Guide Jürgen Habermas - Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns (German Edition)

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The compositionality requirement is important if one wants to explain grammatical competence. But early on Habermas b expressed a greater interest in explaining communicative, rather than grammatical, competence: the ability of speakers to use grammatically well-formed sentences in social contexts. Although Habermas often presents his pragmatics as a further development in analytic theories of meaning, his analysis focuses primarily on the context-sensitive acceptability of speech acts: acceptability conditions as a function of formal features that distinguish different speech situations.

The significance of this conception of reaching understanding and of rationally motivated agreement can also be seen by contrasting this account with other conceptions of understanding and interpretation, such as Gadamer's hermeneutics. In general, Habermas agrees with hermeneutics that the whole domain of the social sciences is accessible only through interpretation, precisely because processes of reaching understanding already at work in the social sciences have antecedently constituted them ibid.

But he draws a distinctive conclusion.

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Although social scientists are not actors, they must employ their own pretheoretical knowledge to gain interpretive access through communicative experience. There is then no disjunction between the attitude of the critic and the interpreter as reflective participants. Social scientists may withhold judgments, but only at the cost of impoverishing their interpretation and putting out of play their pretheoretical, practical knowledge that they have in common with others who are able to reach understanding.


Thus, various forms of rationality become essential to the social sciences, because of the nature of the social domain. Objecting to Habermas's line of argument, McCarthy and others have argued that it is not a necessary condition that interpreters take a position in order to understand reasons, even if we have to rely on our own competence to judge the validity and soundness of reasons and to identify them as reasons at all.

Nonetheless, Habermas uses this conception in his social theory of modernity to show the ways in which modern culture has unleashed communicative rationality from its previous cultural and ideological constraints. In modern societies, social norms are no longer presumed to be valid but rather are subjected to critical reflection, as for example when the ethical life of a specific culture is criticized from the standpoint of justice. The rationalization of the lifeworld in Western modernity went hand-in-hand with the growth of systemic mechanisms of coordination already mentioned above, in which the demands on fully communicative consensus are relaxed.

If large and complex modern societies can no longer be integrated solely on the basis of shared cultural values and norms, new nonintentional mechanisms of coordination must emerge, which take the form of nonlinguistic media of money and power. For example, markets coordinate the collective production and distribution of goods nonintentionally, even if they are grounded in cultural and political institutions such as firms and states. This aspect of TCA has less of an impact on Habermas's current work, which returns to the theme of improving democratic practice as a means of counteracting juridification and colonization.

Democratic institutions, if properly designed and robustly executed, are supposed to ensure that the law does not take this pathological form but is subject to the deliberation of citizens, who thus author the laws to which they are subject see sec. After TCA , then, Habermas begins to see law not as part of the problem, but as part of the solution, once he offers a more complete discourse-theoretical account of law and democracy.

Nonetheless the theory of modernity still remains in his continued use of systems theory and its understanding of nonintentional integration. That is, citizens do not control social processes; they exercise influence through particular institutionalized mechanisms and channels of communication. However successful democracy is in creating legitimacy, it cannot gain full control over large-scale complex societies, nor even of the necessary conditions for its own realization.

The Theory of Communicative Action - Wikipedia

In this sense, Habermas's emphasis on the limiting effect of complexity on democracy and his rejection of a fully democratic form of sociation continue the basic argument of the necessity of systems integration, even with its costs. Habermas's theory of communicative action rests on the idea that social order ultimately depends on the capacity of actors to recognize the intersubjective validity of the different claims on which social cooperation depends.

In conceiving cooperation in relation to validity claims, Habermas highlights its rational and cognitive character: to recognize the validity of such claims is to presume that good reasons could be given to justify them in the face of criticism. As mentioned above, Habermas proposes a multi-dimensional conception of reason that expresses itself in different forms of cognitive validity: not only in truth claims about the empirical world, but also in rightness claims about the kind of treatment we owe each other as persons, authenticity claims about the good life, technical-pragmatic claims about the means suitable to different goals, and so on.

As he acknowledges, the surface grammar of speech acts does not suffice to establish this range of validity types.

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Thus, a type of validity claim counts as distinct from other types only if one can establish that its discursive justification involves features that distinguish it from other types of justification. Whether or not his pragmatic theory of meaning succeeds, the discursive analysis of validity illuminates important differences in the argumentative demands that come with different types of justifiable claims.

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  8. To see how Habermas identifies these different features, it is first necessary to understand the general structures of argumentation. The pragmatic analysis of argumentation in general. Habermas's discourse theory assumes that the specific type of validity claim one aims to justify—the cognitive goal or topic of argumentation—determines the specific argumentative practices appropriate for such justification.

    Discourse theory thus calls for a pragmatic analysis of argumentation as a social practice. Such analysis aims to reconstruct the normative presuppositions that structure the discourse of competent arguers. To get at these presuppositions, one cannot simply describe argumentation as it empirically occurs; as we already saw in TCA , one must adopt the performative attitude of a participant and articulate the shared, though often tacit, ideals and rules that provide the basis for regarding some arguments as better than others.

    Following contemporary argumentation theorists, Habermas assumes one cannot fully articulate these normative presuppositions solely in terms of the logical properties of arguments. Rather, he distinguishes three aspects of argument-making practices: argument as product, as procedure, and as process, which he loosely aligns with the traditional perspectives on argument evaluation of logic, dialectic, and rhetoric. At the logical level, participants are concerned with arguments as products, that is, sets of reasons that support conclusions.

