World disclosure

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World disclosure (German : Erschlossenheit, literally "development, comprehension") refers to how things become intelligible and meaningfully relevant to human beings, by virtue of being part of an ontological world – i.e., a pre-interpreted and holistically structured background of meaning. This understanding is said to be first disclosed to human beings through their practical day-to-day encounters with others, with things in the world, and through language.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Holism is the idea that systems and their properties should be viewed as wholes, not just as a collection of parts.


The phenomenon was described by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger in his landmark book Being and Time. It has also been discussed by philosophers such as John Dewey, Jürgen Habermas, Nikolas Kompridis and Charles Taylor. [1]

Martin Heidegger German philosopher

Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher and a seminal thinker in the Continental tradition and philosophical hermeneutics, and is "widely acknowledged to be one of the most original and important philosophers of the 20th century." Heidegger is best known for his contributions to phenomenology and existentialism, though as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy cautions, "his thinking should be identified as part of such philosophical movements only with extreme care and qualification". Heidegger's membership in and public support for the Nazi Party has been the subject of widespread controversy regarding the extent to which his Nazism influenced his philosophy.

<i>Being and Time</i> Philosophy book by Martin Heidegger

Being and Time is a 1927 book by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, in which the author seeks to analyse the concept of Being. Heidegger maintains that this has fundamental importance for philosophy and that, since the time of the Ancient Greeks, philosophy has avoided the question, turning instead to the analysis of particular beings. Heidegger attempts to revive ontology through a reawakening of the question of the meaning of being. He approaches this through a fundamental ontology that is a preliminary analysis of the being of the being to whom the question of being is important, i.e., Dasein.

John Dewey American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer

John Dewey was a democratic socialist, American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey is one of the primary figures associated with the philosophy of pragmatism and is considered one of the fathers of functional psychology. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Dewey as the 93rd most cited psychologist of the 20th century. A well-known public intellectual, he was also a major voice of progressive education and liberalism. Although Dewey is known best for his publications about education, he also wrote about many other topics, including epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics, art, logic, social theory, and ethics. He was a major educational reformer for the 20th century.

Some philosophers, such as Ian Hacking and Nikolas Kompridis, have also described how this ontological understanding can be re-disclosed in various ways (including through innovative forms of philosophical argument).

Ian Hacking Canadian philosopher

Ian MacDougall Hacking is a Canadian philosopher specializing in the philosophy of science. Throughout his career, he has won numerous awards, such as the Killam Prize for the Humanities and the Balzan Prize, and been a member of many prestigious groups, including the Order of Canada, the Royal Society of Canada and the British Academy.

Nikolas Kompridis Canadian philosopher

Nikolas Kompridis is a Canadian philosopher and political theorist. His major published work addresses the direction and orientation of Frankfurt School critical theory; the legacy of philosophical romanticism; and the aesthetic dimension(s) of politics. His writing touches on a variety of issues in social and political thought, aesthetics, and the philosophy of culture, often in terms of re-worked concepts of receptivity and world disclosure—a paradigm he calls "reflective disclosure". He is currently a Research Professor and Director of the Institute for Social Justice at the Australian Catholic University.

Reflective disclosure is a model of social criticism proposed and developed by philosopher Nikolas Kompridis. It is partly based on Martin Heidegger's insights into the phenomenon of world disclosure, which Kompridis applies to the field of political theory. The term refers to practices through which we can imagine and articulate meaningful alternatives to current social and political conditions, by acting back on their conditions of intelligibility. This could uncover possibilities that were previously suppressed or untried, or make us insightfully aware of a problem in a way that allows us to go on differently with our institutions, traditions and ideals.

First and second order disclosure

The idea of disclosure supposes that the meaning of a word or thing depends upon the context in which we encounter it, including the way of life of which it is a part. For example, a table is part of a context with other things that give it its sense or purpose – e.g. chairs, food, a teapot, pencils, books – and we first learn about it through our everyday experience of it in particular contexts. Its meaning is "given" to us by virtue of its connection to various activities (e.g. writing, eating, conversation), and by qualities (e.g. conviviality) that give it value in relation to such activities. These constitute part of its "conditions of intelligibility."

