Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Kierkegaard-Habermas Debate

Commanded Love and Moral Autonomy: The Kierkegaard-Habermas Debate By Merold Westphal

The link courtesy of Online Kierkegaard Links

Janus faced conception of truth

Janus faced conception of truth (which should not be confused with the Janus faced nature of validity claims in general) is based on the Heideggerian distinction between ‘ready to hand’ and ‘present at hand.’ In Habermas’ opinion we operate in the lifeworld and discourse with two different notions of truth. In the lifeworld we operate with what might be termed a non objectified conception of truth, where truth operates as behavioural certainty. Here we are in constant touch with surprising reality and behavioural certainties are constantly tested through our need to cope with reality.

However once behavioural certainties are shattered the question of truth is objectified and taken into the realm of discourse which is relatively detached from action imperatives that cannot be avoided within lifeworld. Here we cannot rely on ‘resisting’ and ‘surprising’ reality. Here we can only rely on ‘reasons’ and ‘counter reasons’ of our fellow beings and whether those reasons are good or not is itself decided within discourse. To be sure, the resistance of reality works here as well but only indirectly, through being converted into discursive reasons:

“A perception that is contrary to our beliefs destabilizes our certainties about how to act. Only if agents distance themselves from their practical coping with the world and enter into rational discourse, objectifying the situation that was originally “ready to hand” in order to reach understanding with one another about something in the world, can such a perception become a discursively mobilized “reason.” It then enters as criticism into the conceptual economy and semantic inferential resources attached to existing views, setting in motion revisions, if necessary.” (TJ: 154-155).

Since participants in discourse must return to the lifeworld sooner or later they test their provisional conclusions reached within discourse against the surprising reality through engaging in action and coping with reality. Problematised certainties can further be discussed in the discourse and this process in principle remains continued and open ended.

A complete conception of truth must combine the above two notions of truth and must be based on a dialectical* relation between the discursive conception of truth and a life based conception of truth. Habermas dramatises the distinction between the two conceptions of truth in order to bring home the point that discourses are ultimately embedded in the lifeworld.
* In a non Hegelian sense.

Stanley Fish on Habermas!!

". . . as far as I am concerned, any positive reference to Habermas in the course of argument is enough to invalidate it." (The Trouble With Principle, p. 122).

Probleme der Willensfreiheit

On January 17, 2006, Jürgen Habermas held a lecture in Berlin on "Probleme der Willensfreiheit".

See here and here

Links courtesy of Habermas Forum

Friday, January 20, 2006

Habermas and religious pluralism

This article has some comments on the issue of Habermas and religious pluralism "Political philosopher Jurgen Habermas has remarked of religious beliefs that they require "striking cognitive dissonances," since, as he puts it, "the complex life circumstances in modern pluralistic societies are normatively compatible only with a strict universalism in which the same respect is demanded for everybody — be they Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist, believers or nonbelievers." So their various "truths" are self-evidently in difficulty, undermined by the very conditions of their continuance.

But religious followers have it easy: After all, many religious folk are not in "modern pluralistic societies" and so can remain undisturbed by Habermas's paradox. But even if they are, they have many bulwarks against crisis: the confidence of a way of life that has been around for centuries; the support of a community of believers; the leadership of charismatic figures; above all confidence in some kind of god or spirit that speaks directly to their situation, both individually and collectively. For many, of course, there is the additional consolation of an afterlife.

By comparison, the human rights believer is lonely and vulnerable. They seek Heaven on earth for all, not just (or even mainly) for themselves or the chosen few. And there is no pre-modern refuge: It is firmly and only within "the complex life circumstances in modern pluralistic societies" that they must ply their trade. The genuine human rights believer cannot thrive outside pluralism."

link via here

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A review of "On the Pragmatics of Social Interaction"

"On the Pragmatics of Social Interaction and The Liberating Power of Symbols stand at each end of Jürgen Habermas’s attempt to develop a theory of communicative action, universal pragmatics, and discourse ethics. On the Pragmatics of Social Interaction is a collection of preliminary studies of communicative action and universal pragmatics from the 1970s leading up to the publication of The Theory of Communicative Action in 1981. The volume is a translation of parts of the companion volume to The Theory of Communicative Action, Vorstudien und Ergänzungen zur Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns, which was published in German in 1984. Another, well-known essay from the latter volume has previously been published as “What Is Universal Pragmatics?” in Communication and the Evolution of Society.*

In addition to a useful introduction by the translator, On the Pragmatics of Social Interactioncontains three essays by Habermas. First, his Gauss Lectures from 1971 where he lays out the parameters of his programme of universal pragmatics through an engagement with, among other things, speech act theory. Habermas wishes to build a normative critical theory on this foundation. This is by far the most interesting (and longest) essay of the volume. Second, there is an essay on the philosophy of action, in particular on the role of intentionality. Third, the volume is closed by an essay on the notion of pathology within the programme of a universal pragmatism of language. In this essay, Habermas seeks to show how a universal pragmatics of language can serve to detect systematic pathologies of communication."

