Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Communicative Reason and Intercultural Understanding

Communicative Reason and Intercultural Understanding
A Critical Discussion of Habermas
Mihaela Czobor-Lupp

Georgetown University,

Although Habermas sees intercultural understanding as a political task, his model of communicative rationality cannot satisfactorily explain how this could happen. One reason is the definition of the aesthetic, form-giving, moment of imagination, which reflects deeper epistemological and linguistic assumptions of discourse ethics. Despite sporadic attempts to recognize the role of rhetoric and poetry as an indispensable part of the communicative praxis, at the end of the day, Habermas sees language as fundamentally geared toward transparency and clarity, and not as endowed with poetic power and polyphonic creativity. My article aims to further develop, with the help of Vico and Bakhtin, the incipient thread in Habermas's discourse ethics that recognizes the importance of linguistic creativity and of imagination in communicative practice. This would help one to argue that, even when rational consensus and agreement cannot be achieved, dialogue is still not abandoned. This is the case because, through a larger definition of the dialogical, which adds to the discursive aspect, an aesthetic, rhetorical, and metaphorical dimension, it is possible to say that, even when conflicting, different voices and languages are still creatively and imaginatively interilluminating and hybridizing each other. Thus, they still transform each other, creating, at the same time, a prediscursive commonality, that can function as a necessary prerequisite for intercultural understanding.

Key Words: aesthetics • Bakhtin • discourse ethics • Habermas • imagination • intercultural understanding • Vico


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