The Theory of Communicative Action 7.9分
读书笔记 SEP--Habermas's Discourse Theory of Morality, Politics, and Law

Discourse theory of deliberative democracy

struggling to show how his highly idealized, multi-dimensional discourse thoery has real institutional purchase in complex, modern societies.

Idealized practical discourse:

A rule of action or choice is justified, and thus valid, only if all those affected by the rule or choice could accept it in a reasonable discourse


A. MORAL DISCOURSE: Habermas's discourse ethics (discourse theory of morality)


【"discourse principle (D)"】

1). the Kantian tradition

-- unconditional

morality a matter of unconditional moral obligations......The task of moral theory is to reconstruct the unconditional force of such obligations as impartial dictates of practical reason that hold for any similarly situated agent

-- autonomous

links morality with respect for autonomous following the dictates of impartial reason, one follows one's own conscience and shows respect for other such agents.

2). unlike Kant

-- Kant

assumed that in priciple each mature, reflective individual, guided by the Categorical Imperative, could reach the same conclusions about what duty requires

-- Habermas (dialogical requirement)

takes a dialogical approach to practical reason, as his discourse theory requires


==> a dialogical principle of universalization: 【the (U)-Principle】

a successful deduction (of (U))......depends on three assumptions: (D), a statement of the semantics of unconditional norms, and an articulation of the pragmatics of discourse

problematic assumption: commonalities and autonomy

valid moral rules or norms allow for an egalitarian community of autonomous agents--as Kant put it, a "systematic union of different rational beings" governed by "common laws"

criticism one: situations and particularities

Some feminist proponents of an "ethics of care" have worried that Habermas's neo-Kantian model of universalization screens out morally relevant particularities of contrete situations and persons
Habermas's discourse ethics depends on some very strong assumptions about the capacity of persons for moral dialogue......

response one: taking into account the particular situattion

Habermas......insisting that (U) is a principle of real discourse: an individual's moral judgment counts as fully reasonable only if it issues from participation in actual discourse with all those affected account of the appropriate application of moral rules in concrete circumstances......In moral discourse of application, one must test alternative normative interpretations of the particular situation for their acceptability before the limited audience of those immediately involved, on the assumption that one is applying valid general norms

criticism two: capacity and inclusiveness

discourse cannot always include all the affected parties (e.g., when the issue concerns the fate of a comatose patient)......the best we can achieve are partial justifications: arguments that are not conclusively convincing for all, but also are not conclusively defeated, in limited discourses with interlocutors we regard as reasonable



moral psychology and social anthropology

【应对feminist的批判,哈贝马斯借助道德心理学重新解释了autonomous agent的内涵,个人的道德发展与成熟是通过社会化达成的】

G.H.Mead......the individual's development of a stable personal identity as inextricably bound up with processes of socialization that depend on participation in relationships of mutual recognition

【MY THOUGHT: the fact that one's moral maturity is made possible and shaped through the socializtaion with others does not mean that his or her moral account take others' interest and positions into account, cuz the imbalance in power may warrant his privilege in disregarding others' differences in feelings, opinions, and perspectives. With the bless of power, he or she can safely form a stable account of morality that treats others as the means for the self or centers his or her own perspectives in order to dictate others' epistemic credibility by "reasonably" arguing away the immoral essence. 】



In answer to moral non-cognitivisn and skepticism

In this context, (U) explicates a moral epistemology: what it means for moral statements to count as justified. If moral statements are justifiable, then they have a cognitive character in the sense that they are correct or not depending on how they fare in reasonable discourse

Moral norm as opposed to truth

Unlike truth, the rightness of a moral norm does not consist in reference to an independently existing realm of objects, but rather in the worthiness of the norm for intersubjective recognition

【MY THOUGHT: 用拉康的话来说,是这种intersubjective recognition佐证了道德能指的滑动,这一道德正当性来自于大他者的客体性,然而在一个“道德沦丧”之处,在天地不仁之中,这种道德正当性如若影响社会秩序,则并无法使人停止追问,在追问之中必须有理论与哲学,必须有独立的思想,在思想中,在思想进一步投入于公共论辩和back-and-forth的real equilibrium中,在contestation中,道德能指才得以继续滑动,这就是理论的意义】



1. politics and legitimacy

Habermas's discourse theory of law and politics

Societies are stable over the long run only if their members generally perceive them as legitimate: as organized in accordance with what is true, right, and good.

Modern legitimacy crisis?

......When we consider this dynamic simply from the standpoint of the (D)-principle, the prospect for legitimacy in modern societies appear quite dim

law as a solution

By opening up legally defined spheres of individual freedom, modern law reduces the burden of questions that require general (society-wide) discursive consensus.

individual freedom as a necessity

Within these legal boundaries, individuals are free to pursue their interests and happiness as they see fit, normally through various modes of association, whether that pursuit is primarily governed by modes of strategic action (as in economic markets), by recognized authority or consensual discourse (e.g., within religious communities; in the sciences), or by bureacratic rationality (as in hierarchically organized voluntary enterprises).

==> private and public autonomy

to be legitimate, modern law must secure the private autonomy of those subject to it......also......public autonomy as lawmakers acting through elected representatives
conceptually presupposing the other in the sense that each can be fully realized only if the other is fully realized

democratic principle of legitimacy

only those statutes may claim legitimacy that can meet with the assent of all citizens in a discursive process of legislation that in turn has been legally constituted ......Legitimate laws must pass the different types of discursive tests that come with each of these validity claims


2. deliberative democracy as an "EPISTEMIC" theory

1). cognitive orientation

highly cognitive and consensualist presumption:

......reasonable political discourse must at least begin with the supposition that legal questions admit in principle of single right answers, or at least a set of discursively valid answers on which a fair compromise, acceptable to all parties, is possible


a difficulty in distinguishing between moral constraints on agreement and ethcial-political and pragmatic considerations of disagreement

2). bridging function

(D) Internal cognitive demands on justification

(U) External institutionalization

==> function: democratic principle referring to a warranted presumption of reasonableness

the democratic principle acts as a bridge that links the cognitive aspects of political discourse (as a combination of the different types of idealized discourse) with the demands of institutional realization in complex societies

Epistemic proceduralism

The presumption of reasonable outcomes thus rests.....on the aggregate reasonableness of a "subjectless communication" that emerges as the collective result of discursive structures

--> a fruitful interplay of three major discursive arenas:

the dispersed communication of citizens in civil society;
the "media-based mass communication" in the political public sphere;
and the institutionalized discourse of lawmakers

--> a set of public opinions that then influence the deliberation of lawmakers

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