Dear Habermas Logo A Jeanne Site

The Dear Habermas Column

Volume 4, Fall 1998

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: November 15, 1998
University Disclaimer
Faculty on the Site.

Queries to Dear Habermas

Pepperdine Student Shares in Exercises
most recent Request for Help with Summer Internship most recent Habermas and Aesthetics: Global Learning
most recent A Forum for Texts as Discourse Is Shaped most recent Graphic Artists Seek Forum on Web most recent References

back BACK to Navigating Dear Habermas Site

The following e-mail came in on Saturday, Nov. 15. Needless to say, I didn't have a lot of time, even though there were only 212 e-mail messages waiting!. But somewhere there's a student in another college willing to talk about Dear Habermas issues. May I suggest some of you talk to him/her? jeanne

Dear Habermas:

Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 16:53:11 +0100
From: Anonymous Student User, Pepperdine




Social learning together w/received knowing are best classroom learning method. I will agree w/#7 if classroom discussions encourage students to speak up,hence "silence" is in adequate to be used as evidence.

Jeanne's answer, wearing her Dear Habermas hat, of course:

Well, if you read enough on Dear Habermas to find the exercises, then you know that all ways of knowing produce some perspective, and that the role of Dear Habermas is to open public discourse to all perspectives. I don't know that I would consider "received knowing" so good a choice for all classrooms. There is the question of authority on what shall be received, and who gets to say what "it is" authority. Silence, for some women, has been catastrophic. And "silence" is frequently demanded by authority. With those caveats in mind, my answers to the questions are given in detail on the site. But they're only my answers. Welcome to CSUDH and the site. Jeanne

Habermas and Aesthetics in Seoul, Korea

Graduate Students from Around the World Share With Us

On Wednesday, July 8, 1998 Dear Habermas received the following e-mail from Nam See, Kim:

Subject: I'm writing Thesis on Habermas!

Hello, My name is Nam See, and I am a graduate student in Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea. My Major is Aesthetics. I am interested in Aesthetics of Critical Theorists like Marcuse, Adorno, Benjamin and so on.

So I am tring to write a thesis on Aesthetics of Habermas, who overtook the tradition of Critical Theory and developed,I think, aesthetic issues of Critical Theory. But it is not so easy as I thought, because Habermas himself has not written on this theme with explicity.

So I need your Help! I'm afraid to bother you. Do you have ANY Information or references on Habermasian Aesthetics? Would you mind informing me of it? If not, it will be very helpful to me.

p.s. I can read German, French and Japanese texts, so you don't need to worry about my understanding them.

Thank you for your reading.

Jeanne responded on July 8, 1998:

Hi, Nam See:

Do not hesitate to write. I am a teacher. That is what my time is for. I also read French and German, but my Japanese is bare bones because I went to law school instead of continuing my Japanese and Chinese studies. Languages should not be a problem.

I do not have at hand any particular work on Habermasian Aesthetics, but then, who does? I do have right here on my desk Craig Calhoun's Critical Social Theory, Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, Mass., 1995. Calhoun conceives of Habermas as a modernist because he has some faith that we shall yet realize the Enlightenment. But Calhoun steers a path somewhere between the camps that often divide the postmodernists and the critical theorists. Since that's my philosophy, too, I like his work. And he does teach Habermas.

Calhoun includes the term "aesthetics" in his index. Here's what I found on p. 99: "Perhaps with clearest meaning, postmodernism is a rejection of artistic modernism (e.g. the international style in architecture) in favor of freeing the aesthetic from the functional, putting signification intertextual reference, and self-reflexivity forward as independent goods. While architects like Venturi and Jencks have played a primary role in promoting the conceptualization of postmodernism, related changes are current and self-identified throughout at least the visual and dramatic arts (including cinema) and literature." Will this sort of thing help?

Calhoun cites in his references several of Bourdieu's works which might apply. If you don't have access to Calhoun's book, let me know, and I'll try to get sources for you. On the Web, look for the journal, Postmodern Culture.

Several articles in latest issue that might interest you, depending on your focus. - An article by Michelle Pierson, "Welcome to Basementwood: Computer Generated Special Effects and Wired Magazine."

Will this sort of thing help?

Within the next two or three days I will put up instructions on how to use the Getty online catalog and access their materials. As soon as I have completed the restructuring of the Dear Habermas site ( I will have more time to search.

I would appreciate your permission to include your request e-mail and my response in our DEAR HABERMAS Column on the site so that others can see how we are managing to get research started and under way.

Good luck. I shall look forward to hearing from you.

Jeanne Curran, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Alias: Dear Habermas

Nam See, Kim then wrote:

Hello, Teacher!

I have read your response and it made me happy. At first I checked whether or not I could get the Book, and I found it in our university Library! The book has already 'geliehen' by somebody, but it makes no problem to survey it when it returns.

I also checked the Web site 'muse' which you informed me, but I could not have access to articles related with Habermasian Aesthetics without registration. So I could not find it helps me or not.

