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)


Anonymous said...

Your " *This is not true...." note is evidently not true. "What Is Universal Pragmatics?" was published in German in 1976; that's the essay in _CES_, 1979. There are no two versions of the essay.

Ali Rizvi said...

The earlier version of "What is Universal Pragmatics" is the lecture iv of the Gauss Lecture "Universal Pragmatics: Reflections of a Theory of Communication competence." (in Fultner translation, pp. 67-84).

Having said that, my note was based on a misunderstanding. I thought the reviewer was referring to the Guess lecture version but on rereading I realise that he was actually referring to "What is Universal pragmatics" which appears in the German version but not in the Fultner translation since it is already published in CES and OPC.

Thanks for the correction.

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