"I say unto you, one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star."
-- Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
DREAMS IN EXILE
REDISCOVERING SCIENCE AND ETHICS IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY SOCIAL THEORY
The famous phrase from the prologue to Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra refers to a society in which individuals are no longer capable of giving birth to a dancing star. It is a forceful and overpowering metaphor for the nineteenth-century critique of Enlightenment rationality and science, its lack of critical reason, and its loss of substantive imagination. Nietzsche views modernity as no longer capable of dreaming, of looking beyond the present to the historical past or to future possibilities. European social theory develops as a critical response to this situation as it blossoms from the cross-pollination of Greek political theory and the epistemology and moral philosophy of modern German thought. Aristotle and Immanuel Kant are arguably the two most important philosophers for the foundation of modern social theory. Aristotle's ethical theory of virtue and character development and his theory of justice and moral economics provide us with the most valuable and insightful criticisms of the growth of a market economy in the ancient world. From the modern perspective, Kant offers us a sophisticated critique of reason and science in his attempt to justify philosophically the claims of Newtonian physics and mathematics to universal knowledge. Although his critiques of pure and practical reason are important, the philosophical reactions to his work in the nineteenth century in the form of phenomenology, existentialism, perspectivism, and neo-Kantianism permit us access to critical alternatives to the epistemology and methodology of the natural sciences. Both Aristotle and Kant present us with a view of ethics and science that challenges the assumptions and values of Enlightenment rationality, utilitarian ethics, and market economics. It is these two traditions that strongly influence the development of classical sociology and the writings of Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim. Thus it may be said that their theories lie between the ancients and the moderns. They became the social dreamers who used their newly formed empirical and ethical science to study the culture, history, and institutions of capitalist society in order to transform the given reality according to practical social ideals.
Aristotle's devastating rejection of market accumulation and commercial trading, his defense of social solidarity and the political community, and his institutional analysis of the relationship between ethics and politics set the stage for European social theory in the nineteenth century. His observations about a market economy and social justice provide Marx with the starting point for his theory of alienation, critique of industrial production and market exchange, and anticipation of the fate of capitalism in his economic crisis theory. For Weber, they will help him create a vocational and pedagogical science for the development of national policy, citizenship, and strong and self-directed personalities within the institutions of the everyday lifeworld. Durkheim, on the other hand, will use Aristotle's thought as the basis for his theory of functionalism, social solidarity, democracy, education, and the virtuous life. In all three cases, they rely upon ancient Greek philosophy as a way of countering what they perceive are the social pathologies of modern life: alienation, rationalization, and anomie. The basis for social critique and practical action requires a critical imagination and institutional insight that lie beyond the structures and values of modernity. If industrial society is the cause of social illness then only an alternative way of viewing the world can help with a critical diagnosis and remedy for these forms of distorted development.
In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, we are presented with a different vision of society than that offered by the overwhelming shallowness of self-interest and market competition, the stultifying banality of possessive individualism and economic materialism, and the limits of natural rights and unlimited property accumulation. Aristotle offers the moderns a way out of the distractions and distortions of a society founded on the leviathan principles of aggressive domination of others, unnatural wealth acquisition, and private greed. Rejecting the values of modern economics and utilitarian ethics, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim look to a different culture of civic virtue and honor, political participation and communal justice. In modern industrial society, however, these values have been reduced to issues of private property, efficient productivity, economic fairness, market distribution, and plebiscitary politics. Rejecting the values and institutions of liberalism, they return to a political lifeworld of social responsibility and concern for the public good, that is, a return to a world of happiness and justice.
Modernity for the classical theorists represents a world turned upside down where certain values, spurned in classical antiquity, now rise to be the foundational principles of modern economics, politics, and science. They question a bureaucratic politics that immunizes itself against accountability and participation, an economy that destroys the social basis for politics, culture, and interaction, and a personality that promotes private motives, economic success, and consumer happiness. Sociology is, at its heart, indifferent to the seductions of liberalism since it is a discipline forged in a different cultural experience of ancient natural law that stresses beauty and simplicity, grace and responsibility, and economic reciprocity and mutual sharing. To reflect on these past ideals is to recover a forgotten world of classical dreams. By looking at the foundations of sociology in an entirely new light, we are able to see a more comprehensive and enticing picture of the historical past and human possibilities as science and justice are welded together in a single discipline. A detailed inquiry into Aristotle's main works on ethics and politics gives us a clue to the insights of nineteenth-century sociologists that have been lost today.
From the modern tradition, Kant outlines a Copernican revolution in epistemology as he attempts to integrate seventeenth and eighteenth-century empiricism and rationalism into a critical theory of knowledge and science. For him, the experience and truth of objective reality lie in the forms and principles of human consciousness and not in empirical reality or innate ideas. The key to an understanding of the phenomenal world of experience is found deep within the complexities of subjectivity and its forms of consciousness. The universal laws of nature, and, therefore, the truth of science itself, are a transcendental construction of the human mind. Kant's major contribution to this discussion is his addition of the role of consciousness that organizes sensation and perception into a coherent experience of the objective world. From his perspective, objective reality and objective knowledge are products of pure subjective consciousness.
