A full-scale critique of political liberalism is not really possible here, as should be evident. Nevertheless, I will continue with an abbreviated version of this as applied to life in the metaphorical mansion we all find ourselves running around in, the Crystal Palace. One of the problems that surfaces in looking at things from the Benthamite perspective is the whole issue of objectivity. A critique of liberalism and a critique of objectivity are as two sides of the same coin. All attempts at objectivity, and one must make them, subject to certain limitations, are conditioned by what Max Weber called ‘value relevance’–objectivity can only be approximated, due to the writer’s specific cultural orientation and dispositional dynamics. Since this state of affairs threatens to infect any attempt at accuracy with a crucial degree of incoherence, one must have as thorough an understanding as possible of one’s place in the history of ideas. I find Wilhelm Dilthey’s distinction between Naturwissenschaft and Geisteswissenschaft a good starting point for taking the plunge into our current cultural maelstrom. In this reading, Naturwissenschaft, the orientation of traditional “objective” science, an outer-world orientation, founded in empiricist observation, is contrasted with Geisteswissenschaft, which proceeds from a subjective one. To undertake a deep understanding of this distinction, one must examine such efforts as Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology, which insists on what he calls an “egological” perspective, which takes Descartes’ radical doubt as its starting point. What is indubitable? Only my own experiential matrix. The outer world is bracketed off, the infamous epoché, as not provable, what Ralph Barton Perry calls the “egocentric predicament”, the inescapable datum of the human condition as expressed in the formulation that “I cannot experience your experience”. Husserl’s idea of the transcendental ego is an attempt to inventory what is common to any possible egological perspective, and as such approaches something that might validly be termed an “objective” perspective, operating wholly within the egological domain. This seeming conundrum in establishing something that could validly be called scientific reasoning, without giving short shrift to individual experience, is what we are up against.
So, then, Geisteswissenschaft, for those who wish to effectively address this devil we are now confronting, control of the human mind by a sort of addiction, resulting, in its fully developed form, to real enslavement to mechanistic protocols, ending the development of the humanistic project of universal self-realization, must form the foundation of our project. It is the viewpoint characterized by the privileging of Naturwissenschaft that constitutes this grave threat, as embodied in those who, for example, pursued engineering or computer science degrees without giving much attention to the humanities, philosophy, art, music. (Ultimately this whole quarrel, reaching back to the time of Plato and before, is one, not between philosophy and science, but between poetry and science. This implies that philosophy, and related branches of knowledge such as sociology, are themselves “infected” with the spirit of Naturwissenschaften, thus complicating our inquiry.)
Objectivity from within the egological perspective. And so, this approximation of objectivity must entail respecting the logical criteria of clarity, consistency, and coherence within its own terms of reference. This could theoretically still be done, from within the paradigm of Giesteswissenschaften, perhaps?