Monday, November 06, 2006

Intersubjectivity – interactionist or discursive? Reflections on Habermas’ critique of Brandom

Piet Strydom
Department of Sociology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

This article argues that there is a marked ambivalence in Habermas’ concept of intersubjectivity in that he wavers between an interactionist and a discursive understanding. This ambivalence is demonstrated with reference to his recent critique of Robert Brandom's normative pragmatic theory of discursive practice. Although Habermas is a leading theorist of discourse as an epistemically steered process, he allows his interpretation of Brandom's theory as suffering from objective idealism to compel him to recoil from discourse and to defend a purely interactionist or dialogical position. It is argued that the ambivalence in question is related to Habermas’ incomplete theorization of communication as a process of structure formation that unfolds sequentially through time on different levels. His architectonic of communicative intersubjectivity is marred by a missing concept. His characteristic concept of coordination is insufficient and must be complemented by a concept of synthesis at the discursive level.

Key Words: Brandom • communication • coordination • discursive • synthesis • Habermas • Luhmann • objectivism • process • sequentiality • structure formation • time

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