Kant's eighteenth-century epistemology and moral philosophy introduce a new theory of knowledge and science more compatible with Aristotle's philosophy of science and practical wisdom (phronesis). The former's theory of subjectivity is, in turn, later transformed by the critical reactions of nineteenth-century philosophers and sociologists who radically push for a rethinking of the characteristics of the constitutive process and concepts of the mind. These theorists introduce alternative accounts of human perception and knowledge that differ markedly from that of Enlightenment science. Although Kant's ideas are an expression of the remarkable achievement of the German Enlightenment, they contain within themselves the seeds of their own dialectical transformation. Responding to the inadequacies of both empiricism and rationalism, he rejects the existence of an objective reality independent of human consciousness to which the mind must conform. In the modern theory of knowledge, the debate between empiricists and rationalists revolved around a theory of substance and its form of objectivity -- the external physical world of empirical reality. Is this reality to be approached through sensuous impressions and empirical intuitions or by means of human reason penetrating into the conceptual heart of unchanging mathematical relations and quantifiable forms, shapes, and motion?
Within the tradition of early-modern thought, the existence of external facts and independent substances that correspond to our ideas about nature was assumed in David Hume's empiricism and René Descartes' rationalism. Although the ontological existence of an independent and objective reality was taken for granted, the procedures of the scientific method and descriptive characteristics of objectivity were hotly debated. With Kant, however, all this changes dramatically in one revolutionary moment. His epistemological contribution was to introduce the force of subjectivity without losing the substantive objectivity of the natural world and science.
Access to reality, as a thing existing in itself, is rejected since all knowledge involves the transformative efforts of consciousness. The objects of experience are constituted and interpreted by the mind forever changing reality in itself, thereby making the latter inaccessible and unknowable. Science is always an interpretation of nature, not a reflection of it. The ocular metaphor of the passive mind copying reality is no longer applicable. Kant holds that the structure and principles of the mind are universal -- a priori forms and categories that give rise to everyday experience and natural science. With the further evolution of philosophy and epistemology, a priori concepts are changed into social and historical ones in the critique of ideology and the sociology of knowledge of classical social theory. The categorial structure of the mind is reconfigured and with it the form in which objectivity is created. Modernity could not contain itself within the traditional limits of Enlightenment rationality and epistemology. Kant's revolution in thought explodes the boundaries of Western thinking about knowledge, truth, and science in the same way that the modern appropriation of Aristotelian economics and politics broke through traditional liberal categories of production, distribution, consumption, and exchange. Combining Aristotle and Kant in this classical period was an incendiary wonder and imaginative dream for modern social theory.
With the stage apparently set in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century for this critical view of science and reason with its classical ideals of democracy and social justice, things begin to change in unexpected ways. The institutional requirements and functional needs of advanced capitalist society push sociology away from these earlier and more critical traditions in order to create a social science in which objectivity is viewed as neutrality and scholarly distance, science as positivism and realism, and ethics as utilitarian morals and market freedoms. The very nature of sociology changes as epistemology is transformed into a philosophy of science, and social theory into a methodology of empirical research. Ancient justice and Kantian science are displaced by ideals more compatible with the new economic and scientific values of the Enlightenment. In turn, reflection on social pathologies is replaced by considerations of social problems, functional distortions by technical anomalies, and structural contradictions by social conflicts. All problems become amendable to the technological intervention of operational concepts and hypothetical constructs within social science whose goal is not the search for happiness, the good life, or a just society, but the reestablishment of a harmony and equilibrium lost by functional and social disturbances. Practical reason is jettisoned in favor of a disciplined technical rationality. Plato, Descartes, Hobbes, and Parsons would replace Aristotle and Kant as the foundation stones for the new interpretations regarding Marx, Weber, and Durkheim. Separated from the classical tradition that gave them birth, these social theorists became just the earliest manifestations of scientific positivism. Their theories of critical science and social pathologies were lost in a sea of empirical facts, accumulated data, and scientific laws.
