Habermas: Introduction and Analysis

Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The work of Jürgen Habermas (b. 1929) has been highly influential both in philosophy and across many disciplines in the social sciences. David Ingram here provides an introduction to Habermas's complex thought as it has evolved from 1953 to the present, spanning philosophy, religion, political science, social science, and law. One of today's most intriguing thinkers, Habermas is also notably prolific; for students and other readers who wish to navigate the philosopher's more than thirty books, the lucid and precise Habermas: Introduction and Analysis is a welcome starting point rich in insights.

    Ingram's book addresses the entire range of Habermas's social theory, including his most recent and widely discussed contributions to religion, freedom and determinism, global democracy, and the consolidation of the European Union. Recognizing Habermas's position as a highly public intellectual, Ingram discusses how Habermas applies his own theory to pressing problems such as abortion, terrorism, genetic engineering, immigration, multiculturalism, separation of religion and state, technology and mass media, feminism, and human rights. He also presents a detailed critical analysis of Habermas's key claims and arguments.

    Separate appendixes introduce and clarify such important concepts as causal, teleological, and narrative paradigms of explanation in action theory; contextualism versus rationalism in social scientific methods of interpretation; systems theory and functionalist explanation in social science; and decision and collective choice theory.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5999-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations for Titles of Works by Habermas
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. 1 A Public Intellectual Committed to Reason
    (pp. 1-32)

    Philosophers are often dismissed for having their heads in the clouds—in a word, for being irrelevant to the ways of the world. But history tells a different story. Ideas can have world-transforming consequences. This was true of the eighteenth-century period known as the Enlightenment—a period that witnessed the American and French revolutions. And it is true today. The philosopher whose ideas are examined in this book—whose entire life has been devoted to showing how freedom, equality, and rational enlightenment are embedded in our everyday speech—has not only revolutionized the academy. He has revolutionized the politics of...

  7. 2 Habermas’s Defense of Psychoanalytic Social Science
    (pp. 33-66)

    Habermas’s first effort at developing a system of philosophy was motivated by the problems bequeathed to him by modern philosophy. These problems concern the capacity of reason to justify our knowledge claims. On one side, we find rationalists such as Descartes claiming that pure reason can justify grandiose metaphysical claims in a manner that is beyond dispute. On the other side, we find empiricists such as Hume insisting that reason can provide no certainty for even our most mundane beliefs. We thus seem torn between two unacceptable alternatives: an uncritical use of reason (dogmatism) versus an excessively critical rejection of...

  8. 3 The Linguistic Turn
    (pp. 67-94)

    In the 1960s Habermas wanted to show that psychoanalysis provided the best scientific method for understanding and explaining social action. Demonstrating this, he believed, would enable him to bridge the divide separating theory and practice, thereby defending critical theory against objections posed by positivists. By the mid-1970s, however, he came to believe that the direct connection between theory and practice he had defended in KHI was mistaken. As transcendental theory, KHI grounds but does not guide critical practice.

    But Habermas also concluded that KHI was mistaken in another sense as well, namely in presuming that interest-guided action provided a sufficient...

  9. 4 Knowledge and Truth Revisited
    (pp. 95-114)

    Habermas’s philosophy of language raises questions about the extent to which our meaningful representations of the world can be shared across specific contexts of communication and the cultural lifeworlds that ground them. Whether these representations can be shared and communicated is obviously crucial to the possibility of knowledge. Habermas accepts the view, first advanced by Plato in his Theaetetus, that knowledge entails rationally justified true belief. According to this assumption, S knows p if and only if:

    1. S believes that p

    2. p is true

    3. S is justified in believing that p

    Statements 1. and 2. seem uncontroversial. Statement 3. has...

  10. 5 Discourse Ethics
    (pp. 115-152)

    Habermas’s theories about linguistic meaning, action, and knowledge have as one of their aims the defense of a paradigm of moral reasoning, discourse ethics (DE), that has both metaethical and normative aspects. The metaethical aspect reconstructs what we intuitively mean when using moral expressions such as “ought” and “right.” These expressions logically imply mutual respect between persons as free and equal agents. They also imply a standard of normative validity: only those moral norms are valid to which all persons could freely consent. The normative program tells us what we are obligated to do in order to reach agreement on...

