Saturday, July 15, 2006

A new book on Habermas

Note: moving up due to a new comment

I have not yet received my copy but this should be wroth reading. It would be interesting to see whether a successful "very short" introduction can be written of Habermas' work.

Habermas: A Very Short Introduction

by James Gordon Finlayson

Here is a description of the book from OUP

"Provides a completely up to date and much-needed entry into the long and forbiddingly technical works of the most influential German philosopher alive today
Covers Habermas's influence on a wide variety of fields, including philosophy, political and social theory, cultural studies, sociology, and literary studies
Explains how Habermas's ideas are applied to present day social and political situations.

Unlike other writings on Habermas, this explains his intellectual framework and technical vocabulary rather than simply adopting it

This book gives a clear and readable overview of the philosophical work of Jürgen Habermas, the most influential German philosopher alive today, who has commented widely on subjects such as Marxism, the importance and effectiveness of communication, the reunification of Germany, and the European Union. Gordon Finlayson provides readers with a clear and readable overview of Habermas's forbiddingly complex philosophy using concrete examples and accessible language. He then goes on to analyse both the theoretical underpinnings of Habermas's social theory, and its more concrete applications in the fields of ethics, politics, and law; and concludes with an examination how Habermas's social and political theory informs his writing on contemporary, political, and social problems."

Preface: Who is Jürgen Habermas
1 Habermas and Frankfurt School Critical Theory
2 Habermas's New Approach to Social Theory
3 The Pragmatic Meaning Programme
4 The Programme of Social Theory
5 Habermas's Theory of Modernity
6 Discourse Ethics I: The Discourse Theory of Morality
7 Discourse Ethics II: Ethical Discourse and the Political Turn
8 Politics, Democracy, and Law
9 Politics Beyond The Bounds Of The Nation Alone


Aporia said...

Hi Ali,

I was wrong! Finlayson does teach at Sussex. I had him confused with somebody else who studied at York...

Incidentally, my doctoral thesis will concern discourse ethics. Although Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action and Justification and Application are good texts, Finlayson's short treatment was nonetheless very helpful in clarifying some misconceptions I had.

-- Aporia

Ali Rizvi said...

Actually James was at York until recently.

He is pretty good at Habermas' moral philosophy; especially his piece in Inquiry on Habermas, Morality and Modernity is an excellent piece of work.

His short book, which I have not yet read though, shows his own bias towards Habermas moral philosophy. Looking at from the content Habermas' theoretical philosophy seems to be left our completely.

Aporia said...

To his credit, Finlayson does end the chapters on discourse ethics by summarizing the main criticisms of people like Thomas McCarthy and Hilary Putnam. It would not be apparent to the lay reader that Habermas has any answers to these criticisms. I actually got the impression that he wasn't especially sympathetic to discourse ethics. Of course, I'm not familiar with Finlayson, so it's not possible for me to gauge where he really stands.

My biggest disappointment was the dismissive one-liner on MacIntyre, to whom I happen to be very sympathetic :-)

Ali Rizvi said...

Yes you are right, as far as I can recall James is not very sympathetic to discourse ethics.

I myself am veyr much interested and (sympathetic) to MacIntyre's work. I am not sure which "dismissive one-liner" you are talking about here.

Aporia said...

Oh, right... I was referring to Finlayson's book: "Anti-modern thought, such as Alasdair MacIntyre's (b. 1929) communitarianism, which on one reading argues for the revitalization of a Thomist tradition of moral virtues, and the later work of Martin Heidegger, which apears to welcome the return to a more rural and traditional way of life, are just different ways of dressing up a regression to pre-modern forms of living" (p. 66).

An extreme case of oversimplification, to say the least :-)

euan said...

I was fortunate enough to study with Gordon at Sussex and I seem to remember that he wasn't sympathetic to Habermas' theory of discourse or communicative rationality. He believed that Habermas uneccesarily ties his moral/political theory to his theory of discourse and that they could exist in a more freestanding relationship.

Ali Rizvi said...

I know Gordon's psoition but wonder what distinctive would remain of Habermas' moral and political philosophy if divorced from his theory of communicative raitonality.

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