Beyond general intellectual interests, what is the importance of linking the birth of historical science to the philosophical inquiry of classical antiquity? The answer to this question lies in the need to redeem both Aristotle and Kant for modern social theory by reclaiming the original design of classical sociology as a practical or ethical science. This book should be viewed as a companion volume to Classical Horizons: The Origins of Sociology in Ancient Greece (2003) as it examines in more detail what was only implicit in that monograph. The earlier work uncovered the foundations of nineteenth-century social thought in classical antiquity and examined the biographical, historical, academic, scholarly, and theoretical evidence connecting the moderns to the ancients. The new work will not explore all these intricate connections between classical Greece and sociology. It will instead build upon the earlier effort and raise another series of questions: What is the impact on sociology of having its origins in classical antiquity; what is the relevance for historical science of the Greek influence on the theories of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim; and what are the implications for theory when classical sociology is viewed as an ethical science? In other words, this new project will examine classical social theory as a practical science and detail its various attempts at a synthesis of science and ethics -- a synthesis of empirical research and social justice. With the rise of German romanticism and idealism, neo-classicism, ancient historiography and archaeology, and the German Historical School of Economics and Law, European social theorists moved away from the cold and confining restrictions of the Enlightenment and directed their collective gaze and moral sentiment towards the warm and enchanting Aegean. The theoretical, epistemological, and methodological implications of this redirection of attention offers new clues to the nature of nineteenth-century historical and cultural science. The Greek turn represents both a moving beyond Enlightenment rationality and politics and the creation of an alternative science based on the theory of knowledge and moral economy of Aristotle and the critical and dialectical methods of German Idealism.
Chapter 1, "Aristotle On The Constitution of Social Justice and Classical Democracy," outlines the various forms of production and acquisition, natural and unnatural economic exchanges, particular and universal justice, and types of knowledge within the Athenian polis. The chapter begins with an analysis of Aristotle's critique of political economy in the Politics. Describing the difference in the local economy between household management (oikonomike) of the family and unnatural wealth acquisition (chrematistike) of the market, he sets the stage for a broader consideration of the relationship between the economy and polity as he examines the forms of property and economic activity that strengthen and weaken the family and state. He places economic activity within the context of the purpose of human life, the social forms of happiness (eudaimonia), and the goals of the political community. Clearly for the ancient Hellenes, production and exchange are only means to more fulfilling ends determined by the constitution of the polis. These goals are the social values which reject economic accumulation that is detrimental to the political definition of the realization of rationality, happiness, and justice.
Economic production and exchange have the underlying purpose of securing the livelihood and integrity of the family, ensuring social stability, and permitting political participation within the polis. Thus, economics is always a secondary activity geared to reciprocity, the common good, and mutual aid in which households share and exchange their surpluses as means for defining and protecting the family (oikos) and community (polis). Families strive to be self-sufficient in the satisfaction of their basic physical needs. However, according to Aristotle, this represents only an important first, but necessary, step on the road toward the ultimate goal of human life -- political virtue (arete) and practical wisdom (phronesis). Since the ultimate purpose or function of human life is realized within the political community, economics must also provide the agricultural and artisanal production necessary to insure the leisure time to participate in the key institutions of Athenian society. This is an entirely different value system than that envisioned by modern political economists who stress the primacy of economics, property, natural rights, and market rationality.
In tracing the evolution of product exchange in the Athenian state, Aristotle describes the different economic forms from barter, natural exchange, trade and commerce to banking and interest, and their impact on the social values of the community. There is an attempt to integrate exchange with the development of social justice based on its various forms of economic and political justice. Rather than pursuing an ideal republic as Plato attempted to do, Aristotle is more concerned with articulating the "function of man" within different social institutions which would nurture and encourage their preferred way of life. If the goal of human life is happiness and virtuous activity within the polis, then Aristotle's work is an attempt to provide the sociological context within which this activity can be realized. This helps explain his broad emphasis on economics, political constitutions, civic friendship, and citizenship. Aristotle's Politics expresses the institutional extension of his concern for moral and intellectual virtues (episteme, phronesis, and techne) and the good life. His social analyses of various Greek constitutions, as well as his theory of political economy and social justice, are further elaborations of his philosophy of virtue and the telos of human existence. The radical implications of his ideas in the 4th century BCE were not overlooked by the classical social theorists over two thousand years later. Profit acquisition and a developed market economy are inimicable to the development of social solidarity, a strong and viable community, and the institutions of economic and political democracy for both the ancients and the moderns. In this way, the imaginative source for critically evaluating the social pathologies of modernity lies in the ethical and political writings of classical Greece.
In Book 5 of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle distinguishes between three particular forms of economic justice: distributive, rectificatory, and reciprocal. They are clearly related to his general theory of economic exchange and critique of chrematistics as an unnatural form of wealth acquisition. Distributive justice refers to the fair and proportionate distribution of society's accumulated wealth and public offices based upon the criterion of merit. Rectificatory justice is the legal form of civil and criminal justice involving the reestablishment of equal proportionality after an injury, theft, fraud, or more serious infraction. The third form of particular justice, known as reciprocal justice, is perhaps the most important; it is clearly the most intriguing and complex. It, too, is based upon a proportionate equality that nurtures a fair exchange of material goods by which the physical needs and self-sufficiency of the family are ensured, the stability and solidarity of the polis maintained, and the communal life held together. Reciprocity protects both the "natural exchange" of local families with unmet material needs through barter based on the ethical principles of grace and generosity and the broader exchange of goods in a primitive money economy based on the values of fairness and friendship established by law and custom. In these two types of natural exchange, the satisfaction of fundamental human needs is the primary ethical imperative of a just society that mediates the economic activity among families, friends, and citizens. Need is what motivates exchange and justice between participants: the need for material goods, self-sufficiency, and the material foundation of the political and cultural life of the community. Human need, socially facilitated by grace and fairness, and not property, money, market, or power, defines the parameters of economics and ethics.
