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Habermasian Reflections

I have set up this site, primarily, to pen down my passing reflections, thoughts and important quotes from Habermas, in the hope to get some stimulating reactions.

Updated: 2017-12-15T12:09:31.863+11:00


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

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

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

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

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

Remarks on the concept of critique in Habermasian thought


Remarks on the concept of critique in Habermasian thought

Author: Simon Susena

The main purpose of this paper is to examine the concept of critique in Habermasian thought. Given that the concept of critique is a central theoretical category in the work of the Frankfurt School, it comes as a surprise that little in the way of a systematic account which sheds light on the multifaceted meanings of the concept of critique in Habermas's oeuvre can be found in the literature. This paper aims to fill this gap by exploring the various meanings that Habermas attributes to the concept of critique in 10 key thematic areas of his writings: (1) the public sphere, (2) knowledge, (3) language, (4) morality, (5) ethics, (6) evolution, (7) legitimation, (8) democracy, (9) religion, and (10) modernity. On the basis of a detailed analysis of Habermas's multifaceted concerns with the nature and function of critique, the study seeks to demonstrate that the concept of critique can be considered not only as a constitutive element but also as a normative cornerstone of Habermasian thought. The paper draws to a close by reflecting on some of the limitations of Habermas's conception of critique, arguing that in order to be truly critical in the Habermasian sense we need to turn the subject of critique into an object of critique.
Keywords: communication; critical capacity; critical theory; critique; emancipation; Habermas; language; rationality; validity
View Full Text Article

Recent papers by Habermas


1) Jürgen Habermas (2010). Review Article: The 'Good Life'—A 'Detestable Phrase': The Significance of the Young Rawls's Religious Ethics for His Political Theory. European Journal of Philosophy 18 (3):443-454.

2)Jürgen Habermas (2010). The Concept of Human Dignity and the Realistic Utopia of Human Rights. Metaphilosophy 41 (4):464-480.
Abstract: Human rights developed in response to specific violations of human dignity, and can therefore be conceived as specifications of human dignity, their moral source. This internal relationship explains the moral content and moreover the distinguishing feature of human rights: they are designed for an effective implementation of the core moral values of an egalitarian universalism in terms of coercive law. This essay is an attempt to explain this moral-legal Janus face of human rights through the mediating role of the (...) concept of human dignity. This concept is due to a remarkable generalization of the particularistic meanings of those "dignities" that once were attached to specific honorific functions and memberships. In spite of its abstract meaning, "human dignity" still retains from its particularistic precursor concepts the connotation of depending on the social recognition of a status—in this case, the status of democratic citizenship. Only membership in a constitutional political community can protect, by granting equal rights, the equal human dignity of everybody
(from here)

3)Jürgen Habermas (2009). Life After Bankruptcy: An Interview. Constellations 16 (2):227-234.

Philosophical Foundations of Habermas’ Critique of Particularistic Liberalism



Jürgen Habermas has emerged as a sharp, and occasionally harsh, critic of the Bush administration’s policies since the Iraq war. Habermas has developed this critique in several of his short pieces and interviews, some of which are available in fine collections in both English and other languages. However, the occasional and journalistic character of Habermas’ political interventions often hide the theoretical basis of his critique. In this paper, I argue that Habermas’ critique of the Bush administration’s foreign policy emanates from, and is founded upon, his conception of modernity, and specifically his views about the relationship between “particularity” and “generality.” The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate how Habermas’ critique can actually be read as a critique of particularism, which Habermas sees operating behind American (and British) foreign policy, and which, in his view, compromises the key achievements of modernity (especially in its Kantian version.)

read full paper here (pdf)

On Habermas’s Critique of Husserl


Matheson Russell
Over four decades, Habermas has put to paper many critical remarks on Husserl’s work as occasion has demanded. These scattered critical engagements nonetheless do add up to a coherent (if contestable) position regarding the project of transcendental phenomenology. This essay provides a comprehensive reconstruction of the arguments Habermas makes and offers a critical assessment of them. With an eye in particular to the theme of intersubjectivity (a theme of fundamental interest to both thinkers), it is argued that Habermas’s arguments do indeed show up deficiencies in Husserlian phenomenology and yet that they do not succeed in proving that we must abandon the methods and tasks of phenomenological research. On the contrary, it is argued that phenomenological methods may well be needed in order to investigate certain philosophical questions that Habermas’s theory of communication has thus far only partially addressed.

