Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Calhoun on Habermas and religion

"Rawls’ account of the public use of reason allows for religiously motivated arguments, but not for the appeal to “comprehensive” religious doctrines for justification. Justification must rely solely on “proper political reasons” (which means mainly reasons that are available to everyone regardless of the specific commitments they may have to religion or substantive conceptions of the good or their embeddedness in cultural traditions). This is, as Habermas indicates, an importantly restrictive account of the legitimate public use of reason – one which will strike many as not truly admitting religion into public discourse. Crucially, Habermas follows Wolterstorff in arguing that it is in the nature of religion that serious belief is understood as informing – and rightly informing – all of a believer’s life. This makes sorting out the “properly political” from other reasons both practically impossible in many cases and an illegitimate demand for secularists to impose. Attempting to enforce it would amount to discriminating against those for whom religion is not “something other than their social and political existence”. On more ambiguous grounds, Habermas does hold it acceptable to demand “properly political” justifications, independent of religion, from politicians even if not from those who vote for or endorse them.

Habermas seeks to defend a less narrow liberalism, one that admits religion more fully into public discourse (including both democratic will formation and the rule of law) but seeks to maintain a secular conception of the state. He understands this as requiring impartiality in state relations to those of any religious orientation or none and to all religious communities, but not as requiring the stronger laïc prohibition on state action affecting religion even if impartially. Indeed, he goes so far as to suggest that the liberal state and its advocates are not merely enjoined to religious tolerance but – at least potentially – cognizant of a functional interest in public expressions of religion. These may be key resources for the creation of meaning and identity; secular citizens can learn from religious contributions to public discourse (not least when these help clarify intuitions the secular have not made explicit)."

full here

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Habermas on Dutch anti-Islam film

On March 15, Jürgen Habermas gave a lecture at the University of Tilburg, the Netherlands, on "The Post-Secular Society. What does it mean?"

After the lecture the audience was interested in what he had to say about an impending anti-Islam film by right-wing parliamentarian Geert Wilders, who has been threatening for some months now to publish a film in which a copy of the Qur'an is burned. Wilders has argued the Qur'an should be banned for inciting hate and violence, and he wants a stop to all immigration from non-western countries.

When Habermas was asked to speak about Geert Wilders' phantom film, he said one should first distinguish between the constitutional or legal issues related to this announcement, on the one hand, and political issues, on the other. "There is nobody in this room who would disagree with the constitutional principle of freedom of press as one of our most important basic rights, which often even trumps other basic rights."

Habermas believes Wilders announced the film in such a way that it is obvious he intends to arouse or polarise public opinion. "It's hard to think this effect is not intended." As for whether there were competing rights that might be violated by the film, Habermas points out such cases often involve libel, harm to third persons, or disruption of public order. "I'm not a lawyer, and this has to be proved purely on legal terms and we hope that both the minister and courts, if it comes to that, handle it correctly."

"My first and only question would be why would you, Mr Wilders, think it is necessary to continue the provocations you had in this country with very severe consequences? This is a totally political question. What is the reason? In 1968 we had students, my own students too, who were systematically violating certain rules for the purpose of provocation."

Citing the older generation's silence about Germany's crimes against humanity at the time and the tabloid press reaction to the shooting death of a student protester, Habermas says: "I think at that time, most of the students had very good reasons to provoke".

Addressing Wilders, Habermas says: "I would ask him for his reasons to make the provocation, presupposing that there is no need for any provocation, if there is no issue which has only now to be brought to public attention. Provocation can be justified in terms of the situation where the issue at stake can only get necessary public attention through this provocation."