Within Aristotle's writings there is thus a close integration among his theories of justice, economic exchange, and the function of man. The economy and market provide for the material foundation for the development of human potential as rational and virtuous individuals search for happiness and self-realization within the polis. Aristotle makes the connections among the function of man as a rational and virtuous being, the purpose of human life, and the forms of particular, economic justice. From this perspective the unjust forms of market exchange based on profit-making, commerce, banking, and unnatural property accumulation are rejected as undermining the possibilities of the good life, political community, and social justice. These connections between economics and politics, particular justice and the general values of the polis are then, in turn, further developed in Aristotle's analysis of universal or political justice.
Universal justice provides the citizen with the social institutions and values that encourage rational activity and human self-determination in the public sphere. This includes discussion of political constitutions, forms of moral and intellectual virtue, friendship and citizenship, and the importance of a democratic polity. Political justice outlines the legal and ethical guidelines for a social system in which the good life is expressed as public involvement, civic virtue, practical wisdom, and political judgment and deliberation. Only in this social environment is happiness possible. Aristotle's discussion of particular and universal justice in Book 5 leads to his investigation of the various forms of intellectual virtue in Book 6 of his Nicomachean Ethics. According to him, there are three main forms of intellectual virtue and knowledge: scientific (episteme), political or practical (phronesis), and technical (techne). These forms of knowledge correspond to the three forms of social activity within the polis: the intellectual contemplation of the philosopher (theoria), the public deliberation and political activity of the citizen (praxis), and the fabrication and making of the artisan and manual worker (poiesis), respectively.
Science (episteme) seeks the philosophical knowledge about universal and necessary truths found in metaphysics, physics, and mathematics. Practical wisdom (phronesis), on the other hand, is about changing and contingent public opinions and the development of knowledge that is acquired over time through intellectual maturation and committed participation in the political process. Through the fine tuning of our judgment in self-deliberation and public discussion, the citizen begins to cultivate a nuanced familiarity with the fundamental political issues that affect the daily life of the polis. This knowledge, unlike philosophical contemplation, is not something that can be taught or learned in formal education. Rather, it is a form of ethical knowledge that develops over time through accumulated wisdom, shared experiences, and sensitivity to public arguments and dialogue. It is this knowledge of contingent deliberation and practical reasoning that the political process tries to facilitate as the individual strives for happiness and a virtuous life. Instrumental knowledge (techne) of the technician and artisan is the expertise of making things in a mechanical fashion based on preconceived ideas of the anticipated finished product. Fit only for the lowest members of society, it does not prepare one for the demands of political participation or the rigors of citizenship. It is discounted by Aristotle as a means to the good life.
Chapter 2, "Aristotle and Classical Social Theory," outlines the ways in which Aristotle's economic, ethical, and political writings have influenced the development of nineteenth-century social theory. Marx, Weber, and Durkheim are steeped in the collective wisdom of ancient Greece and neoclassical German authors; they are university trained in the classical traditions. Each writes dissertations and early works on the ancients. Each emphasizes particular aspects of classical thought that they explore in different and unusual directions: Marx on Epicurus and Democritus, Weber on Roman agrarian society and ancient and medieval trading associations, and Durkheim on ancient law, labor specialization, and Aristotle and Montesquieu. They develop different social theories, different views of science, and different epistemological and methodological approaches to sociology. Marx evolves a critical science with a dialectical and teleological method; Weber builds an interpretive science with an historical method of understanding (Verstehen); and Durkheim applies a moral science to an early functionalist and later idealist method. These differences, however, have a common philosophical root in Aristotle's theory of knowledge based on phronesis and his theory of social justice, and it is upon this common foundation that they attempt to build a new ethical science. Through classical social theory, the Greeks were read with a clear German inflection -- Aristötle with an umlaut.
Marx stresses the importance of Aristotle's critique of political economy, theory of needs, and structural analysis of the Athenian democratic commune; Weber, as a member of the German Historical School, looks to ancient Hellenic ethics of virtue and character, the sociological relationship between personality development and political constitutions, the Greek view of the tragic fate of humanity, and phronesis as the ground for his theory of cultural hermeneutics and interpretive science; and Durkheim focuses on issues of civic virtue, moral education, and democratic participation. Much of the ethical and political criticism of modernity comes from their inspired borrowings from the ancient Hellenes. Aristotle provides their social analyses with an outsider's view of the rise of a market economy based on technical knowledge for material production. The resulting alienation of labor, rationalization of social institutions through the virulent spread of the instrumental knowledge of the last man, and anomic breakdown in cultural solidarity and political community are only further developments in a process initially examined by Aristotle.
