Monday, September 19, 2005

Language, structure of communicative action and interruption of teleology

Habermas makes it clear that both communicative action and strategic action has “a teleological structure” (OPC: 203). It means both actors in the communicative actions and strategic actions have ‘intentions’ and ‘ends’.* However intentions of actors in communicative actions are supervened on the structures of communication as against strategic actions where intentions of actors are the determining factor. The teleological structure of action is interrupted in communicative action:

“. . . communicative and strategic action do not differ primarily in terms of the attitudes of the actors but rather with respect to structural characteristics . . . in communicative action, the structure of the use of language oriented toward reaching understanding is superimposed on the fundamental teleological structure of action and subjects the actors to precisely such constraints as compel them to adopt a pefromative attitude . . . .” (OPC: 204-205, emphasis added).

Thus in a sense it is right to say that in communicative action language suspends the teleological structure of action (even if only momentarily) and actors in fact dwell in language and its unique causality which is quite distinct from the causality of action:

“As long as language is used only as a medium for transmitting information, action coordination proceed through the mutual influence that actors exert on each other in a purposive-rational manner. On the other hand, as soon as the illocutionary forces of speech acts take on an action-coordinating role, language itself supplies the primary source of social interaction. Only in this case should one speak of “communicative action.” In such action, actors in the roles of speaker and hearer attempts to negotiate interpretations of the situation at hand to harmonize their respective plans with one another through the unrestrained pursuit of illocutionary goals. Naturally, the binding energies of language can be mobilized to coordinate action plans only if the participants suspend the objectivating attitude of an observer, along with the immediate orientation to personal success, in favor of the performaitve attitude of a speaker who wants to reach an understanding with a second person about something in the world.” (BFN: 18, emphasis in italics mine, in bold by Habermas).

The unique of causality of reason emerges from within only when actors are ‘delivered’ to language itself. Language interrupts the natural causality and makes possible the emergence of the causality of reason as long as we remain delivered to the language itself.

* “My critics have on occasion overlooked the fact that both models of action attribute to the actors a capacity for setting goals and goal-directed action, as an interest in executing their own plans of actions.” (OPC: 203, emphasis retained).

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