(From article by Marijke van der Meer, Radio Nederlands)
This info was kindly provided by Thomas Gregersen

A new book by Jürgen Habermas

Ach Europa. Kleine politische Schriften XI
(Suhrkamp Verlag, 2008). 191 pages (Euro 9.-)

Vorwort des Autors

(I) Porträts

1. Der Hermann Heller der frühen Bundesrepublik Wolfgang Abendroth zum 100. Geburtstag

2. Richard Rorty und das Entzücken am Schock der Deflationierung – »... and to define America, her athletic democracy«; Im Andenken an Richard Rorty

3. Wie die ethische Frage zu beantworten ist; Derrida und die Religion

4. Derridas klärende Wirkung; Ein letzter Gruß

5. Ronald Dworkin; Ein Solitär im Kreise der Rechtsgelehrten

(II) Ach, Europa

6. Ein avantgardistischer Spürsinn für Relevanzen; Die Rolle des Intellektuellen und die Sache Europas

7. Europa und seine Immigranten

8. Europapolitik in der Sackgasse; Plädoyer für eine Politik der abgestuften Integration

(III) Zur Vernunft der Öffentlichkeit

9. Medie, Märkte und Konsumenten; Die seriöse Presse als Rückgrat der politischen Öffentlichkeit

10. Hat die Demokratie noch eine epistemische Dimension? Empirische Forschung und normative Theorie

Preface by Jürgen Habermas:

”Von Enzensbergers Lobgesang auf die europäische Vielfalt – Ach Europa! – bleibt heute nur noch der seufzende Ton. Eine Diskussion mit Außenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier gab erneut Anlass, über die Zukunft Europas nachzudenken und der Selbsttäuschung entgegenzutreten, als sei nach dem Gipfel von Lissabon der drohende Rückfall der Europäischen Union in die nur zu bekannten Machtspiele der nationalen Regierungen gebannt. Diese haben bisher den Kurs der europäischen Einigung bestimmt, scheinen aber nun mit ihrem Latein am Ende zu sein. Vielleicht sollten sie das weitere Schicksal Europas in die Hände ihrer Bevölkerungen legen. Im übrigen plädiere ich für eine »bipolare« Gemeinsamkeit des Westens.

Das Hauptthema ergänze ich auf der einen Seite um gelegentlich entstandene »philosophisch-politische Profile«, auf der anderen Seite um zwei Texte zur Rolle der politischen Öffentlichkeit. Insbesondere der letzte Beitrag liegt mir am Herzen. Darin geht es um den strukturierenden Einfluss, den eine normative Theorie der Öffentlichkeit auf die Anlage empirischer Forschungen haben kann. Fachzeitschriften tun sich mit diesem Thema schwer, weil sich Sozialwissenschaften und Philosophie inzwischen weiter voneinander entfernt haben, als es sich die Väter der kritischen Theorie hätten vorstellen können.”

This info was kindly provided by Thomas Gregersen

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Habermas and civil religion

“Christianity has functioned for the normative self-understanding of modernity as more than a mere precursor or a catalyst. Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in the light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk.”

[Jürgen Habermas, “Conversation About God and the World,” Time of Transitions, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006,): pgs. 150-151.]

from here

Class, nation and covenant

"Against this background, the outrage of the right at the prophetic denunciations of the Reverend Wright suddenly appears in a new light. Recall the words that have received the most airtime and sparked the great outrage: “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes three-strike laws and wants them to sing God Bless America. No! No No! God damn America … for killing innocent people. God damn America for threatening citizens as less than humans. God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and supreme.” As many of his defenders have noted, this and other statements by Wright statements are wholly within the covenant logic. When the Chosen people violate the covenant, God will punish them. But right-wing patriotism, in its pseudo-Christian and secular variants, does not allow for this possibility. It assumes that America has been chosen once and for all, and that it has a monopoly on God’s blessings.

As E.J. Dionne Jr. notes in a recent editorial in the Washington Post, the rhetoric of Martin Luther King - one of America’s secular saints and its only black one - could be every bit as prophetic in tone as Wright’s. Consider what “King said about the Vietnam War at his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1968: ‘God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war. … And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation. But God has a way of even putting nations in their place.’ King then predicted this response from the Almighty: ‘And if you don’t stop your reckless course, I’ll rise up and break the backbone of your power.’”

This is not to imply that all conservative Christians who have allied themselves with the pseudo-Christians and Captain Americas have completely sloughed off the two-way logic of the covenant. None other than Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (in)famously claimed that 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishment for Roe v. Wade. However, those who still see the covenant as a two-way transaction, implying both blessings and sufferings, operate with a minimalistic and individualistic version of Christian ethics focused solely on pelvic issues and bereft of prophetic calls for social justice.