In his dissertation on the post-Aristotelian philosophy of nature of Democritus and Epicurus, along with his extensive preparatory notes on Greek and Roman interpretations of their thought, Marx uses Epicurus to respond critically to both Aristotle and Hegel. Science, for Epicurus, was to be secondary to the goals established by ethics. Marx's writings during his early period focus on themes he borrows from Aristotle including an emphasis on species being, happiness, and self-realization of human potentiality, critique of political economy and distributive justice, and the fulfillment of human needs and social emancipation. In his later works, he examines the issues of simple commodity exchange, a labor theory of value, the distinction between use value and exchange value, economics and chrematistics, commercial and industrial capitalism, and the historical forms of economic crises. During the various periods of his life in which different aspects of his overall social theory are stressed -- an idealist philosophy of humanity, historical materialism and functionalism, economic disequilibrium and structural crises, and communal democracy -- it is Aristotle's ethical and political writings that shape his practical response to modernity.
Weber's earliest writings focus on the agrarian civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome and the historical origins of ancient capitalism and the market economy. He tends to stress a darker and more pessimistic side of Hellenic culture by filtering his view of Aristotle and the Greeks through the prism of Nietzsche's focus on suffering and the tragic fate of humanity, Apollonian and Dionysian aesthetic drives, the anthropological and epistemological assumptions of early Greek materialist philosophy, and critique of utilitarians, technicians, and bureaucrats as the last men in a rationalized cage of formal science. Less obvious in Weber, but no less important, are the methodological implications of phronesis, virtue, and the conduct of life (structures and constitutions of political life) for creating a cultural science. Elements of ancient law and politics are reformulated to accommodate the needs of an historical hermeneutics. Phronesis becomes a key principle in his interpretive sociology. In the end, it is Aristotle's theory of universal, productive, and practical knowledge which provides the philosophical legitimation and framework for Weber's theory of science (Wissenschaftslehre), historical hermeneutics of subjective and objective meaning, and sociology of understanding (verstehende Soziologie). Practical reason is infused throughout the methodology of Weber's hermeneutical science: understanding of culture and action, dialectic of logical inconsistencies and structural contradictions, judgment of ideals and consequences, and critique of social problems and public policy. Using this approach, Weber develops an understanding and explanation of culture, history, and structure. As in the case of both Marx and Durkheim, he, too, rejects abstract, idealistic moralizing and neo-Platonic valuation. Having said this, however, he recognizes that ethical values and critique are essential parts of the epistemology and method of historical science. Without ethics, there is no nineteenth-century social theory; without justice, there is no science.
Finally, it is Durkheim who also writes his dissertations on ancient civilizations and political constitutions stressing the themes of punitive law, division of labor, and communal solidarity. Throughout his academic career, he offers lectures at a number of French universities on ancient Greece and the origins of society, as well as specific courses on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, and neoclassical political philosophy, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract (1762) and Émile (1762) and Baron de Montesquieu's The Spirit of Laws (1748). Aristotle remains important to him throughout his life as the basis for his discussions about communitarianism, social justice, public moral education, professional ethics, citizenship, and democratic socialism.
In Chapter 3, "Kant On the Critique of Reason and Science," the epistemological and moral writings of Kant will be examined. According to his own statements, Kant was awakened from a dogmatic slumber by the writings of David Hume. Considered by some to be the source of modern positivism, Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) outlines his philosophy of knowledge and empiricism, as well as his theory of skepticism and critique of the foundations of modern science. In the history of modern philosophy, there are two radically distinct ways of approaching Hume's philosophical positions. The first perspective is to view him as the defender of objectivism (existence of external knowable reality), realism (ideas reflect objective reality), and naturalism (universal laws of natural science as the only legitimate form of knowledge) found in his theory of impressions and ideas. The second perspective stresses his critique of the traditional philosophical discussions about the nature of substance, causality, and the self. Hume argues that there is, in fact, no philosophical justification for accepting the reality of independent objects, causal relationships in nature, or the existence of an autonomous self that comes to us through the act of knowing. The objective reality of the three foremost categories of Western thought -- substance, causality, and self -- is dissolved, and with it the science upon which it depends. Ontology and epistemology clash as the latter is not capable of justifying or validating the former, and the former proves incapable of providing the physical and metaphysical foundations for the latter. According to Hume, perception is unable to provide us with an objective experience of the world around us. In turn, cause and effect relations cannot be justified by either reason or experience, logic or empirical induction. To create the seemingly concrete world of external objects, causal interrelationships, and a unified, coherent knower who integrates a knowledge of objectivity requires the intervention of the psychological mechanism of habit and custom. Objectivity is the product of sensations and the imagination.
