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Jürgen Habermas

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Javier Taillefer

on 22 November 2013

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Transcript of Jürgen Habermas

Jürgen Habermas
1. Biography
• 18th of June 1929: Jürgen Habermas is born in Dusseldorf in a . protestant-middle class family. He was born with a cleft palate that didn't allow him to speak clearly until he received corrective surgery. This experience made him realise about the importance of communication in everyday life.

• Studied in the universities of Gottingen, Zurich and Bonn, where he received his PhD with a dissertation on Schelling and the conflict between the notions of the absolute and history

• 1956: Habermas joins the “Frankfurt School”. However, he would eventually leave it due to some disagreements with Max Horkheimer.

• 1962: writes "The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: an Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society" for his habilitation at the University of Marburg.

• 1962: he is invited by Gadamer to join the University of Heidelberg.

• 1964: Adorno invites him to re-join the Frankfurt School.

• 1971: director of the Max Planck Institute in Munich.

• 1983: publishes one of his most relevant works: "The Theory of Communicative Action"

• Stayed in Frankfurt until 1993. Ever since he has received several awards and prizes and has been giving lectures in different universities around the world.

1. Biography

2. The Frankfurt School

3. Main Ideas

a) The Theory of Communicative Action

b) The Public Sphere

c) Public Engagement

4. Controversies and Debates
2. The Frankfurt School
• School of Neo-Marxism that tried to overcome some of the problems caused by orthodox readings of Marxist theories. In opposition to this orthodoxy defended by Communist Parties all over Europe, the Frankfurt School was critical both to capitalism and soviet-like socialism.

• Creation

• Its main concerns include topics and authors such as Kant, Hegel, Weber, Lukács, Marx and Marxism, Freud and Psychoanalysis, Antipositivist Sociology, and Existential Philosophy.

• Members:

i) Original:

Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Friedrich Pollock, Erich Fromm, Otto Kirchheimer, Leo Löwenthal, Franz Leopold Neumann.

ii) Second Generation:

Jürgen Habermas, Claus Offe, Axel Honneth, Oscar Negt, Alfred Schmidt, Albrecht Wellmer.

iii) Associates:

Walter Benjamin, Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Siegfried Kracauer.

• Controversies

o Horkheimer – Habermas
o Marcuse – Fromm

3. Main Ideas
a) The Theory of Communicative Action

b) The Public Sphere

c) Public Engagement
a) The Theory of Communicative Action
According to Habermas, comprehensive critical theories such as Marxism have (1) one preferred explanation (descriptive), and (2) one preferred goal (normative). The problem for these theories consists in finding the means more suitable to their ends, supposing that the preferred explanation is right. In the
pluralistic view
of Habermas, the correction of the theory must be determined by those involved.


Two levels of analysis

1. Micro level: rationality and communicative coordination (rational potential of everyday speech)

2. Macro level: systemic integration of modern societies [e.g. market] (theory of modern civilization)


: “how speaking and acting subjects acquire and use knowledge”. He considers this definition to be epistemic, practical and intersubjective. Importance of performativity: attitude towards reaching understanding. This is, Communicative Action.

iv. Strategic action and individual goals

v. What makes rationally motivated agreement possible?
Acceptability of conditions and reason giving:

1. “We understand a speech act when we know the kinds of reasons that a speaker could provide in order to convince a hearer that he is entitled in the given circumstances to claim validity for his utterance—in short, when we know what makes it acceptable” (TCA)

2. Reasons given: validity claims on empirical truths, plus moral rightness, ethical goodness or authenticity, personal sincerity, and aesthetic value (TCA )


Triple relation with the world
and triple claim in most speech acts:

1. Expression of the inner world: the speech is sincere

2. Communicative relation with the hearer: the speech is socially appropriate.

3. Representation of the external world: the speech is factually true


Interpretation and Gadamer’s hermeneutics


Pathological modernisation and democracy

b) The Public Sphere
. Problem of the
culture in Europe throughout modernity until the French Revolution. Capitalism brings with it
“the public sphere"


The public sphere is a space that escapes state control
. A space where free communication and exchange is possible.

It has a
critical nature
(there is not an active and a passive part in it).


Decay of the public sphere
due to the effect of mass media and welfare state, among other factors, for they have turned the public into a self-interested passive object.

Its symptom is
representative democracy taking over participatory democracy
due to the action of political parties (Robert Michels).

Boundaries between
public and private


Democratic public life
cannot develop where matters of public importance are not discussed by citizens.


Ideal Speech Situation

1. Every subject with the competence to speak and act is allowed to take part in a discourse.

2a. Everyone is allowed to question any assertion whatever.

2b. Everyone is allowed to introduce any assertion whatever into the discourse.

2c. Everyone is allowed to express their attitudes, desires and needs without any hesitation.

3. No speaker may be prevented, by internal or external coercion, from exercising his rights as laid down in (1) and (2)

"Truth is what would be agreed upon in an ideal speech situation."

"[In the public sphere] authority based on anything other than a good argument”

c) Public Engagement
Cosmopolitanism, International Relations and the European Union
4. Controversies and Debates
Relationship with Jacques Derrida
Full transcript