Rationality, Dialogue, and
Critical Inquiry: Toward a Viable
Abstract: Given the long-standing and deeply rooted intertwinement between reason and philosophy,there is a pressing need to reappraise our operative conceptions of rationality and critical inquiry in the wake of the transition from foundationalism to postfoundationalism. For while opening up exciting new vistas, this transition poses perplexing problems regarding how we might go about justifying our knowledge claims without the possibility of recourse to incontrovertible foundations, indubitable starting points, or algorithmic procedures. The challenge is all the more acute given that the turn to language and intersubjectivity that characterises this transition has fostered the proliferation of a diversity of competing and allegedly self-validating worldviews, that render the encounter with difference an indispensable feature of the contemporary epistemological landscape while reinforcing the threat of relativism and groundlessness. Through engaging with the work of Jurgen Habermas, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Michel Foucault, three theorists widely recognized as major contributors to the contemporary debate, the present paper responds to these problems by seeking to delineate the constitutive features of a dialogically-oriented conception of rationality and critical inquiry capable of meeting postfoundationalist needs. In the process, it reinforces the advantages of the reading these theorists as complementary rather than as oppositional, as has typically been the case.
Keywords: Rationality; Foundationalism; Postfoundationalism; Habermas; Gadamer; Foucault
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