communicative rationality


  • “a rational person thinks like this”); 2. replaced foundationalism with fallibilism with regard to valid knowledge and how it may be achieved; 3. cast doubt on the idea that
    reason should be conceived abstractly beyond history and the complexities of social life, and have contextualized or situated reason in actual historical practices; 4. replaced a focus on individual structures of consciousness with a concern
    for pragmatic structures of language and action as part of the contextualization of reason; and 5. given up philosophy’s traditional fixation on theoretical truth and the representational functions of language, to the extent that they also
    recognize the moral and expressive functions of language as part of the contextualization of reason.

  • Furthermore…this perspective suggests no more than formal specifications of possible forms of life… it does not extend to the concrete form of life…[4] Concerning (2),
    Habermas clearly and explicitly understands communicative rationality according to the terms of a reconstructive science.

  • Even if it is accepted that rationality must be expanded to include normative and evaluative dimensions, it is not clear what it is that makes a speech act justified, because
    it is unclear what constitutes a good reason.

  • The relativists on the other hand can compare and contrast the rationality of various forms of society but are unable to take up a critical stance, because they can posit
    no standard of rationality outside the relative and variable content of the societies in question, which leads to absurd conclusions (e.g., that Nazism is morally equivalent to democracy because the standards for both are relative).

  • Thus, the simple process of reaching an understanding with others impels individuals to be accountable for what they say and to be able to justify the validity claims they
    raise concerning normative (WE), evaluative (I) and objective matters (IT).

  • Accepting the distinction between the different kinds of reasons that accompany the differentiation of the validity dimensions does not give any insight into what a good reason
    in a particular validity dimension would be.

  • In its essence the idea of communicative rationality draws upon the implicit validity claims that are inescapably bound to the everyday practices of individuals capable of
    speech and action.

  • Following Habermas, the argument relies on the following assumptions: (a) that communication can proceed between two individuals only on the basis of a consensus (usually
    implicit[citation needed]) regarding the validity claims raised by the speech acts they exchange; (b) that these validity claims concern at least three dimensions of validity: I, truthfulness WE, rightness IT, truth (c) that a mutual understanding
    is maintained on the basis of the shared presupposition that any validity claim agreed upon could be justified, if necessary, by making recourse to good reasons.

  • The clearest way to see this is to recognize that the validity dimensions implicit in communication signify that a speaker is open to the charge of being irrational if they
    place normative validity claims outside of rational discourse.

  • For example, in “From Communicative Rationality to Communicative Thinking: A Basis for Feminist Theory and Practice” by Jane Braatan, it is discussed that women have a less
    advantage to be involved in communicative rationality due to the history of discrimination in schools.

  • The modes of justification we use in our moral and political deliberations, and the ways we determine which claims of others are valid, are what matter most, and what determine
    whether we are being “rational”.

  • Concerning (1) it can be said that: [Communicative] rationality refers primarily to the use of knowledge in language and action, rather than to a property of knowledge.

  • Thus, Habermas can compare and contrast the rationality of various forms of society with an eye to the deeper and more universal processes at work, which enables him to justify
    the critique of certain forms (e.g., that Nazism is irrational and bad) and lend support to the championing of others (e.g., democracy is rational and good).

  • And since these people do not have the knowledge to participate in communicative rationality, they would have no reason to defend their reasoning or position in society.

  • This view of reason is concerned with clarifying the norms and procedures by which agreement can be reached, and is therefore a view of reason as a form of public justification.

  • In fact, it complicates the issue because it makes it clear that there are different procedures unique to each validity dimension and that these dimensions cannot be reduced
    to one another.

  • Many philosophical contextualists take reason to be entirely context-dependent and relative.

  • formally and semantically integrated) rationality that characterized pre-modern worldviews has, since modern times, been emptied of its content and divided into three purely
    “formal” realms: (1) cognitive-instrumental reason; (2) moral-practical reason; and (3) aesthetic-expressive reason.

  • According to Habermas, the phenomena that need to be accounted for by the theory are the “intuitively mastered rules for reaching an understanding and conducting argumentation”,
    possessed by subjects who are capable of speech and action.

  • The result of the theory is a conception of reason that Habermas sees as doing justice to the most important trends in twentieth century philosophy, while escaping the relativism
    which characterizes postmodernism, and also providing necessary standards for critical evaluation.

  • However, these validity dimensions should be related to one another and understood as complementary pieces in a broader conception of rationality.

  • This purely formal “division of labour” has been criticized by Nikolas Kompridis, who sees in it too strong a division between practical and aesthetic reasoning, an unjustifiably
    hard distinction between the “right” and the “good”, and an unsupportable priority of validity to meaning.

  • Additionally, there are strict limits which a “post-metaphysical” theory (see below) must respect – namely the clarification of procedures and norms upon which our public
    deliberation depends.

  • According to the theory of communicative rationality, the potential for certain kinds of reason is inherent in communication itself.

  • Moreover, the speech acts shared between individuals in communication are laden with three different types of validity claims, all of which quietly but insistently demand
    to be justified with good reasons.

