Wednesday, September 14, 2005

transcendence from within as proving causality of reason from within

The significance of the illocutionary component of speech acts for Habermas is not just that through them one can best elucidate the fact that utterances are “speech actions.” The significance of the performative component of speech acts is more central than this for Habermas. The significance of the illocutionary component for Habermas lies rather in the “peculiarly generative power of speech acts”:

“It is to this generative power that I trace the fact that a speech act can succeed or fail. . . . [] the generative power (of a speech act) consists in the fact that the speaker, in performing a speech act, can influence the hearer in such a way that the latter can take up an interpersonal relation with her.” (OPC: 56-57, emphasis added).

The word “influence” in the above quote is absolutely crucial for Habermas. Habermas takes “influence” here in non causal sense. Influence for him here is rational and not causal. A part of Habermas’ project of theory of communicative action, formal pragmatics and theory of meaning is to show that this causality of reason can be explained without any reference to Kant’s otherworldly realm of intelligibility.

The above difference between rational influence and causal influence is the basis for Habermas distinction between 'perlocutionary effects' and 'illocutionary success,' (which in turn is the basis for Habermas' crucial distinction between communicative action and strategic action).

"Perlocutionary effects, like the successful results of teleological actions generally, may be described as states in the world brought about through intervention in the world. By contrast, illocutionary successes are achieved at the level of interpersonal relations on which participants in communication to come to an understanding with one another about something in the world. In this sense, they are not innerworldly but extramundane. At most, successful illocutionary acts occur within the lifeworld to which the participants in communication belong and that forms the background for their processes of reaching understanding. They cannot be intended under the description of causally produced effects" (OPC: 127).

The fact that the above crucial distinction is related to Habermas' effort to prove the Kantian notion of causality of reason from within normally goes unnoticed in Habermas scholarship. Charles Nussbaum is the only Habermas scholar I know of who has paid some attention to this.


Gary E. Davis said...

In your first paragraph, you regard illocutionary component and performative component as the same. But the illocutionary component features the communicative relationship; the performative component features the actional or intentional aspect, the "performing [of the] speech act," as JH says in what you quote.

There's a performative component to any action (which may take various forms: communicative [speech act] or non-communicative, instrumentally communicative or normatively communicative). "The generative power" belongs to the entire speech act, not especially to the illocutionary component. Via the illocutionary component I "can influence the hearer in such a way that the latter can take up an interpersonal relation" of mutuality (whereby your view of something is influenced or we seek to come to an understanding), but the generative power can also be put to instrumental use: I get you to close the door. Thus, the distinction between performative and illocutionary component is very important. This distinction correponds to his distinction between action types: teleological efficacy of dramaturgical action thematizes the performance component of action (featuring self-representation) while telelogical efficacy of normative action thematizes the interpersonal frame (fostering agreement on regulative context)---or teleological efficacy of instrumental action may be featured (getting you to close the door).

You claim that "Habermas takes 'influence' here in [a] non-causal sense," but then you call it "this causality of reason." First you say it "can be explained without any reference to Kant's...realm," then, further down the page, you refer to "Habermas's effort to prove the Kantian notion of causality of reason." This seems confused.

Yet, it could be valid to distinguish rational influence and causal influence in the sense of JH's distinction between acts oriented to forming shared understanding (success of understanding) vs. acts oriented to teleological success (goal attainment).

Notice JH's tacit distinction here between "effects" (perlocutionary) and "successes" (belonging to illocutionary). Can there be perlocutionary successess and illocutionary effects?

Successes pertain to goal attainments, whereas effects pertain to causal successes. The former implies intentionality, while the latter does not (as a machine can have causal success, but not intentional goal attainment, except metaphorically). So, the perlocutionary component pertains to the capacity of a speech act for success that is not dependent of its intentionality, whereas the illocutionary component pertains to the capacity of a speech act for success that is dependent on its intentionality.

But that intentionality can be parsed in terms of its actional feature (pertaining also to non-communicative action, which also has analyzable intention, i.e., intentional content) or its relational feature (establishing a relationship between minds as integral to that intentional content).

The illocutionary effect of a speech act is to establish that relationship; the illocutionary success is to establish the intended relationship (or kind of apparent intention that was really intended). The perlocutionary success may match the perlocutionary effect: you respond and I intended that you respond. Or the perlocutionary effect may not be a perlocutionary success: I didn't intend you to respond.

An "illocutionary act" is one in which the interest in interpersonal relation prevails over the various components of the act. Its perlocutionary efficacy should match its perlocutionary success as fostering a mutuality of interaction intended, rather than just your reaction to the causality of my act (like a response from you unrelated to the propositional content of what I denote with my outreach).

You should distinguish a causality of reason in Habermas' sense (premised on primacy of linguistic intersubjectivity) from a Kantian causality of reason (lacking any sense of primary linguistic intersubjectivity). Habermas is not seeking a Kantian causality of reason.

Gary E. Davis said...


I'm going to re-format the above with your posting and post the result to the Yahoo! Habermas group, so I expect that what you receive later will be identical in content to the combination of our postings here.

Thanks for the stimulation!


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