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."