I have read abstract of the article by Michelle Pierson, but I'm not able to understand how its topic - the aesthetic dimensions of computer generated Image - relates with Habermasian Aesthetics. In addition, I am not in position to get the Magazine "wired".

My focus on Habermasian Aesthetics go toward two directions. One is related with arguments of Modern/Postmodernism, the other concerns in Critical dimensions of Aesthetic sphere, which Habermas conceptualized as "Aesthetische Kritik" in his Diskurs Theorie. As in Thoretischer, Praktischer Diskurs, aesthetic critic has a potentiality to confirm 'Geltungs Anspruch' in (self)critical standpoint. But unlike the formers, aesthetic critic has no right to demand to be 'generalable'. So it can only have influence on 'expressive languages' with which we can verbalize our "Beduerfnis". In relation to the "psychoanalytical conversation", aesthetic critic has the possibility to make oneself transparent and to find his true "Beduerfnis", which enables communicative relations more 'rational and self-critical'.

But I have difficulty to interrelate this idea with Modern/postmodern Arguments. As you know, the postmodern debates held on socio-historical-cultural Level. As Habermas said, Modernity is result of 'social lerningprocess'. Aesthetic trends in modernity thus also have to be seen as a result of that. So, aesthetic sphere had not critical potential before aesthetic critic has acquired its autunomy in result of modernization. Then, in relation to the critical potential of aesthetic critic (and works of art) we have to accept the historical limit. Only the (after) modern works of art acquired the critical potential? If we accept this proposition , I'm afraid that Habermasian Aesthetics is reduced only to 'description of modern social phenomena'. I think 'aesthetics' should explain the structure or way of existence of Art and artistic Phenomena.

If you have any Interest in my idea, please advise me and I will accept it with pleasure! And I am eager to see reconstructed 'Dear Habermas site'. I would please my self when my request will be helpful to others like me.

Thank you, for your Information and Kindness.

I shall look forward to hearing from you.

Nam See, Kim
Faculty of Aesthetics, college of Humanities, Seoul National University.

A Forum for Texts as Discourse Is Shaped

This seems like a good point to stop briefly and ask ourselves the question about how Habermas and Aesthetics fits in with the Dear Habermas search for discourse, narrative, and intertextuality. Because Jeanne and Susan specialize in jurisprudence and criminal justice most of the issues on the site are focussed on fairness, public discourse, access. Aesthetics is a whole new area for us. Does it fit? Our answer is a definite yes.

We will have to explore new texts, but Nam See, Kim has offered us some clues on where to search those out. This will not be an area in which Faculty on the Site can dispense scholarly references at will, and students will pounce upon them to find precisely what they were looking for. Kim reminds us that Habermas didn't write much on aesthetics. Well, he didn't do a Dear Habermas column either.

This site is about establishing a forum to allow learning texts to formulate, ideas to find reflection, different perspectives. Here, we can help Kim build his discourse by sharing his starting sources, his search for new material, and his development of the perspective he wants to follow. N. J. Fox reminded us in Intertextuality and the Writing of Social Research that the notes he took along the way to shaping the ideas for his research were an important form of text for the intertextual reading. His notes had no forum. Preparing theses, planning discourse, investigating perspective and the social structures within which our ideas are formulated all join in the shaping of our ideas, ideas that seem so straight-forward and linearly logical when formulated and prepared for publication. (See References.) But the interdependence of each writer, each thinker on the social and community aspect of our knowledge is a crucial aspect of the shaping of that knowledge. See Andy Lock's Against Cognitivism

Jeanne and Kim explored their respective sources, immediately at hand. And then they each began to search for other texts, texts that would shape the ideas of Kim's thesis through both their existence and their non-existence. Issues of aesthetics enter public discourse regularly. Validity claims must be heard in good faith. We must consider our approach to measurement and understanding reflexively. Aesthetics, just like fairness, needs public discourse.

We have included this early e-mail exchange in near entirety. That is because we see another important social issue here. Most of our students agree that they want dialog, with each other and with us. Most agree that the intrinsic motivation that feeds their real achievement cries out for regular public discourse, for a unviersity environment where such discussions are conversational fare. But the most frequently asked question for us is "How do we start a dialog?" Well, Kim has given you an example. Here's one way. Ask a question to which you'd really like an anwer, not a "right" answer for a quiz, but an answer that might stimulate your thinking. Then listen to the answer and share your perceptions. Voila. A dialog has begun.

Some dialogs go on to become theses and books. Some fizzle out when the paths seem to lead to more exciting issues. Some are forgotten until a later path brings you back to them. Dialog is not a product, nor must it produce a product. Dialog is a process. And this is a forum dedicated to that process. We need a forum for the process, for as Fox recognized the process is a part of the thought, and should not be lost to the intertextual readings.

back BACK to Top of Page
backBACK to Navigating Dear Habermas Site

And now back to the scene of Kim's developing ideas on aesthetics.