Agreeing with Hume, Kant argues that the organizational structure and systematic coherence of objectivity does not come from logic, experience, or the world. For him, they are a product of the a priori forms of sensibility and the understanding, that is, they arise out of consciousness itself. The associations of experiences are held together by the "synthetic unity of apperception" or the "I think" that accompanies all our representations and thoughts. Experiences and judgments are accepted as mine only because of the ability of the mind to give order and unity to representations over time. In the end, it is the unity of consciousness that provides the indispensable precondition for the constitution of empirical reality; it is this constitutive subjectivity and its synthesizing of ideas that creates the unity of the external objects. The ability to refer to objects as coherent entities, to create an empirical reality in which the sensations of perception inhere, results from the more fundamental power of the mind to organize the sensations and ideas into a unified and external substance. Abstract concepts help hold the world of perception and experience together; but, this very world is only made possible by the objective coherence and synthetic unity provided by the transcendental categories of the mind.
Kant's critical theory investigates the limits of human knowledge and pure reason and its application to human experience. This requires a detailed reflection on the types of legitimate and meaningful judgments about the world, as well as the nature of the two major components of cognition in sensibility and understanding. He begins his quest for the justification and grounding of modern science in the concepts and forms of subjectivity by first outlining and then expanding upon the types of judgment about the world. As he indicates in the introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason (1781 and 1787), his work is concerned with the fundamental question of how a priori synthetic judgments are possible. How can we have knowledge about the world which is universal and necessary (a priori) at the same time that it expands our understanding of new experiences (synthetic); how can mathematics and natural science be philosophically validated after the criticisms found in Hume's empiricist theory of knowledge? To accomplish this he will spend much of his academic career examining the nature of empirical judgments since the laws of nature are ultimately manifestations of the subjective laws connecting everyday ideas and thoughts.
By accepting the two arguments that the mind plays an active role in knowing and that knowledge is based on sense impressions and intuitions, Kant attempts to integrate both rationalism and empiricism into his theory of subjective idealism. The result is his revolutionary theory of subjectivity. Concerning the importance of his insight, Theodor Adorno in his 1959 lectures at the University of Frankfurt had remarked: "The Kantian theory of cognition proclaims that the world in its objectivity is actually the product of my subjectivity." However, Adorno recognized that the theory of subjectivity is only part of this Copernican revolution in thought. Kant is also concerned with firmly establishing the objective validity of ideas as they relate to nature, as well as establishing the existence of the objective reality of nature itself. All these components fit tightly together: the ontological dimension of reality, the validity of the concepts of natural science, and the objectivity of cognition. The tension between the subjective and nominalist constructivism of Kantian philosophy and its stated goal of justifying natural science as universal and absolute truth -- the tension between idealism and empiricism -- is only one of many interesting conflicts running throughout Kant's theory of cognition that will be discussed by later philosophers and social theorists in the nineteenth century.
Kant, in the Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals (1797), turns his attention to moral philosophy and a critique of practical reason in which he attempts to establish the primacy of moral self-determination in human reason independent of any external religious, political, or moral authority. Reason, and its own powers of self-reflexivity, now become the supreme authority of cognitive and moral truths as it ruthlessly rejects all forms of dogmatism, theology, and metaphysics. The basic principle underlying practical action is the categorical imperative which supplies the logical structure for determining and judging moral activities. There are a number of principles which guide moral decisions: the principles of universalism, natural law, human dignity, and the kingdom of ends. According to Kant, neither empirical interests, the search for happiness, nor good intentions can be the basis for moral action. The foundation for moral obligation cannot be found in empiricism (self-interest and utilitarian happiness) or rationalism (natural rights and state of nature), but lies in the a priori conceptions of practical reason itself. A particular action must be seen as abstract and universal, that is, as capable of serving as a natural law transcending individual interests and intentions.
Just as in his theory of knowledge and critique of pure reason, the human mind, as practical reason, is capable of providing universal principles that give purpose and meaning to moral activity. But there is also an under-represented social component to his theory which stresses the centrality of moral autonomy and human dignity within a kingdom of ends. Persons must not be treated as means to ends but only as ends in themselves. Moral, political, and economic actions in which individuals are treated from a utilitarian or instrumentalist perspective are unacceptable and contradict the basic laws of Kantian moral philosophy. The ultimate purpose of practical reason is the self-legislation and self-determination of the will, and the creation of a society in which individuals have innate dignity and freedom. Rather than building a moral philosophy on the market, private property, or natural rights, Kant stresses the importance of individual reason, human dignity, and personal freedom. This position, although it contains elements of modern liberalism and individualism, certainly breaks with traditional Enlightenment values expressed in utilitarian philosophy and classical economics. Elements of this critical theory of moral knowledge will be accepted as the founding principles of nineteenth-century social theory and combined with Aristotle's theory of economic and political justice.
