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NONTHEMATIC / Vol. 44, No. 3 (Fall 1977)

Arien Mack, Editor

In the classical scheme, there was no need for government concern about either inflation or depression. There was no danger of inflation as long as the quantity of money was kept relatively stable by the constancy imposed by nature on the total quantity of gold that had been mined over the ages. There was no danger of depression because of the (microeconomic) laws of supply and demand. An excess of the supply of anything over the demand for it would cause the price to fall until it brought the two into equality, and the market would be cleared.

We chose not to consider here the possibilities for the realization of Bolshevism or to discuss its ensuing beneficial or harmful consequences. This author, for one thing, does not feel competent to come up with a decisive answer on these matters and, more important, and for the sake of clarity, he deems a discussion of the practical consequences inopportune. The decision for or against Bolshevism—like the stand on any truly important matter—has to be an ethical one. For the sake of a truly honest choice, therefore, an immanent clarification of such a problematic decision has the highest priority.

The conception of leading interests of knowledge cannot be explicated in all its implications in the frame of this paper. Rather it shall be illustrated by application to the problems of a philosophy of the social sciences. Still some preliminary remarks concerning the general meaning and status of the conception of leading interests of knowledge within the frame of a philosophy of science seem to be indispensable in view of the numerous misunderstandings prevailing with regard to that conception.

Informative and propagandistic statements have an overt meaning that is clearly apparent to the recipient. If the communicator tries to enlighten the recipient by presenting information or a logical conclusion to him, or even if he speaks of certain beliefs or of a design to shape the future, the meaning always lies, as it were, on the surface of his statements. But the object of communication is not necessarily to inform and obtain understanding. It may be not to spread knowledge to a given ignoramus but to maintain his ignorance; not to profess feelings but to hide or feign them; to lead astray rather than to guide the perplexed; not to give the best advice but the next best; not to enlighten but to obscure, to explain inadequately, to oversimplify, to slant, to popularize, to tell only part of the truth, to mask it, or simply to lie.

Existential sociology has posed what is said to be a radical alternative to present-day theory, and it has done so with the added claim that the theoretical alternative which it represents is, without question, the only viable one with which sociologists should be properly concerned. Its claims and the counterclaims launched against it have caused a cloud of confusion to enshroud much of the discussions concerning existential sociology and its legitimate place in the discipline. As a result, an immense gulf now distantly separates existential sociology and the rest of the discipline. This paper is an attempt to explore this separation between existential and conventional sociology and to suggest what is perhaps a more reasonable assessment of the former in regard to the latter.

“There is no doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience." This famous beginning of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason surely holds too for the knowledge we get from man. Not only in the professional sphere but also in everyone's private and personal existence the experience that man has by himself and with people like him continually grows. To be sure, such knowledge is "subjective," that is, largely unverifiable and unstable. It is, nevertheless, knowledge that science cannot ignore. In contrast to the natural sciences, however, all of these other sources of experience have a common quality: what we learn from them becomes experience only when actually integrated into the practical consciousness of the man in action.

In the modern era, the thought of Sigmund Freud comes closest to meeting Habermas's criteria of a critical science. While there is much of interest and merit in his treatment of Freud, Habermas is faced with a fundamental difficulty which he is unable to overcome. Put simply, he cannot have both Kant and Freud. In attempting to integrate Freudian psychology into a transcendental philosophy, Habermas is forced into a number of interpretations and revisions which run squarely against the most basic features of Freudian psychology. The purpose of this essay is to spell this point out in detail. In the process, it is hoped that some light will be shed on the epistemological standing of Freudian theory and its bearing on some broad philosophical and sociological questions.

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