Clarifying the Foucault—Habermas debate
Morality, ethics, and `normative foundations'
Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada
Habermas charges that Foucault's work `cannot account for its normative foundations'. Responses to Habermas have consisted mostly of, on one hand, attempts to identify foundational normative assumptions implicit in Foucault's work, and, on the other hand, attempts to show that Foucault's work discredits the very idea of normative foundations. These attempts have suffered from a lack of clarity about Habermas' notion of normative foundations. In this article I clarify the terms of the debate by considering Habermas' critique of Foucault in light of his moral philosophy. I examine three representative responses to Habermas on Foucault's behalf, which attempt to identify normative foundations in Foucault's work, and I show why none of them meets Habermas' requirements. Finally, I argue that while Foucault's political judgments cannot have normative foundations, Foucault does adhere to the principles of Habermas' discourse ethics, and his doing so does not conflict with his genealogical approach.
Key Words: cryptonormativity • discourse ethics • Michel Foucault • foundations • Jürgen Habermas • truth