Chapter 4, "Kant and Classical Social Theory," summarizes the influence of Kant on later phenomenological, existential, and hermeneutical philosophies, which, in turn, frame the paradigm of discourse for classical social theory. The resolution of Kant's epistemological problems and the inconsistences between his appropriation of elements of empiricism and idealism, objective realism and constitutive nominalism, have been a familiar point of contention found in the writings of later followers of his philosophy. How they deal with these conflicting issues helps define their methodological approaches to questions of objectivity and science. Sociology is formed through the dialectical interrelationships between external objectivity and internal subjectivity, between explanation and interpretation, and between functionalism and justice. It also focuses on the relationship between ideas and reality, that is, how social consciousness constitutes the objective world at the same time as it claims objective validity for its ideas. This is the grand problem of objectivity; the dualism between ontology (reality) and epistemology (knowledge) reflects the heart of the methodological problem in the logic of the social sciences throughout the twentieth century. The more one side is emphasized, the more problematic becomes the other.
Kant claims that the formal principles and a priori laws of human thought and judgment rest in a universal and unchanging subjectivity. Later, Georg Friedrich Hegel expands this insight about the role of the mind in perception and thought with his theory of history and society in his phenomenological analysis of the Objective Spirit in the culture and institutions of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment; Arthur Schopenhauer further radicalizes the Kantian theory of knowledge by claiming that we can only know our own representations, which form the veil of Maya, and cannot escape the conceptual forms of our own mind; Friedrich Nietzsche pushes the perspective even further with his argument that there is no truth among the "shadows of God," no objective reality, only subjective experiences and reified idols that have no objectively relevant meaning or purpose; and, finally, the neo-Kantians, Wilhelm Windelband and Heinrich Rickert, expand upon Kant's ideas of subjectivity and appearances for their relevancy for an interpretive and historical understanding of the social world. In turn, these theories of subjectivity are again modified by European theorists from philosophical to sociological categories: Constitutive subjectivity with a transcendental or phenomenological theory of categories transforms into the political ideology and historical consciousness of Marx, the interpretive inquiry of value relevance and ideal types of Weber, and the pragmatic idealism of social facts and collective representations of Durkheim.
The philosophical discussion which follows the work of Kant centers on the nature of his theory of knowledge and the validity and applicability of the categories of the understanding. The epistemological, ontological, and methodological meanings of subjective concepts have enormous influence on the development of nineteenth-century sociology. Is there a social world that is knowable in itself and that is reflected in sociological categories or is the sociological experience always an interpretation of the constitutive mind? Is there an empirical reality in itself; are there social facts independent of consciousness; and what do they mean? How is knowledge about society validated, if realism, objectivism, and naturalism are rejected by a Kantian theory of cognition and representations? What are the major differences within sociology between the tradition of scientific explanation of hypothetical and predictive laws and the tradition of interpretive understanding of meaningful intentions within social action? Are the methods of understanding and explanation compatible in the same social theory; how do they affect one another? What is the epistemological justification of modern social science, if empiricism and rationalism are replaced by radical variations on the themes of Kantian idealism by phenomenology, existentialism, critical epistemology, and cultural hermeneutics?
The traditional methodological distinctions loudly expressed in the secondary literature between the early philosophical idealism and later scientific positivism of Marx, the neo-Kantian epistemology and positivist methodology of value freedom and scholastic neutrality of Weber, and the early functionalism and positivism and later idealism and sociology of knowledge of Durkheim are illusions based on false premises and misinterpretations of their ideas. It may still be an unorthodox position, but the argument undertaken in the following pages is that none of the classical authors accepted the epistemological or methodological assumptions of positivism since all turned instead to Aristotle's phronesis and Kant's critique for philosophical guidance. This is what makes the classical period of sociology so distinctive and exciting. With later interpretations of these key authors, their break with Enlightenment rationality and methods is displaced by alternative narratives which turn them into mainstream theorists. Over time dogmatism and orthodoxy replace critical science. The philosophical traditions which gave rise to their ideas are repressed; their methodological and epistemological advances are glossed over; and their profound and radical criticisms of modernity are forgotten. As positivist social science advances, the relationships within social theory between phronesis and praxis are lost. In the meantime, a new discipline is created in which theory is replaced by methodology, critique by a truncated empirical science, ethics by value neutrality, and historical analysis by quantitative and qualitative research.
The primacy of moral autonomy in Kantian philosophy is expressed by the primacy of self-determination and individual freedom in Marx, human dignity and professional integrity in Weber, and equality and justice in Durkheim. With the disenchantment of science, these ethical ideals and their accompanying classical horizons are forgotten along with their central focus on the relationship between political economy and social justice. The classical tradition raises questions about the structural contradictions of capitalism and its implications for the loss of creativity, self-determination, and species potentiality (Marx), the historical meaning of character formation and personal dignity in a cage of formal reason (Weber), and the loss of human freedom and social equality in a society characterized by functional and moral disequilibrium (Durkheim). Functionalism and social critique, science and social justice are not antithetical approaches, conflicting concepts, or antagonistic value systems, but are integrated into a new form of critical social theory.
