of these options for order is in a position to embody the desired meta-order.

The attempt to grant an Archimedean position to one rationality fails for reasons of principle. No version of rationality can escape the fact that it has other versions alongside it, none of them can really establish itself as a metaposition. For every option claiming to embody a superior Archimedean position, it can be proved that in fact, from beginning to end, from its elementary to its holistic assertions, it stands alongside other competing options, not above them. This conclusion is inevitable in view of paradigm pluralization.

Can reason lead beyond this and provide a ground for meta-order? To fulfil that traditional expectation reason would have to be a superior faculty and have principles at its disposal which permit it to establish a meta-order. This is however not the case. Crucially, reason does not possess such principles.

Reason is to be understood as pure reason, meaning that it does not possess any principles. To put it more exactly: it is not in possession of any principles relating to content, rather it possesses formal principles, logical principles alone.

Reason is fundamentally an unlimited faculty of reflection, hence its universality and sovereignty. But this depends upon the purity of reason. Of course, there is no guarantee that any use of reason corresponds to its ideal purity. The important thing however is that reason is the only faculty for recognizing, correcting, and transcending its own actual impurity. Through self-reflection, reason can free itself from one-sidedness. It is precisely this faculty of self-purification that we refer to when, reasonably and even emphatically, speaking of reason.

If things were any different, if reason were to possess - as one, in alleged reverence, attests to it - principles relating to content which would permit it to establish a meta-order, then reason would not be reason, but merely rationality. Advocating principles relating to content, making statements about objects and constituting fields is the hallmark of rationality. Put harshly, the well-established notion of reason fails its concept in the most fundamental way. It wrongly turns reason into hyper-rationality. It paralyzes the concept of reason. If this notion were in fact right, there would be no reason at all.

If reason is not to be misunderstood as a higher rationality or as a dictatorial reason, but rather apprehended strictly as pure reason, then it cannot consistently ordain, by its own consummate power, an ordering of the world of rationalities, its `true' ordering in contrast to its outward disorderliness. This possibility is excluded by reason's purity and its being devoid of content.

The result is the impossibility of a meta-order. Rationality is characterized too much by plurality and diversity to be able to attain such a meta-order. Nor is reason, with its purity, in a position to issue a meta-order. It is precisely at this central point of traditional philosophizing that a rethink is called for. Incidentally, as with almost everything important today, Wittgenstein already pointed this out when he said that there is no "metaphilosophy," a remark to wich he added: "We might so present all that we have to say that this would appear as a leading principle."(6)

B. Transversal Reason

1. Reason and Transition - Transversal Reason

Let me now turn to the explanation of transversal reason. If reason does not operate from an Archimedean position, in what way does it proceed? If it does not decree a contented order of rationality, what does it accomplish in the field of rationality?

With the departure from the Archimedean conception of reason, the axis of reason rotates from verticality to horizontality. Reason becomes a faculty of transitions. It does not contemplate from a lofty viewpoint, but passes between the forms of rationality. This is a consequence of its status of purity, since it is just as pure reason that it cannot begin with the possession of contents, but must operate processually. All reason's activities take place in transitions. These form the proprium and the central activity of reason. Reason is thus transformed from a static and principle-oriented faculty into a dynamic and intermediary faculty. In view of this transitional character, I designate the form of reason thus outlined "transversal reason".

2. Orientation amidst the Disorderliness

Altogether, transversal reason aims at making transparent the new constitution of rationality, from paradigm pluralization through to rational disorderliness. In this sense, the explanation of rationality given before was already an explanation in the light of transversal reason. Moreover, transversal reason contributes to the correct procedures in the situation of rational disorderliness. It forms the foundation of competences in a world of complexity.

Transversal reason makes clear to us the multitude of rationalities so that we can recognize their complex conditions as the real constitution of rationality. What's more, it shows how this situation is formed and what the reasons are for the unavoidable and unsurpassable nature of disorderliness. At the same time, it enables us to understand that this constitution is not a loss, but an enhancement of rationality. Contrary to traditional prejudice, it doesn't mean chaos, baselessness, or ruin.

