Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The practices of theorists: Habermas and Foucault as public intellectuals

The practices of theorists: Habermas and Foucault as public intellectuals
Thomas Biebricher
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt,

The scholarly works of Jürgen Habermas and Michel Foucault have been subject to ongoing scrutiny for a number of decades. However, less attention has been given to their activities as public intellectuals and the relation between these and their philosophical and theoretical projects. Drawing on their own conceptualization of the role of the intellectual, the article aims to illuminate these issues by examining Habermas’ advocacy of a ‘Core Europe’ and his defense of NATO bombardments in Kosovo in 1999 as well as Foucault’s involvement with the Groupe d’Information des Prisons (GIP) and a wide variety of his interviews, op-ed articles, etc. In showing that the intellectuals’ views differ in important ways from those of the scholars but nevertheless inhabit a crucial position in the overall edifice of their oeuvres, the article concludes that the practices of theorists deserve more attention for a comprehensive and more nuanced account of their thought.
from here

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth

Habermas is mentioned in this piece in NYT, reporting cognitive research on reasoning and argumentation by two French researchers:

"Because “individual reasoning mechanisms work best when used to produce and evaluate arguments during a public deliberation,” Mr. Mercier and Ms. Landemore, as a practical matter, endorse the theory of deliberative democracy, an approach that arose in the 1980s, which envisions cooperative town-hall-style deliberations. Championed by the philosophers John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas, this sort of collaborative forum can overcome the tendency of groups to polarize at the extremes and deadlock, Ms. Landemore and Mr. Mercier said."
full here

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jürgen Habermas: Key Concepts

Barbara Fultner (ed.)
Jürgen Habermas: Key Concepts

Barbara Fultner (ed.), Jürgen Habermas: Key Concepts, Acumen Press, 2011, 264pp., $24.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781844652372.

Reviewed by David Ingram, Loyola University Chicago

"Anyone who has read Habermas knows how daunting his writing can be. Aside from the notorious density and abstractness of his prose, there is the challenge posed by the sheer scope of his undertaking. Quite simply, he stands out among our great contemporary thinkers for having dared to write a system of philosophy that crosses both disciplinary and thematic boundaries. In addition to this challenge, his thought has undergone several major permutations and countless minor ones over the past half century, as evidenced by the thirty some odd books and collections he has authored.

So we are truly fortunate that Acumen chose to include a book on Habermas in its exceptional Key Concepts series. These volumes are designed to provide synoptic introductions to important thinkers. This volume, edited by the well-known Habermas translator and scholar, Barbara Fultner, is a fine addition to the series. The essays included in this volume are written by eminent specialists in their respective fields, many of whom studied with Habermas. They are uniformly of high quality, and most are written at a level that upper-division undergraduates should find accessible. Furthermore, although most of them present a sympathetic case for Habermas's ambitious undertaking, they do not shy away from noting potential weaknesses. In short, this is about as complete an account of Habermas's social philosophy as one might possibly expect from a modestly sized volume.

The best way to appreciate the merits of the volume is to go directly to its Table of Contents. With the exception of Fultner's fine introduction, in which she deftly summarizes the evolution of Habermas's thought through four stages, and Max Pensky's nicely written essay situating Habermas's post-metaphysical enterprise within its historical and intellectual context, the volume's eleven chapters fall under three headings that are arranged in a kind of logical order. The first heading, on communicative rationality, addresses the basic methodological and conceptual foundation of Habermas's system. This section begins with Melissa Yates's reflections on Habermas's post-metaphysical style of philosophical thinking. Yates observes that, unlike many philosophers, Habermas refuses to assign his philosophy any privileged epistemic status above or prior to the empirical sciences. This serves as a corrective to those who mistakenly believe that Habermas is a transcendental philosopher in the Kantian vein. At the same time, Habermas reserves a unique role for philosophy as a kind of placeholder or guardian for the most basic normative presuppositions underlying distinctly modern forms of life, whose abstract, rule-like competencies it seeks to "reconstruct" with the aid of the sciences. This latter endeavor requires that philosophy mediate interpretatively the sciences and our common-sense understanding of what it is that we do whenever we act, communicate, argue with one another, reason morally, and the like. In this way, Habermas's notion of philosophy defends -- in a weakly transcendental way, with the aid of an equally weak naturalism -- claims about universal normative assumptions to which we must all appeal if we are to make sense of our speech action, argumentative practice, and modes of moral, ethical, and legal deliberation."
full here

Friday, February 25, 2011

Habermas: Introduction and Analysis

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
2011-02-37 : View this Review Online : View Other NDPR Reviews
David Ingram, Habermas: Introduction and Analysis, Cornell University Press, 2010, 360pp., $26.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780801476013.

Reviewed by Eduardo Mendieta, Stony Brook University

David Ingram is no neophyte to either Habermas or Frankfurt School Critical Theory. A very good argument can be made, in fact, that Ingram belongs to what has been called 'Third Generation Critical Theory.'[1] His 1987 book, Habermas and the Dialectic of Reason,[2] was indispensable for a new generation of scholars trying to make sense of Habermas' two-volume Theory of Communicative Action (1981) and his Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (1984). Over the last two decades, in addition to editing volumes of the key writings by Frankfurt School critical theorists, he has written a series of books on democracy, rights, globalization, and cosmopolitanism that have traced a distinctive contribution to a more radical understanding of deliberative democracy. Such a sustained engagement with Habermas' work, in particular, and Critical Theory, in general, explains why this book is not simply an introduction.

Read the review in full here

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Habermas, An Intellectual Biography

Jürgen Habermas ranks today as the single most important public intellectual in all of Continental Europe. But he is also a formidable philosopher whose major contributions to social and political theory, constitutional law, historical sociology, the history of philosophy, and the philosophy of language (to name only the fields he revisits with greatest frequency) are pitched at such air-gasping heights of difficulty and place such merciless demands upon the reader as to turn away all but the most fearless. This twofold persona—technical philosopher and public controversialist—does not strike most Europeans as unfamiliar. Sartre was such a creature, too. But in the Anglophone world it is a species that remains exotic. John Rawls, to whom Habermas is often compared, is justly remembered as the major Anglophone political philosopher of the twentieth century, but beyond the university walls his public presence was minimal. You have to go back to the early twentieth century—maybe to Bertrand Russell—to find a philosopher who achieved a similar prestige for both his technical philosophical achievements and his interventions on the public stage.
read full review here
link courtesy of Leiter Reprots
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