An Awareness of What Is Missing


Jűrgen Habermas et al.
An Awareness of What Is Missing
Trans. Ciaran Cronin. Polity, Cambridge, 2010. 96pp., £12.99 pb
ISBN 9780745647210
Reviewed by Tom Angier
This slim volume is the outcome of a discussion held in 2007 between Jürgen Habermas and philosophers from the Jesuit School for Philosophy in Munich. Since Habermas’ contribution occupies a mere twenty-one pages, the book is effectively even slimmer than it appears. Indeed, anyone interested in Habermas’ views on the relation between faith and reason will find little here that goes beyond his much more substantial collection of essays, Between Naturalism and Religion (Polity 2008). Nonetheless, the present volume is worthwhile reading, and this for two main reasons. First, it was inspired in part by Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address in 2006, which, besides upsetting many people in the Muslim world, was itself an attempt to elaborate the relations between faith and reason. And second, it represents an attempt to engage a section of the academic world – viz. philosophers in Catholic universities – who rarely appear on the radar of philosophers in mainstream, de facto (if not de jure) secular institutions. So despite what I will argue are severe shortcomings, especially from a left-political perspective, this collection of brief exchanges is valuable, if only as a brave attempt to challenge the self-imposed constraints of current academia.
Full review here

Leadership and Leitkultur By JÜRGEN HABERMAS


SINCE the end of August Germany has been roiled by waves of political turmoil over integration, multiculturalism and the role of the “Leitkultur,” or guiding national culture. This discourse is in turn reinforcing trends toward increasing xenophobia among the broader population.

These trends have been apparent for many years in studies and survey data that show a quiet but growing hostility to immigrants. Yet it is as though they have only now found a voice: the usual stereotypes are being flushed out of the bars and onto the talk shows, and they are echoed by mainstream politicians who want to capture potential voters who are otherwise drifting off toward the right. Two events have given rise to a mixture of emotions that are no longer easy to locate on the scale from left to right — a book by a board member of Germany’s central bank and a recent speech by the German president.

It all began with the advance release of provocative excerpts from “Germany Does Away With Itself,” a book that argues that the future of Germany is threatened by the wrong kind of immigrants, especially from Muslim countries. In the book, Thilo Sarrazin, a politician from the Social Democratic Party who sat on the Bundesbank board, develops proposals for demographic policies aimed at the Muslim population in Germany. He fuels discrimination against this minority with intelligence research from which he draws false biological conclusions that have gained unusually wide publicity.

In sharp contrast to the initial spontaneous objections from major politicians, these theses have gained popular support. One poll found that more than a third of Germans agreed with Mr. Sarrazin’s prognosis that Germany was becoming “naturally more stupid on average” as a result of immigration from Muslim countries.

After half-hearted responses in the press by a handful of psychologists who left the impression that there might be something to these claims after all, there was a certain shift in mood in the news media and among politicians toward Mr. Sarrazin. It took several weeks for Armin Nassehi, a respected sociologist, to take the pseudoscientific interpretation of the relevant statistics apart in a newspaper article. He demonstrated that Mr. Sarrazin adopted the kind of “naturalizing” interpretation of measured differences in intelligence that had already been scientifically discredited in the United States decades ago.
(full article here)

A postsecular world society?: an interview with Jürgen Habermas


A postsecular world society?: an interview with Jürgen Habermas (from The Immanent Frame)


"Our Western self-understanding of modernity emerged from the confrontation with our own traditions. The same dialectic between tradition and modernity repeats itself today in other parts of the world. There, too, one reaches back to one’s own traditions to confront the challenges of societal modernization, rather than to succumb to them. Against this background, intercultural discourses about the foundations of a more just international order can no longer be conducted one-sidedly, from the perspective of “first-borns.” These discourses must become habitual [sich einspielen] under the symmetrical conditions of mutual perspective-taking if the global players are to finally bring their social-Darwinist power games under control. The West is one participant among others, and all participants must be willing to be enlightened by others about their respective blind spots. If we were to learn one lesson from the financial crisis, it is that it is high time for the multicultural world society to develop a political constitution."

Click here to read the remainder of this interview [pdf].
Thanks to Thomas Gregersen for the link.

Habermas on ethics, morality and European identity


Habermas on ethics, morality and European identity
Author: Russell Keat a
Affiliation: a School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, UK

This paper examines Habermas's theoretical account of ethical (as distinct from moral) reasoning in politics, presented in Between facts and norms, and considers its possible application to his later discussion of European identity and the need for political union to address the impact of globalisation and the threat posed by neoliberalism. It argues that this practical application of the theory point to serious defects in it: a failure to show that ethics differs from morality in being inseparable from identity, and an inability to explain how a genuinely rational debate about the specifically ethical dimensions of political issues can be conducted. It concludes by considering the relationship between Habermas's view of the place of ethics in political reasoning and debates about neutrality and perfectionism in liberal theory, including Dobson's recent argument in Supranational citizenship that different principles should operate at different levels of governance.