Transversal reason involves itself in this disorderliness. It attempts to think with it, instead of wanting simply to head it off or merely to `cope with' it. In a confused situation only transversal reason still offers orientation. It shows how one can move steadily on wavering foundations and in the midst of disorderliness.

3. Transversal Reason in its Critical Relation to the Structures of Rationality

Transversal reason strives for as comprehensive as possible analysis and the reconstruction of the singular paradigms. Reasonable contemplation uncovers the interparadigmatic network of loans and reasoning amidst which the respective paradigms operate, and to which they owe their arrangement and effectiveness. Whereas paradigms themselves tend to fail to recognize their complex character, reasonable reconstruction points to their deeper levels and ramifications. This requires the advocates of a paradigm to proceed from narrow self-apprehension to consideration of the vastness and interparadigmatic constitution of the paradigm concerned.

At the same time a next step, the departure from hypertrophic self-confidence, is prepared for. Corresponding to their limited self-apprehension, paradigms often have unlimited self-confidence. They claim to be exclusive. Instead of facing up to the factual multiplicity of, and competition between paradigms, they beat a hasty retreat.

Once the interparadigmatic character has been uncovered, not only the inner, but the outer blinkers become decrepit. The singular paradigm must situate itself in the midst of a multitude of other paradigms and abandon the pretense that it is exclusive. New self-awareness knows about entanglements with other paradigms and acknowledges their plurality and legitimacy.

In all this, reason transfers the constituents of rationality - from the microlevel of paradigms to the macrolevel of holistic interpretations - from their originally limited to their reasonable form. It confers on them an awareness which knows its own complexity and vastness, and doesn't deny the existence and legitimacy of other rational constituents. Instead, it incorporates and acknowledges them. The ultimate result of reason's activities amidst the rationalities might then be described as rational justice.

4. Transitional Characteristics

The transitions of reason are of a peculiar kind: they are transitions in the transitionless, dialectic and inconclusive in nature.

I have tried to make clear in what a far-reaching sense the diverse rational complexes, between which reason has to pass, are different in their rational typicality. The differences do not first concern singular statements. They concern the entire basic typicality (the architecture or logic) of the rational complexes.

A comparative and pondered transition between such complexes demands a faculty which is capable of determining its conditions without, in so doing, wiping out or compromising their heterogeneity. The main responsibility of this faculty is to operate unerringly in a mixed constitution of heterogeneity and entanglement.

The transitions of reason do not form a system or approach an ultimate synthesis. Perhaps they include synthetic feats, for example, rational architectures can be supplemented, paradigms conjoined, new concepts generated, but, decisively, they are dialectical transitions without ultimate synthesis. At least some of the rational complexes will not allow themselves to be reduced to a common denominator, ordered in a linear series, or organized in a systematic association. They remain divergent. Hence, reason's transitions do not lead to a system of the whole, but, conversely, to uncovering the impossibility of a conclusive architecture.

If reason's transitional feats were not to occur, then the field of rationality would shatter into mere fragments. If, on the other hand, one were to misunderstand the transitions synthetically, then the constitution of reason would be debased. Transversal reason's transitive activity holds the middle ground between the hell of atomization and the high water of totalization.

5. Inconcludability

Transversal reason faces up to the phenomenon of inconcludability. It doesn't do this simply in view of the fact that the processes of rationality keep going anyway, but in view of the reasons which are responsible for it. Reasonable contemplation uncovers an uninhibitable instability in all configurations and reasoning.

One can make this clear with a view to decision-making situations. In such situations, reasonable analysis will insist, first of all, on consideration of all alternatives, and on clarity in respect of the premises and consequences of the singular alternatives. Furthermore, it will bring the consistency criterion into play. The decision to be met must be in agreement with all the chosen premises. But, more fundamentally, what about the choice of premises? Obviously that is subject to the standards of the respective culture. A culture of reflection, such as ours, will find itself convinced by axioms other than those of a culture of emotion. A culture of individuality will set fundaments other than those of a culture of sociality. Can one still overcome the arbitrariness of such basic decisions through reasonable reasoning?