The implication is that we are always already "thrown" into these conditions, that is, thrown into a prior understanding of the things which we encounter on a daily basis – an understanding that is already somewhat meaningful and coherent. However, our understanding cannot be made fully conscious or knowable at one time, since this background understanding isn't itself an object:

According to Nikolas Kompridis, the initial disclosure of an ontological world is said to be "pre-reflective" or first-order disclosure. [3] However, this so-called first-order disclosure is not fixed, as it can vary across historical time and cultural space. As well, Kompridis has described a kind of second-order or reflective disclosure . Whereas first-order disclosure involves an implicit, unconscious and largely passive relation to meaning, reflective disclosure is an explicit re-working of meaning and the terms used to make sense of ourselves and the world, through the "refocusing" or "de-centering" of our understanding. Reflective disclosure is thus a way of acting back upon conditions of intelligibility, in order to clarify or reshape our background understanding. Because of this, reflective disclosure also affects conditions of possibility by impacting on such basic questions as "what counts as a thing, what counts as true/false, and what it makes sense to do." [4]

While some philosophers, notably Jürgen Habermas and Richard Rorty, claim that disclosure is an aesthetic phenomenon (supposedly, neither rational nor cognitive, and therefore not philosophical), disclosive arguments have been employed in many contexts that are not primarily considered literary or "aesthetic," and some philosophers have argued for the importance of disclosure's (not to mention, aesthetics') place in human reason, most notably Nikolas Kompridis and Charles Taylor. [5] [6]

Jürgen Habermas German sociologist and philosopher

Jürgen Habermas is a German philosopher and sociologist in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theories on communicative rationality and the public sphere. In 2014, Prospect readers chose Habermas as one of their favourites among the "world's leading thinkers".

Richard Rorty American philosopher

Richard McKay Rorty was an American philosopher. Educated at the University of Chicago and Yale University, he had strong interests and training in both the history of philosophy and contemporary analytic philosophy, the latter of which came to comprise the main focus of his work at Princeton University in the 1960s. He subsequently came to reject the tradition of philosophy according to which knowledge involves correct representation of a world whose existence remains wholly independent of that representation. Rorty had a long and diverse academic career, including positions as Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, Kenan Professor of Humanities at the University of Virginia, and Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. Among his most influential books are Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Consequences of Pragmatism (1982), and Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989).

Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, mathematics and art, and is normally considered to be a distinguishing ability possessed by humans. Reason, or an aspect of it, is sometimes referred to as rationality.

World-disclosing arguments

World-disclosing arguments are a family of philosophical argument described by Nikolas Kompridis in his book Critique and Disclosure. [8] According to Kompridis, these arguments have distinctive forms, sometimes called styles of reasoning, [9] that start with a disclosive approach instead of, or in addition to methods that are deductive, inductive, etc. [10] [11] According to disclosure theorists, these forms of argument attempt to reveal features of a wider ontological or cultural-linguistic understanding (or "world," in a specifically ontological sense), in order to clarify or transform the background of meaning and "logical space" on which an argument implicitly depends. [12] [13] A major example of this type of argument is said to be that of immanent critique, although it is not the only kind. [14]

In logic and philosophy, an argument is a series of statements, called the premises or premisses, intended to determine the degree of truth of another statement, the conclusion. The logical form of an argument in a natural language can be represented in a symbolic formal language, and independently of natural language formally defined "arguments" can be made in math and computer science.

Inductive reasoning is a method of reasoning in which the premises are viewed as supplying some evidence for the truth of the conclusion. While the conclusion of a deductive argument is certain, the truth of the conclusion of an inductive argument may be probable, based upon the evidence given.

Immanent critique is a method of discussing culture which aims to locate contradictions in society's rules and systems. This method is used in the study of cultural forms in philosophy and the social sciences and humanities. It may be contrasted with "transcendental" Kantian critical philosophy. Immanent critique further aims to contextualize not only the object of its investigation, but also the ideological basis of that object: both the object and the category to which it belongs are shown to be products of a historical process. Immanent critique has its roots in the dialectic of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the criticisms by Karl Marx. Today it is strongly associated with the critical theorists such as Theodor Adorno as well as literary theorists such as Fredric Jameson who, in his seminal work The Political Unconscious, explored the idea of an immanent analysis of texts to argue the primacy of political interpretation. Roy Bhaskar has advocated it as one of the key methodological elements of critical realism.

In deductive arguments, the "test" of the argument's success are said to be its formal validity and soundness. However, in a world-disclosing argument, the primary criterion for success is the solution of a problem that could not be successfully dealt with under some previous understanding or paradigm, for example, after an epistemological crisis (see Paradigm shift). It is therefore said to be possibility disclosing rather than "truth-preserving" or "truth-tracking." [15] The "claim" made by such an argument is that of a new insight, resulting from the adoption of a new stance or perspective that reveals, or discloses a new possibility for thinking and acting. [16]

Nikolas Kompridis has described two kinds of fallibilism in this regard. The first consists in being open to new evidence that could disprove some previously held position or belief (the taken-for-granted position of the observer in normal science). The second refers to the consciousness of "the degree to which our interpretations, valuations, our practices, and traditions are temporally indexed" and subject to historical change. This "time-responsive" (as opposed to "evidence-responsive") fallibilism consists in an expectant openness to some future possibility. According to Kompridis, world-disclosing arguments are fallible in both senses of the word. [17]

Major examples of world disclosing arguments in philosophy are said to include:

Other modern philosophers who are said to employ world-disclosing arguments include Hans-Georg Gadamer, George Herbert Mead and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

See also

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Hermeneutics is the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially the interpretation of biblical texts, wisdom literature, and philosophical texts.