  11. 6 Law and Democracy: Part I: The Foundational Rights
    (pp. 153-192)

    Habermas’s interest in law and politics is the single constant thread running throughout his career and predates his interest in knowledge and morality. His first book, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962), examined the emergence of an independent political space for critical public opinion formation during the eighteenth century and its subsequent decline with the rise of mass media and propaganda in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Although the basic contours of his later discourse theoretic understanding of the public sphere are already present in that work, they lack a rigorous and systematic formulation. His second major book...

  12. 7 Law and Democracy: Part II: Power and the Clash of Paradigms
    (pp. 193-220)

    In the last chapter I examined Habermas’s application of DE to law, with its distinctive linkage of legality and legitimacy. Here, institutionalized legal coercion is shown to depend on normatively regulated democratic consent and vice versa. Saying that the consent in question is normative means that it approximates deliberative ideals mandating free, equal, inclusive, and reciprocal participation. These ideals, in turn, are legally codified in the form of basic rights. In this respect, basic rights and democracy are complementary rather than opposed, so that neither constrains the other in a way that would violate citizens’ autonomy.

    Whether this argument is...

  13. 8 Law and Democracy: Part III: Applying the Proceduralist Paradigm
    (pp. 221-252)

    We have examined the proceduralist paradigm in the abstract, but how might it be applied in the concrete? Habermas shows us how in a number of applications revolving around gender, multiculturalism, immigration, and separation of church and state. Our brief survey of these applications will provide critical insight into the capacity of the proceduralist paradigm to guide policymaking.

    In his first major work, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962), Habermas argued that the distinction between private and public life underpinning liberal society played a crucial role in maintaining the vitality of democracy. The middle-class family in the eighteenth...

  14. 9 Law and Democracy: Part IV: Social Complexity and a Critical Assessment
    (pp. 253-266)

    Our examination of the discourse theory of law and democracy has focused on its normative philosophical implications. Yet the theory already incorporates sociology from the inside in its consideration of facts about modern legal systems. The norms underwriting discourse ethics must be modified when applied to social problem solving; they must be linked to positive law and the efficient administration of justice in such a way that administrative power now becomes a factor that must be legitimated and constitutionally limited.

    Administrative power is legitimated only when it is linked to communicative power. But how do we know that the actual...

  15. 10 Crisis and Pathology: The Future of Democracy in a Global Age
    (pp. 267-306)

    The preceding chapters have been devoted to examining the normative (philosophical) foundation of Habermas’s theory of law and democracy. This foundation and the proceduralist paradigm of law that follows from it provide a critical perspective from which to evaluate a variety of public policy issues that directly bear on social justice (equal treatment). However, this normative program represents only one half of Habermas’s critical social theory. The other half, which we shall now explore, addresses a much more difficult and complex issue: the tension between capitalism and democracy. The problems that revolve around this tension are at best only indirectly...

  16. 11 Postsecular Postscript: Modernity and Its Discontents
    (pp. 307-328)

    The last two chapters have uncovered a profound tension in Habermas’s theory of democracy: the ideal principles of freedom, equality, solidarity, and inclusion underwriting democracy are effectively realized only in modern institutions that emerge in response to the growing complexity of society. “Modern” is the adjective sociologists apply to the ensemble of economic, legal, political, and sociocultural structures that designate the passing of so-called traditional societies, or societies whose members chiefly relate to one another through customs and other shared understandings. Although philosophers and sociologists disagree about the specific limits and possibilities of this process¹—with some defending the Western...

  17. Appendix A: Explaining Action
    (pp. 329-330)
  18. Appendix B: Understanding Action
    (pp. 331-334)
  19. Appendix C: Habermas and Brandom
    (pp. 335-338)
  20. Appendix D: Developmental Psychology
    (pp. 339-340)
  21. Appendix E: Rational Choice Theory
    (pp. 341-344)
  22. Appendix F: Systems Theory
    (pp. 345-350)
  23. Index
    (pp. 351-360)