In any case, not absolutely. The reasons which one would like to adduce in favor of the basic decision are often only good or relevant within the framework of the basic decision. In a retrogression through reasoning one reaches no irrefutable basis of acceptance. This seems, indeed, to be an age-old, familiar finding. Aristotle already pointed out that chains of reasoning come to an end at some time. They must have recourse to something which counts as substantiated not on account of derivation or proof, but in some other way, say, because it is evident, or because it is concordant with other assumptions, or because it commends itself by its consequences, or because in reflection it withstands every interrogation. But traditionally, these pre-proven principles were believed to be absolutely reliable. This hope can no longer be sustained. All bases are questionable, displaceable, relative. As Wittgenstein put it: "Nothing we do can be defended absolutely and finally. But only by reference to something else that is not questioned."(7)

Reasoning is never ultimate in character in the sense that it would be immune to further interrogation and changes. On the contrary, it is open to the possibility of being interrogated. We can even be sure on principle that other options will be plausible from another stance, that - in reality just as reflexively - changes will come about in the premises and, as a consequence, in reasoning and decisions. Reasonable reflection uncovers at the same time both the best reasons and their limits.

The openness of all reasoning is of fundamental and far-reaching importance. There is no absolute fundament, no ultimate reasoning, no permanent stability. All absolutist or fundamentalist hopes are to be replaced by situational and relative insights and strategies. Orientation, certainty and reliability are to be gained, this side of traditional, eternalistic phantasms such as the recourse to ostensibly ultimately valid bases, in the midst of a constitution of non-fundamentality, uncertainty and relativity. This is the difficult task which we see ourselves yielding to.

6. Transversal Reason and Reason Altogether

What of the relationship between transversal reason and reason altogether? Clearly, transversal reason is not an absolutely new faculty. It just accentuates anew and enduringly one element which has always belonged to reason but which has today acquired particular importance, the element of transition. Does this mean that transversal reason is just a specific contemporary form of reason? Or does it succeed in redeeming the characteristics of reason altogether? Transversal reason seems to me to articulate the innermost trait of reason altogether. It is reason altogether, in today's conditions.

Every historical form of reason was obliged, not simply to decree unity, but to exhibit it in a plurality which was prior and forged by prior interpretations. That was the task of reason from Parmenides and Heraclitus, through Kant and Hegel, to our times. This always demanded passing between different points of view and connecting these in a holistic organization which doesn't extinguish, but retains difference and transfers 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 meet transversal feats, transitions, between conceptions, thoughts, and phases of reflection. Such transitions form the medium of all the 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.

7. Past and Present Concepts of Reason - a Basic Difference

Below I sketch briefly a history of reason in order to demonstrate what is distinctive about it today.

The traditional claim of reason was to comprehend everything as a unitary whole. To this end, reason was assigned a position superior to the world. It was supposed to be synoptic, universal, to connect everthing, and to guarantee unity. Reason was assigned a godlike, Archimedean position.

The transition to modern, historical thinking did not alter the telos of unitariness and universality, it did however necessitate a modification of the strategies for its attainment. Beginning in immanence, reason now had to work for its superior position in historically unfolding its sprout (Kant) or in apprehending the way of being as the way of its own development (Hegel).

Later however, the further historicalization of reason led to an on-principle questioning of the possibility of its unity and superiority. In view of historical and cultural diversity in apprehensions of reason, it was not only the traditional thesis of reason's superiority over the world which became discredited. The assumption that reason, in all its shapes and forms, possessed the same principles relating to content, which were then just differently developed, was also discredited. From then on the retention of reason seemed possible only if one apprehended reason as no longer possessing material principles relating to content, but rather as an essentially formal faculty, capable at best of the working-out and clarification of principles.

With this, much had been left behind, but by no means everything. The transition to formal concepts attempted to retain the efficacy of reason in new conditions, that is, to account for it in a new way. This took place, for example, through the thesis that claims to validity are built into our language, permitting universal and unitary clarifications of those culturally and historically highly differing assertions, in respect of which such claims to validity are raised. The content may be as relative to the environment as you like; the formal processes for their clarification are to be universally valid. It is in these formal structures, not in the content, that reason is embodied.