Phenomenology is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness. As a philosophical movement it was founded in the early years of the 20th century by Edmund Husserl and was later expanded upon by a circle of his followers at the universities of Göttingen and Munich in Germany. It then spread to France, the United States, and elsewhere, often in contexts far removed from Husserl's early work.

German philosophy, here taken to mean either (1) philosophy in the German language or (2) philosophy by Germans, has been extremely diverse, and central to both the analytic and continental traditions in philosophy for centuries, from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz through Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein to contemporary philosophers. Søren Kierkegaard is frequently included in surveys of German philosophy due to his extensive engagement with German thinkers.

Frankfurt School school of neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theory

The Frankfurt School is a school of social theory and critical philosophy associated with the Institute for Social Research, at Goethe University Frankfurt. Founded in the Weimar Republic (1918–33), during the European interwar period (1918–39), the Frankfurt School comprised intellectuals, academics, and political dissidents who were ill-fitted to the contemporary socio-economic systems of the 1930s. The Frankfurt theoreticians proposed that social theory was inadequate for explaining the turbulent political factionalism and reactionary politics occurring in ostensibly liberal capitalist societies in the 20th century. Critical of capitalism and of Marxism–Leninism as philosophically inflexible systems of social organisation, the School's critical theory research indicated alternative paths to realising the social development of a society and a nation.

Hubert Dreyfus American philosopher

Hubert Lederer Dreyfus was an American philosopher and professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Neopragmatism, sometimes called post-Deweyan pragmatism, linguistic pragmatism, or analytic pragmatism, is the philosophical tradition that infers that the meaning of words is a function of how they are used, rather than the meaning of what people intend for them to describe.

Communicative rationality

Communicative rationality, or communicative reason, is a theory or set of theories which describes human rationality as a necessary outcome of successful communication. In particular, it is tied to the philosophy of Karl-Otto Apel, Jürgen Habermas, and their program of universal pragmatics, along with its related theories such as those on discourse ethics and rational reconstruction. This view of reason is concerned with clarifying the norms and procedures by which agreement can be reached, and is therefore a view of reason as a form of public justification.

Aletheia is truth or disclosure in philosophy. It was used in Ancient Greek philosophy and revived in the 20th century by Martin Heidegger.

Broadly speaking, fallibilism is the philosophical claim that no belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief. However, not all fallibilists believe that fallibilism extends to all domains of knowledge.

In sociology, communicative action is cooperative action undertaken by individuals based upon mutual deliberation and argumentation. The term was developed by German philosopher-sociologist Jürgen Habermas in his work The Theory of Communicative Action.

Martin Heidegger, the 20th-century German philosopher, produced a large body of work that intended a profound change of direction for philosophy. Such was the depth of change that he found it necessary to introduce a large number of neologisms, often connected to idiomatic words and phrases in the German language.

<i>Truth and Method</i> book by German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer

Truth and Method is a 1960 book by Hans-Georg Gadamer, his major philosophical work. In Truth and Method, Gadamer deploys the concept of "philosophical hermeneutics" as it is worked out in Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (1927).

Richard J. Bernstein American philosopher

Richard Jacob Bernstein is an American philosopher who teaches at The New School for Social Research, and has written extensively about a broad array of issues and philosophical traditions including American pragmatism, neopragmatism, critical theory, deconstruction, social philosophy, political philosophy, and Hermeneutics. His work is best known for the way in which it examines the intersections between different philosophical schools and traditions, bringing together thinkers and philosophical insights that would otherwise remain separated by the analytic/continental divide in 20th century philosophy. The pragmatic and dialogical ethos that pervades his works has also been displayed in a number of philosophical exchanges with other contemporary thinkers like Hannah Arendt, Jürgen Habermas, Richard Rorty, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jacques Derrida, Agnes Heller, and Charles Taylor. Bernstein is an engaged public intellectual concerned not only with the specialized debates of academic philosophy, but also with the larger issues that touch upon social, political, and cultural aspects of contemporary life. Throughout his life Bernstein has actively endorsed a number of social causes and has been involved in movements of participatory democracy, upholding some of the cardinal virtues of the American pragmatist tradition, including a commitment to fallibilism, engaged pluralism, and the nurturing of critical communities.

