Habermas: A Guide for the Perplexed (Guides for the Perplexed)
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Jürgen Habermas' work ranges across critical theory, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, the philosophy of science, citizenship and democracy, religion and psychoanalysis, forging new paradigms and engaging with other key thinkers.
Habermas: A Guide for the Perplexed is the ideal starting point for anyone studying Habermas. It follows Habermas's critical and philosophical project through all the stages of its development - the early critical theory, the linguistic turn, communicative action and discourse ethics, the theory of deliberative democracy -building up a complete overview of his work, and offering close and incisive analysis throughout.
against their relevant backgrounds: the philosophical debates and the political contexts into which he intervenes. I shall also explain key concepts and passages in detail. To shed light on more theoretical points, I use his political interventions. For instance, in Chapter 5 on Habermas’s theory of law and democracy, I use his writings on civil disobedience in Germany in the 1980s to explain how Habermas thinks about the 3 HABERMAS: A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED legitimacy of the law. Finally, I
reason: the formal pragmatics, the notions of communicative action and reason, and discourse. Finally, Habermas’s discourse ethics is the link between the theory of communicative action and reason and his discourse theory of law and democracy, which he was to develop from the late 1980s onwards. That is the subject of the following chapter. The present chapter is structured as follows. I first explain some basic philosophical terms that are important for the way Habermas approaches the whole
The Theory of Communicative Action, law can fulfil systemic aims that morality cannot. Indeed, according to Habermas (1996b, 1544), there are no alternatives to law: ‘Law is the only medium through which a “solidarity with strangers” can be secured in complex societies.’ Law and morality differ in a number of ways. As we have seen, we can follow the law for both moral and prudential reasons. Law is enforced and positive, and we can follow it for both moral and prudential reasons. Unlike morality,
‘Basic Law’ as merely provisional, the idea being that the Germans would later constitute themselves with a proper constitution (remember that the ‘Basic Law’ was given to the West Germans by the then occupiers after World War II). In the event, the conservative West German government used Article 23, and the reunification took the form of an administrative annexation. Habermas believed that Article 146 would have been better. Referring to the reunification, he writes, that it ‘dishonestly evades
fundamental symmetry of responsibility that exists among free and equal persons is restricted’. When used in this way, gene technology introduces an asymmetry between the ones carrying out the genetic intervention (for instance, the doctors and the parents) and the one subjected to the intervention. The latter is taken as an object and 157 HABERMAS: A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED becomes instrumentalized life: life as a means to someone else’s end rather than life as an end in itself, thus