So, in spite of all alterations, an essential element remained intact to this point: reason still designated a universal and unitary structure which was supposed to be common to all people, and thus to permit the attainment of totally valid and unitary solutions. Although difficult to discover, there would always be a unitary basis and universal points of reference. The potential of reason had, so to speak, subsided from its former divine heights to the lowlands of the human rendering of language, and was no longer embodied by principles relating to content, but merely by common procedural factors. The light of reason no longer had the shape of Heraclitus' sun, but was rather just a spark in the waste-rock of language. But the spark could be brought to glimmer and shine, and then reason would make possible universality and unity again.

In the meantime it has turned out that the formal unitary structures to which this modern understanding of reason has recourse are no less relative to culture than were the former principles relating to content. Consequently, this formal, post-metaphysical outcome is ultimately subject to the same objections as the content-loaded metaphysical conceptions.

What follows is that reason of the traditional kind, including its modern modifications, and in consequence, reason of the universal-unitary type is no longer possible. Does this mean that reason is no longer possible at all? Many contemporaries draw this conclusion. They exclaim a "Farewell to Reason" or want to restrict themselves merely to the analysis of rationalities, as I mentioned before.

With the outline of transversal reason given in the meantime, I have tried to show that departure from a metaphysical conception of reason, as well as from its successive post-metaphysical forms, must in no way lead to the abandonment of reason. Nevertheless, reason must be thought of anew by abstaining from every ostensibly universal-unitary basis of reason, and abandoning the claim to be able to attain once again universally valid unitary solutions. The concept of transversal reason continues consistently in its departure from principles relating to content, over and beyond the modern reclamation of universal formal principles. Reason is to be thought of strictly as a pure faculty.

Moreover, contrary to what is believed by the rationality-reductionists, the supra-rational status of reason is evident. Whenever we make comparisons and transitions between rationalities, we draw upon a faculty that one cannot describe as anything other than reason. In so far as rationalities carry out a number of transitions, reason is already built into them. In their specific form, however, the dynamics of reason insist on transitions in the whole. In this sense reason still distinguishes itself by a form of universality. Nothing is excluded from its reflection, not even the critical addressing of its own procedures, and the making of such corrections as may be necessary. Reason does not operate from an exempted or intangible basis, but from the midst of rationalities and in transition between their forms. All reason's achievements display this typical form.

Reason has thus become a perilous faculty without firm ground, without a net, without ultimate security. For this, you could also say Reason declines every (all too comfortable) exposition of itself as being rationality. Its enduring claim is to bring about clarifications through the transitional activity of a reason apprehended as reason. In this spirit, the concept of transversal reason sets itself against both a backwards-facing hubris of reason, a repeated insinuation of autonomous principled reason, and against present-day defeatism, the abandonment of reason in favor of a multitude of rationalities. It seeks to lead the way out of this double cul-de-sac.

The task of making reliable steps in the midst of uncertainty and relativity, and of attaining reasonable solutions is not only inescapable, but highly unaccustomed. "To a new generation" however, it might, to quote Wittgenstein, "have become second nature."(8)

1. These considerations have been set out more comprehensively in Wolfgang Welsch, Vernunft. Die zeitgenössische Vernunftkritik und das Konzept der transversalen Vernunft (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1995, stw 1996). The reader is referred to this for the exposition of issues only touched upon in this article.

2. Perhaps this applies only to continental philosophy, where even opponents like Jürgen Habermas and Jean-François Lyotard share this assumption. Within analytic philosophy, however, authors like W. V. O. Quine with his holism, or C. G. Hempel and D. Davidson have transcended the monadic view of rationalities.

3. This has been pointed out by Goodman in particular (cf. Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking, Indianapolis: Hackett 1978, p. 20).

4. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965), p. 532 f., A 643.

5. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Difference Between Fichte's and Schelling's System of Philosophy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977), p. 90.

6. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar (Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974), Pt. I, 72, p. 116.

7. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G. H. von Wright (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984), p. 16.

8. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p. 1.

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Welsch
Institut für Philosophie
Zwätzengasse 9
D-07740 Jena
E-mail: Wolfgang.Welsch@uni-jena.de

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