The comparison with Falwell and Robertson also reveals another important aspect of crusader nationalism: its Faustian pact with racial divisiveness. Why do conservatives not hold the Falwells and Robertsons and Dobsons of the world to the same standard? Clearly, there is a double standard at work here. It is acceptable for a white preacher to speak in the angry voice of a prophet; it is not acceptable for black preacher to do so. Indeed, this is now the central tactic in the campaign of personal destruction being waged against Barack Obama by the right-wing noise machine: to make him into an “angry, black man.” It’s been road-tested by Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. It will be part of the endless loop of the fall campaign."

full here

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Can "speech acts" be used strategically?

"The key idea in Habrmas’s theory of communicative action is that speech acts cannot be planned or executed with entirely strategic intent."

(Communicative Action and Rational Choice, p. 4)

" . . . recent game-theoretic research lends considerable support to Habermas's claim that speech acts cannot be instrumentally rational." (ibid. p. 5).

I don't think Habermas has ever claimed that "speech acts" cannot be used strategically! In fact the possibility that speech acts can be used strategically is the very basis of Habermas' distinction between communicative action and strategic actions! Thus we can define strategic action as a type of action coordination where the primary mode of action coordination is non linguistic and where “the speech acts for their parts are subordinated to the exertion of influence or actors who affect one another purposively that the specifically linguistic binding and bonding energies (Bunungsenergien) remain unused.” (OPC: 220-221). In communicative action “the illocutionary forces of speech acts assume an action coordinating role” while in strategic action the illocutionary force of speech acts is not the primary medium of action coordination. The speech acts are subordinated to the intentions and plans of actors and are used only instrumentally or strategically.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

a cottage industry of Habermasians . . .

. . . circuitous mapping of Habermas’s thoughts has created a cottage industry of Habermasians who attempt to make sense out of each new book he writes . . . .

(Communicative action and the radical constitution: the Habermasian challenge
to Hayek, Mises and their descendents, p. 258).

Constellations: An International Journal Of Critical And Democratic Ttheory

Volume 15 Issue 1 Page 10-32, March 2008 is a free content issue. Enjoy!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Second Call for Papers for the 4th Annual Joint Conference of the Society for European Philosophy and the Forum for European Philosophy

The SEP-FEP Joint Conference offers faculty and graduate students the opportunity to present papers in any area of European Philosophy. Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be submitted by 30th May 2008 to Juliana Cardinale, either in electronic form to J.Cardinale@lse.ac.uk or by mail to:
Forum for European Philosophy
Room J5, European Institute
Cowdray House, Portugal Street
London School of Economics, London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

In addition to proposals for individual papers (as above) proposals for themed panels of (up to) four speakers on any area of European Philosophy are also invited. If you would like to organise a themed panel please contact Brian O’Connor before 18th April, 2008 at brian.oconnor@ucd.ie.

The conference keynote speakers are:
Françoise Dastur (Nice)
Alessandro Ferrara (Rome)
Michael Rosen (Harvard).

There are also two open plenary sessions led by Maeve Cooke (UCD) (The Possibilities of Critical Theory) and Dermot Moran (UCD) (The Future of Phenomenology)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Neither Hayek nor Habermas

Cass R. Sunstein University of Chicago Law School, Chicago, USA

Abstract The rise of the blogosphere raises important questions about the elicitation and aggregation of information, and about democracy itself. Do blogs allow people to check information and correct errors? Can we understand the blogosphere as operating as a kind of marketplace for information along Hayekian terms? Or is it a vast public meeting of the kind that Jurgen Habermas describes? In this article, I argue that the blogosphere cannot be understood as a Hayekian means for gathering dispersed knowledge because it lacks any equivalent of the price system. I also argue that forces of polarization characterize the blogosphere as they do other social interactions, making it an unlikely venue for Habermasian deliberation, and perhaps leading to the creation of information cocoons. I conclude by briefly canvassing partial responses to the problem of polarization.