Jeanne managed to do a search on Habermas and aesthetics on July 9, and sent the following e-mail:

Did I get that right? The comma seemed to indicate that your first name is Kim. Correct me if I'm wrong.

I was very pleased to get your reply. I want very much to prepare a brief note on your thesis for the Dear Habermas Site so that students everywhere can watch research happen.

I like your comment on Habermas' perception of modernity as the result of a "social learning process." Where is the citation? I'd like to look it up and include that on the site. I am also intrigued by your comment on potential of aesthetic critic to make oneself transparent. I think this relates to the line of work that I would call "reflexive methodology".

A reference on that: Gergen, Kenneth J. and Gergen, Mary M., "Toward Reflexive Methodologies," in Steier, Frederick, ed. Sage Publications, London, 1991. ISBN 0-8039-8239-9. (The book or journal title was lost, but you should be able to find the article with this information.)

For me to understand what perspective you are taking, I need citations that will let me read similar material to yours. To that end, I will send you citations, like the above, that have shaped my thinking on Habermas and postmodernity. We don't each need to read them all, but we do need to locate your topic fairly precisely between us.

This morning I checked out another source: The Getty Library
. . . . . .

Here, I ran a search on postmodern and aesthetics in the IRIS subject category and found:
. . . . . .

Search results from, IRIS, Getty Research Institute:
. . . . . .

POSTMODERN is in 139 titles.
AESTHETICS is in 2258 titles.
Both "POSTMODERN" and "AESTHETICS" are in 4 titles.
There are 4 entries with POSTMODERN & AESTHETICS


I also ran a search on Habermas and aesthetics - no results.
But there are 46 Habermas references. That search I ran under the author category.

Perhaps you should try using the Getty public research utility if you can access it. Otherwise, you'll need to give me more guidance in precisely what you are looking for.



Nam See, Kim then answered:

Hi, Jeanne,

Yes, you got right. Kim is my first name and Nam See is last name. You can call me just "Kim", but in Korea about 10,000 peoples have "Kim" as his first name. When you say "Hi, Kim" in street in Korea, at least 20 peoples will respond to that!

As for 'Modernity as the result of a social learning process' you can find in "Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns I" (Shurkamp 1981), especially Chapter II and for 'potential aesthetic critic' in "Questions and counterquestions" in [Habermas and Modernity} (J.R. Bernstein, (ed) polity press, oxford, 1985).

And you can also make reference to :Recovering Ethical Life: J. Habermas and the future of critical Theory," J.M. Bernstein, Routledge, London, 1995. and "The recent work of J. Habermas," K. Stephen White, Cambridge University Press, 1988, and his Foucault's Challenge to critical theory," American Political Science Review, Vol. 80, No. 2, 1986, June.

I have to thank you for your endeavor to try to help me. So I want to help you to make perfect Dear Habermas Site. If there is anything with which I can help you, please tell me and let me know.

It'll be long time to check all the sources which you informed me of, and I'll try to be 'laestig' when I need your aid. bis dahin! Nam See

Dear Habermas wishes to thank Nam See, Kim for sharing the search for Habermas and aesthetics with us. As all can tell from the e-mail Jeanne has much to learn in this area. But it is a joy to share that learning with students, even those who come from across the globe. Perhaps the Trustees' concept of lifetime learning needs to be expanded into world wide learning. It is our fondest wish that Kim's thesis will grow here, with discourse from all of you to help. Perhaps it will even give our own graduate students courage to tackle such subjects.

Graphic Artists Seek Forum on Web

A Graphic Artist's Plea
Added July 20, 1998.

Plea that graphics be taken for free personal use on the Web with integrity and respect for the artists' rights. The Web has grown so rapidly that most of us still fly by the seat of our pants. This is a plea encountered on Rafi's Place. Rafi is a graphic artist who is helping other artists create a forum from which to warn us of the danger of destroying graphic artists' sites in the taking of the freely offered graphics. .

Rafi, like others, offers many free graphics. The graphic artists have made an unstated assumption that those who take the graphics will download them and then upload them to their own sites. We who take them seem to have made the unstated assumption that since they're free it doesn't matter how we take them, so we might as well link to tntegrity and hem. The graphic artists' essay explains why groups needed to state their assumptions. Only as we come to the discourse table can we build a LEARNING community where each of us listens in good faith to the other before we accidentally destroy vast potential.

This plea represents many facets of public discourse. The artists' need for a forum, and the lack of such a forum. Their need for respect and integrity in their own work when those of us who take from their work never meant to harm either them or that work. We need to hear that the situation is very different for a graphic artist than it is for us who wander with unstated assumptions through frontier territory we could destroy before it has the chance to grow. Give their validity claim a chance to be heard in good faith. To find the pleas, click on the Web Presence Button, designed by Rafi .

E-mail Dear Habermas.


Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge

Fox, N.J., ntertextuality and the Writing of Social Research

Merton, Robert K., On the Shoulders of Giants, the University of Chicago Press, 1965, 1993 edition used.

back BACK to Top of Page
backBACK to Navigating Dear Habermas Site.