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Appropriative philosophy: a prospective note
September 2007

Having long ago outgrown 19th century notions of progressive practice (what leftists called “praxis”), I wanted, 2004-06, to see an integration of properly differentiated aspects of the “theory”-“practice” relationship, relative to real societies, which I sketched in “Doing theory and practice: a manifold of interfaces.”

Relative to that, I would seek an integration of what I take to be the best efforts to apply Habermas’ work to professional practice. 2002-2004, I proposed a specific applied-Habermasian “manifold of interfaces,” just to exemplify that modality which I take to be the context of appropriative bridgework in the so-called “theory-practice” relationship. I wanted to update that exemplification set for 2005-2006 soon (and compiled the set of articles for doing so), but I didn’t make time to do it; so now I would extend the interest into 2008.

Relative to that, I want to have taken Habermas’ work to heart in such a way that I can credibly demonstrate what post-Habermasian work might become, in light of Habermas’ great achievement (which, I believe, is dimly understood by most readers of his work in English). Working from an interest in progressive practice toward more conceptual work, I would elaborate a sense of public policy across the broadly interdisciplinary context represented by the above Habermasian context of applied literature—as a venture of applying “philosophy” understood as neo-Habermasian conceptual policy formation. A comprehensive sense of policy might begin as theory of action—“Policy: the concept”—and be elaborated systemically for public policy, relative to a Theory of well-being, as the prospective note “Well-being and public policy” sketches. I would argue that the notion of well-being may be a primary public good or Value that may appropriately orient evaluation in public policy and axially serve discursive inquiry into standards of evaluation (i.e., the question “What is real well-being?” is exemplary of the kind of questioning that should guide discourse about public policy). Ultimately, public policy should be seen as a matter of the “Cultivation of humanity.”

From such a vantage (let me call it a midland view), one may get overtly philosophical (highland ventures of practice as metatheory) or overtly evidentiary (lowland ventures of theorizing from streetlife, so to speak; e.g., organizing progressive healthcare ensurances). An example of getting overtly philosophical, but in a still-midlanding Habermasian vein, is to do analytical phenomenology of the lifeworld, something I have yet to presentationally dwell with (having lived rather intimately through the career of lifeworld phenomenology in the U.S. from the 1970s onward), but I have a detailed plan for proceeding, relative to Habermas’ proximal sense of that: “Lifeworld.” (The sense of lifeworld at Wikipedia is useful.

So far, this is a proximal philosophical venue of research that doesn’t yet take one into classically difficult (highland) issues of philosophy (the primordial venue—a distinction [proximal/primordial] introduced by Heidegger, in Being & Time) such as: What is the “nature” of that which is called “truth”? Dwelling in that question is an entire industry, of course, more or less parallel with the history of philosophy itself.

In some sense, a primordial sense of “truth” must not wall itself from genuine lifeworldly senses of truth (e.g., wisdom in folk psychology). An appropriate philosophy (or Theory) of truth must (I would argue) still proximally appreciate the lifeworld sense of truth, and such an appropriate sense must be at least appropriative of the whole sense of ‘validity’ meant by Habermas. Lifeworld truth is a holism of cohering: living “in truth” as a matter of genuineness and normative admirability, as well as the “realism” that we pragmatically associate with “truth” (i.e., being “realistic” is efficacious groundedness or “practicality”). Appropriate Theory of truth appreciates the lifeworldliness of so-called “Truth” while comprehending the discursive nature of contemporary philosophical controversy about ‘truth’, as Habermas exemplifies. In other words, philosophical truth is a venue of discursive contemporaneity, exemplified by Habermas’ engagements, which I’ve tried to exemplarily engage, some years back [Sept. 1, 2017: then reformatted and annotated], all of which should be seen as moments of discursive engagement, in the spirit of a working notebook, but perhaps all that, as it stands, exemplifies critical hermeneutical engagement with the Habermasian text.

The philosophical locus here—in keeping with Habermas’ sense of philosophy as interdisciplinary discursive facilitator (ch. 1 of Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action)—is not just an acceptable clarity about a primordial sense of ‘truth’; rather, the locus is a “discourse of appropriation” (Justification & Application, “Remarks....”) which bridges primordial coherence (inasmuch as that’s available) with “streetlife” notions of lifeworldly “truth”. A truly appropriate Theory of truth is such a bridgeworking sense of appropriation (which, by the way, relates importantly to Heidegger’s notion of hermeneutical bridging in “Building Dwelling Thinking,” Poetry Language Thought).

And of course there are countless other classical philosophical issues belonging to the highlands of interdisciplinary work, in Habermas’ sense of philosophy (as, I would argue, conceptual policy formation) and my sense of philosophical topography (where I eventually ask: What is the topology of such topography? What is most appropriate for conceptual design for our era?). So, Habermas’ work can be emplaced or “sited” as content of an approach to discourses of appropriation. This is an example of what I intend by writing figuratively about “highland-to-midland” bridging as Appropriative philosophy.

In the other direction (going from lowlands to midlands), one overtly theorizes from evidentiary or informed practice, pertaining to (1) proffered coherence of a body of information (where “information” is always an interpretive notion, while data is not), and such proffered coherence may have normative, i.e., convincing, merit for discerning (inferring) what is the main “issue” or generalized signifance attributable to a body of cohering information. Also, in the lowlands-to-midlands venture, one overtly theorizes from practice by (2) evaluating validity claims about what is taken to be or accepted as genuine and/or normative and/or “true” (altogether as facticity or normally efficacious “good sense”), relative to methodic determination of real states of affairs, which together—factical vs. real—enable critical work.

Notice that I’m claiming that understanding is a normatizing endeavor (getting to an acceptable or satisficial coherence about an issue), which then guides activity relative to it, i.e., has normative merit for further action—e.g., for progressive or therapeutic interventions or further inquiry—i.e., understanding has action-orienting normative merit, as provisionally-standard coherence prevailing over one’s pursuit of related issues.

Analytical stances toward news provide a widely accessible basis for making sense of that kind of derivation: the search for coherence as derivation of guiding understanding for issue organization, which is the kind of thing I referenced in News, theory, and truth: notes on theorizing from practices.

Other examples of theorizing from practice were “democracy’s parents” and “a primer on Islam.” So, a lowland-to-midland devotion to bridging theory and practice (practicing Theory in theorizing from practice) must be an endlessly “evolving project,” a topography of sorts within the broader topography of philosophy/Theory (e.g., theory of “truth” above) and theorization of theory-practice bridging as such (e.g., this discussion), which altogether might as well have a name other than Gary Davis’ sense of philosophy, so I use “Appropriative philosophy,” in the interest of actual theory-practice bridging, i.e., developing elements of a progressive practice relative to well-formed conceptual policies.

But here I’ve not tried to define Appropriative philosophy! I’ve merely exhibited a sense of how the philosophy/Theory/theory-practice continuum in “the evolving project” partly exemplifies a practicality of discursive inquiry.

what? Everything remains beginnings. I recall Derrida’s preoccupation with the preface as such. What now are we prefacing by striving (one hopes) to make another century better than the last one? We are so inevitably unable to understand the text, the century, that we’re prefacing, writing, somehow aggregately evolving, like children with no sense of the constitutive legacy they may grow to flow in.

Are we ultimately some Event of Appropriation, some self-designing intelligence presencing a planet in the Local Region?

Love conceptual adventuring.

September 14, 2017: A practical mode of this was sketched some years later. But sketches are just that, and much has developed beyond this.