Habermas Commentary/Books/TCA2/p101

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Tugendhat and Qualitative Identification (p. 101.2.mid)[edit]

Apparently Tugendhat divides Henrich's concept of social psychological identity (p. 100) into two parts. First, there is the generic identification of a person who is capable of autonomous action, as Henrich noted; but second, there is the qualitative identification of an individual who has a life history. As in the commentary on p. 100, this too seems to be a simple matter of stating the unit of analysis.

Tugendhat evidently goes beyond that, however, to introduce "the question of who one wants to be" (101.2.mid). Habermas presents it as a matter of when the person "gets clear about who he wants to be." Suddenly the perspective is not that of the third-party observer who is choosing among numerical, generic, or qualitative identification of individuals as a category or as discrete items.

Instead, we are now inside the person's head, and there seems to be a whole new agenda. When the person "gets clear," s/he distinguishes him/herself from others -- not as a matter of observation, but rather "through his life project." This life project is defined as "the organization of a life history that he has responsibly taken on." So getting clear about yourself apparently entails taking on the project of organizing a life history.

History being a backward-looking thing, maybe the idea is that you are constructing something or other that you will present (to someone) as who you are. But it's not clear why this has to be a responsible effort. It seems like an irresponsible approach would also produce a life history, and maybe one that would more accurately portray who one really is. Indeed, it is not clear whether responsibility has anything to do with the question of whether one finds oneself thrown into a life in which constructing a life history is an inextricable part of being human.

Qualitative identification, which is thus defined as a matter of self-identification, also appears to go by the name of "predicative self-identification" (p. 101.2.bot-7). It is not clear what the word "predicative" adds.

Separation of Ego-Identity from Identification of the Individual (p. 101.bot)[edit]

Henrich has a generic concept of ego-identity: the person is able to act autonomously. Tugendhat has a qualitative concept of ego-identity: it is "the ability of a person to identify himself, on the basis of a reflective self-understanding, as the person who he wants to be" (p. 102.1.4). It sounds like Tugendhat would say that you don't have ego-identity if you can't honestly say that you are the person you would like to be. Of course, some pretty awful people are also pretty sure that they have the right idea about life, so it's not entirely clear that ego-identity would be something that an honest, humble, self-deprecating individual would ever have, or want to have -- unless, of course, we define "reflective self-understanding" so as to bar the riffraff.