<i>The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity</i> book

The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures is a 1985 book by Jürgen Habermas, in which the author reconstructs and deals in depth with a number of philosophical approaches to the critique of modern reason and the Enlightenment "project" since Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Nietzsche, including the work of 20th century philosophers Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Cornelius Castoriadis and Niklas Luhmann. The work is regarded as an important contribution to Frankfurt School critical theory. It has been characterized as a critical evaluation of the concept of world disclosure in modern philosophy.

Receptivity, or receptive agency, is a practical capacity and source of normativity, discussed and developed in various ways by writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Stanley Cavell and Martin Heidegger, among others. According to the philosopher Nikolas Kompridis, who has argued for its importance to democratic politics, romanticism and critical theory, the term has both ontological and ethical dimensions, and refers to a mode of listening and "normative response" to demands arising outside the self, as well as "a way by which we might become more attuned to our pre-reflective understanding of the world, to our inherited ontologies," thereby generating non-instrumental possibilities for social change and self-transformation.

Disclosing New Worlds: Entrepreneurship, Democratic Action, and the Cultivation of Solidarity (1997) is a philosophical proposal intended to restore or energize democracy by social constructionism via an argument style of world disclosure but which philosophy is distinct from:


  1. Nikolas Kompridis, "On World Disclosure: Heidegger, Habermas and Dewey," Thesis Eleven, Vol. 37, No. 1, 29-45 (1994).
  2. Stephen Mulhall. Heidegger and Being and Time, Routledge, 1996. p. 96
  3. Nikolas Kompridis, Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future, MIT Press, 2006.
  4. Hubert Dreyfus, "Being and Power: Heidegger and Foucault," in International Journal of Philosophical Studies 4, 1 (March 1996): 4. cited in Nikolas Kompridis, Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future, MIT Press, 2006. p.126
  5. Fred Dallmayr, "Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future, University of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
  6. Charles Taylor, Philosophical Arguments (Harvard University Press, 1997), 12; 15.
  7. Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty (Oxford: Blackwell, 1975), 107.
  8. Nikolas Kompridis, Critique and Disclosure (MIT Press, 2006)
  9. Ian Hacking, Styles of Scientific Reasoning, John Rajchman and Cornel West, eds., Post-analytic Philosophy (New York:Columbia University Press, 1985), pp.145-65.
  10. We can use the word "disclosure" for this, following Heidegger. And along with this goes a conception of critical reasoning, of especial relevance for moral thinking, that focuses on the nature of transitions in our thought." Charles Taylor, Philosophical Arguments (Harvard, 1995), 15.
  11. "[D]eductive, inductive, or abductive [logic does] not count as a style of reasoning. This is as it should be... People everywhere make inductions, draw inferences to the best explanation, make deductions; those are not peculiarly scientific styles of thinking." Ian Hacking, Historical Ontology (Harvard, 2002), 90.
  12. "[T]hrough a clarification of the conditions of intentionality, we come to a better understanding of what we are as knowing agents – and hence also as language beings – and thereby gain insight into some of the crucial anthropological questions that underpin our moral and spiritual beliefs... What reflection in this direction would entail is already fairly well known. It involves... our being able to articulate the background of our lives perspicuously." Charles Taylor, Philosophical Arguments" (Harvard, 1995), 14-15.
  13. "[World disclosing] arguments cannot assume that the logical space necessary to rendering visible the inferential relations between the premises and the conclusions already exists; rather, their success depends on the degree to which they can expand existing logical space in order to make room for the conclusions to which they lead." Nikolas Kompridis, "World Disclosing Arguments?" in Critique and Disclosure (MIT Press, 2006), 119."
  14. "[Immanent] critique and reflective disclosure are practically indistinguishable, and that is because they are structurally homologous." Nikolas Kompridis, Critique and Disclosure (MIT Press, 2006), 254-255.
  15. "Since we are not dealing with deductive or inductive styles of reasoning (which are truth-preserving, not possibility disclosing), we cannot know in advance what form [they] will take." Nikolas Kompridis, Critique and Disclosure (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), 174.
  16. "[S]uccessful critique depends not just on showing that x is a disguised effect of y, which effect in turn requires the exclusion or repression of r. For this to be shown in the first place, critique needs to find the normative stance, the new interpretive perspective, in light of which what is familiar is defamiliarized, seen again, as if for the first time." Nikolas Kompridis, Critique and Disclosure (MIT Press, 2006), 254-255. See also "The test of disclosure" in the same volume, 139-146.
  17. Nikolas Kompridis, "Two kinds of fallibilism", Critique and Disclosure (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), 181.
  18. Nikolas Kompridis, "World Disclosing Arguments?" in Critique and Disclosure, Cambridge:MIT Press (2006), 118-121.