Science as instrumental reason: Heidegger, Habermas . .


Abstract In modern continental thought, natural science is widely portrayed as an
exclusively instrumental mode of reason. The breadth of this consensus has partly
preempted the question of how it came to persuade. The process of persuasion, as it
played out in Germany, can be explored by reconstructing the intellectual exchanges
among three twentieth-century theorists of science, Heidegger, Habermas, and
Werner Heisenberg. Taking an iconic Heisenberg as a kind of limiting case of ‘‘the
scientist,’’ Heidegger and Habermas each found themselves driven to place new
constraints on their previously more capacious assessments of science, especially its
capacity to reflect on its method. Tracing how that happened, through archival and
historical contextualization and close readings of their texts, lets us make visible
Heidegger and Habermas’s intellectual affinities and argumentative parallels, which
derived not only from their shared grounding in earlier reactions against positivism,
but also from confrontation with contemporary events. The latter included, for
Heidegger, the rise of a technically powerful science exemplified by nuclear
physics, and for Habermas, post-World War II controversies over science, technology,
and their socially critical possibilities.

full article here

Habermas’s Later Pragmatist Turn


Habermas’s Later Pragmatist TurnBy Ali RizviRobert Brandom describes pragmatism “as a movement centered on the primacy of the practical.” This primacy of practice over theory is manifested in Habermas’s writings in two ways. First, it emerges in his lifelong insistence on the primacy of “know how” (what he often calls intuitive knowledge) over “know that.” This is a key Heideggerian distinction, which Habermas uses in his theoretical analyses and his formal pragmatics, as well as in developing his social theory. Second, it is manifested in Habermas’s rejection of what he calls the “spectator model” of knowledge, and his insistence that action has “cognitive” significance – in other words, that our way of acting is also our way of knowing the world. This is also derived from Heidegger’s notion of “being in the world.” Habermas has always been a pragmatist in the senses mentioned above, but after Knowledge and Human Interest (KHI) he did not pay much attention to issues in theoretical philosophy; therefore, with his Truth and Justification (TJ) he wanted to amend this situation. In TJ, Habermas went back to revive the “weak naturalism” he espoused in KHI, and in so doing he aimed to achieve two things. First, he wished to relate his theoretical enterprise both to his formal pragmatics and to his theory of communicative action. Second, he wanted to overcome certain impasses and aporias that his theories of communicative action and social evolution face. His renewed emphasis on pragmatic themes is of crucial importance to both these endeavors. In KHI, Habermas tried to marry Kantian transcendentalism with naturalism (in the broad sense of the term) by maintaining a distinction between “subjective/objective nature” and “nature in itself.” This, according to Habermas and his critics, led to an aporia similar to the one that Kant faced when making a distinction between “phenomenon” and “noumenon.” The aporia is this: in order to maintain the distinction between “subjective/objective nature” and “nature in itself,” it appears necessary to have a “glimpse behind the stage set by the human mind.” (TJ: 22). But to do this would be to violate the basic assumption of post metaphysics, which is something that Habermas wanted to avoid at any cost. In TJ, however, Habermas aims to show that the afore-mentioned aporia is not so much a result of attempting to marry a transcendental approach to naturalism, but is rather the result of a representationalism which must be abandoned in the wake of pragmatism. Representationalism conceives knowledge in terms of a two-way relation between subject and object, where access to what is beyond the object must be conceived in terms of a glimpse behind the constitution of the human mind. However, if knowledge is considered in pragmatic terms, and if we consequently abandon the representational model of knowledge and give action its cognitive due, we can transcend this aporia. Habermas claims that this requires the adoption of what he calls a “non-classical” form of realism. In developing his formal pragmatics and theory of communicative action, Habermas initially tried to go beyond the representational model of knowledge, replacing the two-way model of representation with a three-way model in which an actor tries to reach an understanding with another actor about something in the world. Similarly, in his theory of communicative action, Habermas conceptualized objectivity as a condition of reaching an understanding between two or more interlocutors. However, this theory of objectivity is a far cry from our own realist intuitions about the world, and so[...]