Read review in full

* This is not true. The version published in Communication and the Evolution of Society is a later version!


A short intro. to the book in Canadian Journal of Communication > Vol. 28, No. 1 (2003)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Immanuel Kant, Jürgen Habermas and the categorical imperative

Anders Bordum
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

It has often been said that discourse ethics as developed by Jürgen Habermas can be understood as a dialogical continuation of the monological ethics developed by Immanuel Kant, as formulated in the categorical imperative in Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. Like Kant’s categorical imperative, Habermas’ principle of universalization specifies a rule for impartial testing of norms for their moral worthiness. This article will substantiate that discourse ethics develops a dialogical version of the categorical imperative, and will make this explicit. This is done by presenting a new interpretation of the Kantian ethics. Renewing the traditional understanding, four instead of two or three formulations of the categorical imperative are identified. Finally it is shown how this interpretation relates to Jürgen Habermas’ discourse ethics. This analysis shows that one must specify which formulation of the categorical imperative one is talking about when discussing it.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Habermas, Foucault and Nietzsche: A Double Misunderstanding

by Thomas Biebricher


The article analyses Habermas' interpretation of Foucault in the Philosophical Discourse of Modernity and argues that the former misunderstands the Foucaultian project of genealogy fundamentally. While Habermas assumes that Foucault aims at a strictly scientific approach to the writing of history it can be shown that Foucaultian genealogy is strongly characterised by rhetorical aspects, creating a hybrid model of critique that stands in between science and literature. The essay goes on arguing that this misreading can be explained with reference to Habermas' reconstruction of Nietzsche's philosophy in the Philosophical Discourse. On the basis of this clarification the article analyses what a Habermasian position vis-à-vis genealogy including the rhetorical element would look like. Making use of Habermas' remarks on Derrida in the Philosophical Discourse the essay concludes that, counter-intuitively, a rhetorically understood genealogy has to be considered a valid philosophical approach even on Habermas' own terms.

Full article is available for free

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Habermas' notion of truth

"he [Habermas] attempts to develop an account of truth that does not imply that truth is “absolute” or transcendent—i.e., valid for all people and all societies at all times. His “discourse” theory of truth is based on the observation that communication, unlike other forms of human action, is oriented toward “consent” rather than “success,” in that it aims to achieve mutual understanding rather to change or master some aspect of the world. The process of constructing such an understanding, however, requires that each individual assume that the utterances of the other are for the most part “true,” and that the other can provide reasons to support the truth of his utterances should he be called upon to do so. The notion of truth is thus not a metaphysical fiction but a regulative ideal that makes communication possible."


Two quick comments:

the above only describes Habermas' discourse theory of truth which he has already abandoned.

also it should be noted that for Habermas 'absolute' and 'transcendent' mean different things. Absolute means the claim to truth are not limited to particular spaces and times, however transcendent means something which is not this worldly and which is not affected by space and time, like Kant's realm of pure intelligibility.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Power of Positive Thinking

By Alan Ryan

"Jürgen Habermas is often thought of not only as Germany's leading philosopher but as quintessentially German. In the sense that few figures in American public life refer as often to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant or the principles of the Enlightenment, that is no doubt true. In fact, the figure he most resembles, both in his conception of what philosophy can do for public life and in his ideas about the role of intellectuals in a democracy, is an American --John Dewey. In 1947, Henry Steele Commager observed, 'Until Professor Dewey speaks, America does not know what she thinks.' He exaggerated, but it is easy to see what he meant. Dewey spent a long life thinking for his country, not so much trying to capture his countrymen's first thoughts as the thoughts they would have once they had thought things through. For four decades Jürgen Habermas has played just that role in Germany."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Habermas' notion of intersubjectivity

The notion of intersubjectivity is one of the most misunderstood in Habermas’ corpus. It is often claimed that Habermas has never shunned the so called philosophy of subject entirely because intresubjectivity after all presupposes the notion of subjectivity. However this is not true. Intersubjectivity is actually an entirely inappropriate term to describe the phenomenon Habermas wants to describe with the term. It actually refers to the background commonality that is the basis of any understanding:

“. . . the term “intersubjective” not longer refers to the result of an observed convergence of thoughts or representations of various persons, but to the prior commonality of a linguistic pre understanding or horizon of the lifeworld – which, from the perspective of the participants themselves, is presupposed -within which the members of communication community find themselves before they reach an understanding with one another about something in the world.” (OPC: 355-356, italics in the original).
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