In the nineteenth century, Aristotle's political theory of justice is integrated with Kant's moral philosophy of the categorical imperative; the former's theory of knowledge and phronesis with the latter's epistemological constructivism and theory of interpretive understanding. The functionalism of both the early Marx and early Durkheim has usually been viewed as part of a positivist project used to predict functional breakdowns, economic crises, or the rise in suicide rates. By placing these authors within the ancient and modern ethical traditions, by viewing them in the context of Aristotelian and Kantian themes, an alternative interpretation evolves. In Marx's case, the critical functionalism of his early and middle period is connected to his theories of historical materialism, the logic of capital, and economic crises, whereas in the case of Durkheim, functionalism is based on cultural crises and anomic weakening of organic solidarity. In both situations, their analyses are bound to broader concerns with issues of social justice, equality, and freedom, and not, as is generally supposed, with issues of social explanation, systems stability, or technological prediction. Functionalism, for both authors, is connected to deeper ethical questions about the direction of modern social institutions and their effects on human dignity and democratic participation. For Weber, as a neo-Aristotelian economist, it is his historical structuralism and study of the origins of modern capitalism that provide the content for his social ethics and critique of the formal rationality of the bureaucratic and technological iron cage. Through his rigorous examination of the disenchantment and prejudice of reason and his subsequent demystification of objectivity and science in his theory of science (Wissenschaftslehre), practical reason and ethics are reintroduced into the areas of social science, social problems, and public policy. Weber also constructs an early economic and materialist functionalism in his historical writings on ancient Greece and Rome which later evolves into an idealist functionalism of cultural and religious revolutions, personality developments within different societies, and a systematic sociology of knowledge and religion.
With their historical studies of the rationalization and domination of work and production, the colonization of the autonomous individual by the distorted values and priorities of possessive individualism, economic materialism, and utilitarianism, the functional instability of the capitalist economy, and the progressive disintegration of a narcissistic culture, the classical theorists reflect a profound loss of reason, ethics, and personal freedom in society. The rationalized institutions of the last man do not manifest the ideals of human dignity or the kingdom of ends. All three theorists attempt to give voice to these philosophical issues -- but in the context of an historical analysis of the structures and institutions of modern industrial society. That is, they attempt to build an empirically-based ethical science.
Philosophy evolves over time into sociology as the epistemological questions of the forms of constitutive subjectivity, the categories of the mind, and the nature of cognition change into questions about ideology, neo-Kantian methodology, and the social construction of reality. In the same way, the historical and social emphases on issues of individual autonomy, moral freedom, human dignity, critique of political economy, and the constitution of social justice transform moral philosophy into an ethical social theory. Science and ethics, knowledge and justice become inseparable in this post-Enlightenment view of critical theory. Sociology is forged as a collective witness to the rise of capitalist production and liberal democracy through a collaborative dialogue between the ancients and the moderns. The philosophical questions raised by Aristotle and Kant have not changed with the creation of sociology; they have been seamlessly embedded into a critical social science.
In the Conclusion, "Dreams of Classical Reason," summary insights are offered into the theoretical and metatheoretical implications of the Hellenic rebirth of art, politics, and practical science in classical sociology. Marx, Weber, and Durkheim create a distinct new form of social science based on a critical theory of knowledge, that is, based on the sociological appropriation of Kant's method of critique and Aristotle's method of phronesis. Sociology becomes an historical conversation between converging traditions in which epistemological and methodological reflections develop out of the questions posed by social theory. In this process an historical understanding and a real fusion of temporal horizons takes place. By this means a critical and historical science is formed in the classical tradition. With these different schools of philosophy, the classical social theorists form three distinct views of critical and ethical science -- dialectical, interpretive, and moral -- which are designed to bring about an historical and cultural understanding, as well as a structural and functional explanation of modernity combined with a theory of social justice and individual freedom. Justice is to be found in economic production and exchange, personality development, and communal solidarity.
Science and ethics are formed into a comprehensive analysis of the cultural values and social institutions of capitalist production and distribution. This represents a manifest unity of theory and practice in the early stages of the development of modern social theory. The social and political thought of the nineteenth century portrays the collective dreams of classical reason along with its hopes of imagining a dancing star, that is, the hopes of imagining possibilities beyond Enlightenment rationality, individual morality, and capitalist political economy. Their practical ideals soar to the heights of an ethical and historical science embedded in the principles of natural law, social justice, and classical reason. Their goal is to understand the moral quality and inherent nobility of human existence and the possibilities of human praxis expressed in the history, culture, structures, and functions of society; this is done in order that individuals and nations could make more rational choices about their own future.
At the beginning of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche narrates the story of a prophet who, having lived a life of solitude in the mountains for ten years, returned to the marketplace to deliver his message about the "overman," a new type of emancipated and striving individual having characteristics quite different from the decadence of the last man. However, he was not understood by those who heard him. In a similar fashion, the social theorists attempted to give voice to their classical vision of economic and political ideals -- their rage against the darkness of modernity. But their hopes and ideals fell upon deaf ears, unappreciated and misunderstood. Their own dreams were exiled to a distant land, and the traditions that gave them birth were repressed and misplaced. It is to these silent dreams of practical reason that we now turn.