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Knowledge Interests

Hartmut Wessler


The term “knowledge interests” ( Erkenntnisinteresse ) was coined by German philosopher and social theorist → Jürgen Habermas in his work Knowledge and human interests ( Habermas 1968/1987 ). Habermas distinguished three kinds of knowledge interests constitutive for particular object domains and their scientific investigation. According to him, the interest of control through prediction is constitutive of the natural sciences, while the interest of hermeneutical understanding characterizes the humanities. The social sciences, in turn, follow the knowledge interest of emancipation in that they create awareness of the contingency and changeability of the social world and thus of societal alternatives ( Jensen 1995 , 93–95). In his later writings, Habermas has replaced this threefold typology of knowledge interests with a theory of communication that distinguishes four different types of action and corresponding “relations to the world” ( Habermas 1981/1984 , 75–101; 2001, 15). Teleological (goal-directed) action presupposes an objective world (as the totality of all entities about which true statements are possible); normatively regulated action presupposes the objective world as well as a social world (as the totality of all legitimately regulated interpersonal relations); and dramaturgical action presupposes the objective world (including social facts) as well as a ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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