  • This is a very simple way of describing the procedures of justification unique to objective validity claims.

  • However, if one claims or implies with their speech acts that ‘abortion is acceptable in certain cases’, one’s reasons for claiming this must be of a different nature.

  • Communicative rationality or communicative reason (German: kommunikative Rationalität) is a theory or set of theories which describes human rationality as a necessary outcome
    of successful communication.

  • Hence the role that Habermas sees for communicative reason is formulating appropriate methods by which to conduct our moral and political discourse.

  • What this means is that Habermas has, through the formal pragmatic analysis of communication, revealed that rationality should not be limited to the consideration and resolution
    of objective concerns.

  • A mutual understanding can be achieved through communication only by fusing the perspectives of individuals, which requires they reach an agreement (even if it is only assumed)
    on the validity of the speech acts being shared.

  • According to “Public Sphere and Communicative Rationality: Interrogating Habermas’s Eurocentrism”, Habermas does not take into account that there are different societies that
    happen across the world because certain countries and societies suffer from different weaknesses.

  • [7] More recently, Nikolas Kompridis has taken issue with Habermas’ conception of rationality as incoherent and insufficiently complex, proposing a “possibility-disclosing”
    role for reason that goes beyond the narrow proceduralism of Habermas’ theory.

  • This points towards a productive interpenetration of the validity dimensions, for example the use of moral insights by the sciences without their having to sacrifice theoretical
    rigor, or the inclusion of psychological data into resources of moral philosophy.

  • Standards of justification[edit] Of course a very important issue arises from this, which is that what constitutes a good or acceptable justification varies from context to

  • The speaker would have to draw on insights into, for instance, the vulnerability of individuals under the weight of life’s circumstances, the kinds of rights that humans deserve,


Works Cited

[‘Habermas, Jürgen. Communication and the Evolution of society. Beacon Press, 1979, p. 18.
2. ^ Habermas 1992
3. ^ Jump up to:a b Kompridis 2006
4. ^ Jump up to:a b Cooke 1994
5. ^ Foucault 1988, Calhoun 1992
6. ^ Cohen 1995, Fraser 1987, Ryan
7. ^ Eley 1992
8. ^ Gunaratne, Shelton A. (2006). “Public Sphere and Communicative Rationality: Interrogating Habermas’s Eurocentrism”. Journalism & Communication Monographs. 8 (2): 93–156. doi:10.1177/152263790600800201. S2CID 143082836.
9. ^
Rienstra, Byron (2006). “Weakening Habermas : the undoing of communicative rationality” (PDF). Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies. 33 (3): 313–339. doi:10.1080/02589340601122950. S2CID 143790471.
10. ^ Braaten, Jane (1995). “From
Communicative Rationality to Communicative Thinking: A Basis for Feminist Theory and Practice ByJane Braaten”. Feminists Read Habermas (RLE Feminist Theory). Routledge. doi:10.4324/9780203094006-12. ISBN 9780203094006.
11. ^ Devenney, Mark (2009).
“The limits of communicative rationality and deliberative democracy”. Journal of Power. 2: 137–154. doi:10.1080/17540290902760915. S2CID 144963807.
12. ^ Schaefer, Michael (2013). “Communicative versus Strategic Rationality: Habermas Theory of Communicative
Action and the Social Brain”. PLOS ONE. 8 (5): e65111. Bibcode:2013PLoSO…865111S. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065111. PMC 3666968. PMID 23734238. S2CID 15684145.
13. Calhoun, C., 1992, ed., Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
MIT Press).
14. Cohen, J.L., 1995, “Critical Social Theory and Feminist Critiques: The Debate with Jürgen Habermas”, in Johanna Meehan, ed., Feminists Read Habermas: Gendering the Subject of Discourse (New York: Routledge), pp. 57–90.
15. Cook,
M., 1994, Language and Reason: A Study in Habermas’s Pragmatics (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press).
16. Eley, G., 1992, “Nations, Publics, and Political Cultures: Placing Habermas in the Nineteenth Century”, in Craig Calhoun, ed., Habermas and
the Public Sphere (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press), pp. 289–339.
17. Foucault, M., 1988, “The Ethic of Care for the Self as a Practice of Freedom”, in James Bernauer and David Rasmussen, eds., The Final Foucault (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT
Press), pp. 1–20.
18. Fraser, N., 1987, “What’s Critical About Critical Theory? The Case of Habermas and Gender”, in Seyla Benhabib and Drucilla Cornell, eds., Feminism as Critique: On the Politics of Gender (Cambridge: Polity Press), pp. 31–56.
19. Habermas,
J., 1992, “Themes in Postmetaphysical Thinking”, in Postmetaphysical Thinking: Philosophical Essays, W. Hohengarten, trans. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press), pp. 28–57.
20. Kompridis, N., 2006, Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between
Past and Future. Cambridge, Massachusetts:MIT Press.
21. Ryan, M.P., 1992, “Gender and Public Access: Women’s Politics in Nineteenth-Century America”, in Craig Calhoun, ed., Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press),
pp. 259–288.
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