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Ideas of Jürgen Habermas, by Text

[German, b.1929, Born in Dusseldorf. Professor at Frankfurt, and Starnberg.]

1981 The Theory of Communicative Action
p.28 We can do social philosophy by studying coordinated action through language use
     Full Idea: Habermas claims to have embarked upon a new way of doing social philosophy, one that begins from an analysis of language use and that locates the rational basis of the coordination of action in speech.
     From: report of Jürgen Habermas (The Theory of Communicative Action [1981]) by James Gordon Finlayson - Habermas Ch.3:28
p.38 Meaning is not fixed by a relation to the external world, but a relation to other speakers
     Full Idea: On Habermas's view, meanings are not determined by the speaker's relation to the external world, but by his relation to his interlocutors; meaning is essentially intersubjective.
     From: report of Jürgen Habermas (The Theory of Communicative Action [1981]) by James Gordon Finlayson - Habermas Ch.3:38
     A reaction: This view is not the same as Grice's, but it is clearly much closer to Grice than to (say) the Frege/Davidson emphasis on truth-conditions. I'm not sure if I would know how to begin arbitrating between the two views!
p.60 People endorse equality, universality and inclusiveness, just by their communicative practices
     Full Idea: The ideal of equality, universality, and inclusiveness are inscribed in the communicative practices of the lifeworld, and agents, merely by virtue of communicating, conform to them.
     From: report of Jürgen Habermas (The Theory of Communicative Action [1981]) by James Gordon Finlayson - Habermas Ch.4:60
     A reaction: This summary of Habermas's social views strikes me as thoroughly Kantian. It is something like the ideals of the Kingdom of Ends, necessarily implemented in a liberal society. Habermas emphasises the social, where Kant starts from the liberal.
p.65 The aim of 'post-metaphysical' philosophy is to interpret the sciences
     Full Idea: For Habermas, the task of what he calls 'post-metaphysical' philosophy is to be a stand-in and interpreter for the specialized sciences.
     From: report of Jürgen Habermas (The Theory of Communicative Action [1981]) by James Gordon Finlayson - Habermas Ch.5:65
p.78 Rather than instrumental reason, Habermas emphasises its communicative role
     Full Idea: Instead of Enlightenment instrumental rationality (criticised by Adorno and Horkheimer), Habermas emphasizes 'communicative rationality', which makes critical discussion and mutual understanding possible.
     From: report of Jürgen Habermas (The Theory of Communicative Action [1981]) by Johanna Oksala - Political Philosophy: all that matters Ch.6
     A reaction: There was a good reason not to smoke cigarettes, before we found out what it is. In one sense, reasons are in the world. This is interesting, but I feel analytic vertigo, as the lovely concept of 'rationality' becomes blurred and diffused.
p.258 What is considered a priori changes as language changes
     Full Idea: Habermas claims that what is regarded as a priori changes with history. This is because the linguistic structures on which judgements depend are themselves part of history, not prior to it.
     From: report of Jürgen Habermas (The Theory of Communicative Action [1981]) by Andrew Bowie - Introduction to German Philosophy Conc 'Habermas'
     A reaction: This is an interesting style of argument generally only found in continental philosophers, because they see the problem as historical rather than timeless. Compare Idea 20595, which sees analyticity historically.
p.263 Habermas seems to make philosophy more democratic
     Full Idea: Habermas is concerned to avoid the traumas of modern German history by making democracy an integral part of philosophy.
     From: report of Jürgen Habermas (The Theory of Communicative Action [1981]) by Andrew Bowie - Introduction to German Philosophy Conc 'Habermas'
     A reaction: Hence Habermas's emphasis on communication as central to language, which is central to philosophy. Modern philosophy departments are amazingly hierarchical.
I:297 p.37 To understand a statement is to know what would make it acceptable
     Full Idea: We understand the meaning of a speech act when we know what would make it acceptable.
     From: Jürgen Habermas (The Theory of Communicative Action [1981], I:297), quoted by James Gordon Finlayson - Habermas Ch.3:37
     A reaction: Finlayson glosses this as requiring the reasons which would justify the speech act.
1990 Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action
p.102 Moral right is linked to validity and truth, so morality is a matter of knowledge, not an expression of values
     Full Idea: According to discourse ethics moral rightness is internally linked to validity and is analogous to truth: ..thus Habermas takes himself to have shown that morality is a matter of knowledge, rather than the expression of contingently held values.
     From: report of Jürgen Habermas (Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action [1990]) by James Gordon Finlayson - Habermas Ch.7:102
     A reaction: I can immediately hear Nietzsche asking why you place such a high value on knowledge. Personally I don't assume that values must be 'contingent'. The Aristotelian tradition sees necessary values in facts about human nature.
p.67 p.69 Move from individual willing of a general law, to willing norms agreed with other people
     Full Idea: The emphasis shifts from what each can will without contradiction to be a general law, to what all can will in agreement to be a universal norm.
     From: Jürgen Habermas (Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action [1990], p.67), quoted by James Gordon Finlayson - Habermas Ch.5:69
     A reaction: This strikes me as being very close to Scanlon's contractualism. As expressed here, it sounds more vulnerable than Kant's full universality to the problem of Nazis agreeing odious universal norms. Habermas calls it 'discourse ethics'.
1996 Between Facts and Norms
p.107 p.79 Actions norms are only valid if everyone possibly affected is involved in the discourse
     Full Idea: Only those action norms are valid to which all possibly affected persons could agree as participants in rational discourse.
     From: Jürgen Habermas (Between Facts and Norms [1996], p.107), quoted by James Gordon Finlayson - Habermas Ch.6:79
     A reaction: This remark stands somewhere between Kant and Rawls. The Holocaust stands behind Habermas's philosophy. The thought, I suppose, is that it would never have happened if everybody had been fully involved in the original discourse about it.
1998 On the Pragmatics of Communications
p.228 p.34 To understand language is to know how to use it to reach shared understandings
     Full Idea: One simply would not know what it is to understand the meaning of a linguistic expression if one did not know how one could make use of it in order to reach understanding with someone about something.
     From: Jürgen Habermas (On the Pragmatics of Communications [1998], p.228), quoted by James Gordon Finlayson - Habermas Ch.3:34
     A reaction: Not offered as a 'theory of meaning', and certainly plausible. Compare a hammer, though: a proper understanding is that it is used to exert a sharp force, but you can take in its structure and nature before you spot its usage.