Keywords Hayek - Blogs - Information aggregation - Condorcet Jury Theorem

This essay draws on some discussion by Sunstein (2006). I am very grateful to Dan Drezner and Henry Farrell for suggestions and help.

from here

Communicative action and the radical constitution: the Habermasian challenge to Hayek, Mises and their descendents

David L. Prychitko and Virgil Henry Storr*
* Northern Michigan University and George Mason University, respectively

Address for correspondence: Dr Virgil Henry Storr, 1714 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington DC 20005; email: vstorr@tsd.biz

This paper evaluates Jurgen Habermas's typology of action and his recent call for a radically democratic rule of law. The theory of action that Habermas develops, however, differs significantly from the science of action (praxeology) of the Austrian school. As such, it represents a methodological challenge to Austrian praxeology. Additionally, Habermas's criticism of the welfare state is shown to be somewhat consistent with Hayek's criticisms, but his alternative to the welfare state challenges the political vision of many Austrian economists. This paper attempts to demonstrate that both Habermas's and the Austrian school's efforts suffer from similar weaknesses and epistemological pretences.

Key Words: Austrian economics • Habermas • Praxeology • Rule of law • Welfare state

from here

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Obama a Habermasian or a Rawlsian?

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all . . . Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

from here

The Israeli “Communicative Action”

"In most of the articles on the conflict two sides battle it out: the Israel Defence Forces, on the one hand, and the Palestinians, on the other. When a violent incident is reported, the IDF confirms or the army says but the Palestinians claim: ‘The Palestinians claimed that a baby was severely injured in IDF shootings.’ Is this a fib? ‘The Palestinians claim that Israeli settlers threatened them’: but who are the Palestinians? Did the entire Palestinian people, citizens of Israel, inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, people living in refugee camps in neighbouring Arab states and those living in the diaspora make the claim? Why is it that a serious article is reporting a claim made by the Palestinians? Why is there so rarely a name, a desk, an organisation or a source of this information? Could it be because that would make it seem more reliable?

When the Palestinians aren’t making claims, their viewpoint is simply not heard. Keshev, the Centre for the Protection of Democracy in Israel, studied the way Israel’s leading television channels and newspapers covered Palestinian casualties in a given month – December 2005. They found 48 items covering the deaths of 22 Palestinians. However, in only eight of those accounts was the IDF version followed by a Palestinian reaction; in the other 40 instances the event was reported only from the point of view of the Israeli military.

Another example: in June 2006, four days after the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped from the Israeli side of the Gazan security fence, Israel, according to the Israeli media, arrested some sixty members of Hamas, of whom 30 were elected members of parliament and eight ministers in the Palestinian government. In a well-planned operation Israel captured and jailed the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem, the ministers of finance, education, religious affairs, strategic affairs, domestic affairs, housing and prisons, as well as the mayors of Bethlehem, Jenin and Qalqilya, the head of the Palestinian parliament and one quarter of its members. That these officials were taken from their beds late at night and transferred to Israeli territory probably to serve (like Gilad Shalit) as future bargaining-chips did not make this operation a kidnapping. Israel never kidnaps: it arrests.

. . .

At a time when there were many Israeli raids on Gaza I asked my colleagues the following question: ‘If an armed Palestinian crosses the border, enters Israel, drives to Tel Aviv and shoots people in the streets, he will be the terrorist and we will be the victims, right? However, if the IDF crosses the border, drives miles into Gaza, and starts shooting their gunmen, who is the terrorist and who is the defender? How come the Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories can never be engaged in self-defence, while the Israeli army is always the defender?’ My friend Shay from the graphics department clarified matters for me: ‘If you go to the Gaza Strip and shoot people, you will be a terrorist. But when the army does it that is an operation to make Israel safer. It’s the implementation of a government decision!’ [bold added]

full here

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Empty formulas for change

“The broad renunciation of the power of politics to shape social relations, and the readiness to abandon normative points of view in favour of adaptations to supposedly unavoidable systematic imperatives, now dominate the political arena of the Western world. Clinton or Blair, relying on empty formulas such as “It’s time for a change,” pitch themselves as efficient managers for the reorganization of failing business ventures. The truly programmatic that has been whittled down to “political change” corresponds, on the side of voters, either to informed abstinence or the thirst for “political charisma,” . . .” (PNC: 79-80).

I wonder how much of this applies to Barack Obama !!
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