    Following work by Stephen Toulmin and other informal logicians, Habermas regards most if not all argumentation as ultimately resting on ampliative arguments whose conclusions do not follow with deductive certainty but only as more or less plausible or probable. The logical strength of such arguments depends on how well one has taken into account all the relevant information and possible objections. Given the ampliative character of most arguments, logical assessment presupposes the dialectical adequacy of argumentative procedures. However, robust critical testing of competing arguments depends in turn on the rhetorical quality of the persuasive process.

    That way of speaking now strikes him as overly reified, suggesting an ideal condition that real discourses must measure up to, or at least approximately satisfy—motifs that Habermas himself employed until rather recently cf. Habermas b, 89 identifies four such presuppositions as the most important: i no one capable of making a relevant contribution has been excluded, ii participants have equal voice, iii they are internally free to speak their honest opinion without deception or self-deception, and iv there are no sources of coercion built into the process and procedures of discourse.

    Diskursethik nach Habermas / von Philosoph Dr. Christian Weilmeier

    Such conditions, in effect, articulate what it would mean to assess all the relevant information and arguments for a given level of knowledge and inquiry as reasonably as possible, weighing arguments purely on the merits in a disinterested pursuit of truth. These conditions are counterfactual in the sense that actual discourses can rarely realize—and can never empirically certify—full inclusion, non-coercion, and equality. At the same time, these idealizing presuppositions have an operative effect on actual discourse: we may regard outcomes both consensual and non-consensual as reasonable only if our scrutiny of the process does not uncover obvious exclusions, suppression of arguments, manipulation, self-deception, and the like a, As an understanding of the rhetorical perspective, Habermas's highly idealized and formal model hardly does justice to the substantive richness of the rhetorical tradition.

    One can, however, supplement his model with a more substantive rhetoric that draws on Aristotle's account of ethos and pathos Rehg In that case, the rhetorical perspective is concerned with designing arguments for their ability to place the particular audience in the proper social-psychological space for making a responsible collective judgment. The same probably holds for dialectical procedures.

    Although the dialectical perspective draws on the tradition of public debate, dialectical norms, when understood as pragmatic presuppositions, are not identical with institutionalized rules of debate a, A neutral observer can judge whether interlocutors have externally complied with institutional procedures, whereas engaged participants must judge how well they have satisfied the dialectical presupposition of severe critical testing.

    The differentiation of argumentative discourses. If the different validity claims require different types of argumentation, then the relevant differences must emerge through a closer analysis of the ways the above aspects of argumentative practice adjust to different sorts of content, that is, the different validity claims at issue cf. To be sure, Habermas does not regard every validity claim as open to discourse proper. These are claims an actor makes about his or her interior subjectivity: feelings, moods, desires, beliefs, and the like. Such claims are open to rational assessment, not in discourse but by comparison with the actor's behavior: for example, if a son claims to care deeply about his parents but never pays them any attention, we would have grounds for doubting the sincerity of his claim.

    Note that such insincerity might involve self-deception rather than deliberate lying. Although the types of reasons differed—moral discourse rested primarily on need interpretations, empirical-theoretical discourse on empirical inductions—in both cases, the relevant reasons should, in principle, be acceptable to any reasonable agent. In the case of empirical truth claims, this process-level presupposition of consensus rests on the idea that the objective world is the same for all; in the case of moral rightness, it rests on the idea that valid moral rules and principles hold for all persons.

    In both cases, the appropriate audience for the testing of claims is universal, and in making a truth or rightness claim one counterfactually presupposes that a universal consensus would result, were the participants able to pursue a sufficiently inclusive and reasonable discourse for a sufficient length of time. Although his early statements are somewhat unclear, on one reading Habermas defined not only moral rightness but also empirical truth in terms of such ideal consensus similar to C. He now further distinguishes truth from moral rightness by defining the latter, but not the former, in terms of idealized consensus. More on that below. Authenticity claims, unlike truth and rightness claims, do not come with such a strong consensual expectation.

    Consequently, the kind of reasons that constitute cogent arguments in ethical discourse depend on the life histories, traditions, and particular values of those whose good is at issue. This reference to individual- and group-related particularities means that one should not expect those reasons to win universal consensus , 1—18; b, — However, Habermas b seems to recognize one class of ethical questions that do admit of universal consensus.

    Choices of technologies that bear on the future of human nature, such as genetic enhancement engineering, pose species-wide ethical issues. Such issues concern not merely our self-understanding as members of this or that particular culture or tradition, but how we should understand our basic human dignity. In his view, the core of human dignity, and thus the basis for a human-species ethics, lies in the capacity of human beings for autonomous self-determination.

    In sum, Habermas's discourse theory aligns different types of validity claim with different types of justificatory discourse. At the logical level, cogent arguments must employ somewhat different sorts of reasons to justify different types of claims. Although some sorts of reasons might enter into each type of discourse e. Thus, claims about what human beings need are relevant reasons in moral arguments about welfare obligations, but not for supporting the truth claim that quarks exist.

    At the dialectical level, one must meet different burdens of proof by answering different types of challenges.

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    For example, in defending the ethical authenticity of Tom's pursuit of a career in medicine, one need not show that medicine is a career everyone must follow, but only that such a career makes sense, given Tom's personal background, talents, and desires. One can also examine Tom's career choice from a moral perspective, but in that case one need only show that anyone in his circumstances is morally permitted to pursue medicine. At the rhetorical level, finally, the scope and depth of agreement differs according to the type of claim.

    Moral rightness claims and empirical truth claims are justified by reasons that should be acceptable to a universal audience, whereas ethical claims are addressed to those who share a particular history and tradition of values.