Historicism and the Question of Normativity: From Georg Hegel to Karl-Otto Apel

Tovar-Argueta, Oscar, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Jones, Paul, Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This work is an examination of the nature of normative notions like rationality, validity, and truth and how these notions have been problematized in light of historicism. The problem is that prima facie, the oughtness of rationality tells us what should universally be the case, but the historicity of knowledge threatens to contextualize knowledge claims to a local historical context, thereby threatening knowledge with a historical relativism. This work looks at this problem through the style of a Wirkungsgeschichte that critically examines the contributions to this issue by Kant, Hegel, Rickert, Troeltsch, Heidegger, Gadamer, Habermas, Karl-Otto Apel, and Amy Allen. My central argument is that reason and history operate in distinct yet complementary domains that are not reducible to one another. Reason operates in the realm of validity that is universal and cannot be reduced to historical facticity, while history operates in the realm of meaning that is particular and is only given to us in piecemeal ways through the progress of time. Past thinkers have either reduced the materiality of history to the formality of reason, or reduced the formality of reason, including its rules of validity, to the sheer facticity of fleeting historical conditions. The problem with these reductions is that you either create a speculative history that has little resemblance to actual history (the reduction of the material to the formal), or you produce a radically contingent account of truth that dissolves all meaningful validity away and hence performatively contradicts itself (the reduction of the formal to the material). In light of these difficulties, one must maintain the invariant and irreducible nature of the conditions of validity while also maintaining the contingent and perspectival nature of the historical conditions of meaning without reducing one to the other.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Historicism , Normativity, Truth
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