Audio with Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, Judith Butler & Cornel West


Audio with Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, Judith Butler & Cornel West from the conference on "Rethinking Secularism: The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere"
(New York University, October 22, 2009): Here

The link courtesy of Thomas

The philosopher-citizen, by Charles Taylor


Jürgen Habermas is one of the most prominent philosophers on the global scene of the last half century. His work is of an impressive range and depth. It would be impossible to sum it up in a short essay, but I shall try to single out three facets of his extraordinary achievement which help throw light on his deserved fame and influence.(read full here)

Habermas and analytical Marxism


Habermas and analytical Marxism
Joseph Heath

University College, University of Toronto, Canada

John Roemer once described the ‘intellectual foundations’ of analytical Marxism as the recognition that, despite having a valid core, Marxism rested upon outdated social science. The solution, he believed, was to update the theory ‘using state-of-the-art methods of analytical philosophy and "positivist" social science’. If one takes this definition literally, Jürgen Habermas’ early work qualifies as that of an analytical Marxist. Yet although he developed his project in a way that was independent of the self-identified analytical Marxists, there are important points of convergence in their views. In particular, in their efforts to update Marxism, both Habermas and the analytical Marxists managed to talk themselves out of being Marxists in any recognizable sense of the term. This is a noteworthy outcome, given the differences in their points of departure. This article tracks the intellectual history of these two movements, in order to identify the tendencies that pushed this rather disparate group of theorists in the same direction.

Key Words: analytical Marxism • capitalism • egalitarianism • exploitation • functionalism • Jürgen Habermas • rational choice theory

Philosophy & Social Criticism, Vol. 35, No. 8, 891-919 (2009)

The Philosophy of Jürgen Habermas:


The Philosophy of Jürgen Habermas
A Critical Introduction
Uwe Steinhoff

"Jürgen Habermas seeks to defend the Enlightenment and with it an <"emphatical>", <"uncurtailed>" conception of reason against the post-modern critique of reason on the one hand, and against so-called scientism (which would include critical rationalism and the greater part of analytical philosophy) on the other. His objection to the former is that it is self-contradictory and politically defeatist; his objection to the latter is that, thanks to a standard of rationality derived from the natural sciences or from Weber's concept of purposive rationality, it leaves normative questions to irrational decisions. Habermas wants to offer an alternative, trying to develop a theory of communicative action that can clarify the normative foundations of a critical theory of society as well as provide a fruitful theoretical framework for empirical social research.

This study is a comprehensive and detailed analysis and sustained critique of Habermas' philosophical system since his pragmatist turn in the seventies. It clearly and precisely depicts Habermas' long chain of arguments leading from an analysis of speech acts to a discourse theory of law and the democratic constitutional state. Along the way the study examines, among other things, Habermas' theory of communicative action, transcendental and universal pragmatics and the argument from <"performative contradictions>", discourse ethics, the consensus theory of truth, Habermas' ideas on developmental psychology, communicative pathologies and social evolution, his theory of social order, the analysis of the tensions between system and lifeworld, his theory of modernity, and his theory of deliberative democracy. For all Habermas students this study will prove indispensable."

Sample chapter

Habermas honours Honneth on his 60th birthday


Arbeit, Liebe, Anerkennung

Thanks to Thomas for the link.

A review of The Future ofHuman Nature. byJ¨urgen Habermas


here (scroll down to read)

Critical Theory of World Risk Society: A Cosmopolitan Vision


Critical Theory of World Risk Society:
A Cosmopolitan Vision
Ulrich Beck

A critical theory of world risk society must address at least three questions: (1) What is the basis of the critique? What is “critical” about this critical theory? (The question of the normative horizon of the world risk society) (2)What are the key theses and core arguments of this theory? Is it an empirical theory of society with critical intent? (3) To what extent does this theory break with the automatisms of modernization and globalization which have taken on a life of their own and rediscover the openness of human action to the future at the beginning of the 21st century political perspectives, cosmopolitan alternatives?

free download from here

Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Max Horkheimer



Jürgen Habermans on Ralf Dahrendorf


German sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf died today at the age of 80. Jan Feddersen writes: "Dahrendorf was the first intellectual star of the fledging Bundesrepulik to seek and find acknowledgement abroad. He also studied in USA, received his first PhD in 1952 for a dissertation on the concept of justice in the writings of Karl Marx. In 1957 he obtained his 'habilitation' - recognition of the right to lecture in German universities - with the publication of 'Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society'. Jürgen Habermas, who celebrated his 80th birthday last week, and had been an admirer of Dahrendorf's since that time, as he admitted at Dahrendorf's birthday celebrations a few weeks ago, said: "With his constructive intellect that preferred to create clarity with idealised stylisations than to juggle with hermeneutics, Dahrendorg was remarkable for his powerful eloquence, his natural command of authority and his somewhat angular manner of speech. What singled him out from his peers was his ability to see off received ideas with avant-gardist aplomb."

from here

Habermas turns 80 today!


Happy birthday Professor Habermas!