Ideal Communication & Thinking
- There's a difference between Habermas' ideal speaking
situation (ISS) and his discourse ethic. Relative to
the discourse ethic, it seems to me that the ideal
speaking situation pertains to what has become the
domain of principle D, pertaining to consensual norm
establishment, while principle U details what Habermas
implicitly had in mind earlier (1960s-early 1980s) in
the notion of universalization (somewhat formalized
with his discussion of discourse ethics, 1983).
But the ISS pertains to more than consensual
establishment of norms, as it primarily models open
communication, whatever the purpose of that
communication, but especially, for Habermas (I think),
*critical* learning processes. The ISS models *pure
communicative action* and can serve as a standard for
formally evaluating the openness of particular
communication processes (which we rarely do, since an
informal, intuitive sense of things usually works
effectively)---processes which are always relative to
the effective communicative learning levels of the
Generally, group processes have to be appropriated to
participants in order to account for the different
levels of interaction. This is an ordinary reality in
teaching. Someone who is more experienced with
abstract questioning than someone else doesn't, to be
fair, just assert a valid reflective abstraction; to
be fair, the person may need to make herself/himself
understood about the kind of question being
asked---what Habermas early-on might have covered with
the notion of comprehensibility (which has semantic
aspects besides grammatic aspects). In fundamental and
critical learning, one has to make sense of a new kind
of communication, then as well make a specific
question at that level understood and acceptable. This
is the kind of thing going on with bringing an
unquestioned *kind* of assumption into question, e.g.,
making sense of a constitutive issue, not just a
logically implied/presumed issue at a given level of
Discourse ethics is a specialization of communicative
action for the sake of norm formation and
universalization, especially relevant for Habermas'
interest in valid law. The ISS has broader
applicability to theorizing the facilitation and
evaluation of developmental-educational processes,
organized action coordination, and
I attempted to somewhat formalize the ISS some years
before Habermas formulated his discourse ethics. I've
never sought to publish it, but I shared it with the
Spoon Collective in the late '90s, and I should have
made it part of the Yahoo! Group files, which I've now
My motivation, 1979, was response to so much talk
about the ISS by others (commenting on or critiquing
Habermas) without offering a clear statement of what
the ISS was. Even Habermas nowhere offered a
systematic view of the various ways he had employed
the notion. So, I did a synthesis of aspects, as
subsets turned up in different contexts of his work,
that Habermas hadn't taken time to synthesize.
I also have my own slant, which is toward the
potential for fundamental learning that communicative
interaction may facilitate, which is fully accordant
with Habermas' high valuation of learning processes,
but which he hadn't applied overtly to thinking about
the practicality of the ISS.
I forgot about it, as I put away my dissertation and
got into the trenches of educational reform activism
in the 1980s. Then, in the flow of the Spoon
Collective participation, 1998, I remembered my
discussion and was amazed to feel that it remained
valid. So, I extracted it.
Ideal Communication & Thinking
Since the Group posting archive is open to anyone, but
the Group Files section is only open to subscribers,
the above is also available at:
I would agree with Ali Rizvi that Robert Cavalier's
"Introduction to Habermas' Discourse Ethics," from the
1990s, is also useful:
But who knows how long that will remain available on
the Web. So, it's part of the Group Files now, too:
"Introduction to Habermas's Discourse Ethics"
Also, I've recently uploaded Douglas Kellner's reading
"Habermas, the Public Sphere, and Democracy: A
Critical Intervention," c2000
Also: Derridean Geoffry Bennington's rather odd spin
on Habermasian interests in GB's 1996 Political
Thought Seminar with Peter Dews and Bill Outhwaite:
I suspect that GB is the culprit who anonymously wrote
the fascinating synopsis of the Habermas-Derrida
relationship for the _Wikipedia_ entry on Habermas:
"Habermas and Derrida via Wikipedia"
- I wish that there is more participation by others, so
that the group of subscribers also looked more like a
group of participants. Your participation has been
exemplary. But there are 148 subscribers! O, well.
- ---- Gary Davis <coherings@...> wrote:
Gary: Thanks for your response. I would take a more active part but I have been off on a tangent, researching the aspects of what I take to be the administration's attempt (through its "unitary executive theory") to adopt what has for some time been referred to as "constitutional dictatorship." John Yoo is Bush's equivalent for Carl Schmitt in this attempt, if you are aware of the events of the past few years.
Just as I have strong objections to Sartre's existentialist Marxism, I have problems with Habermas' neo-Kantian ethics, and even more with his failure to communicate more effectively his theory of communicative action. As I remarked in earlier communications, just translating him into English isn't enough, he needs another translation making his work clearer and more comprehensible. Equally important is his penchant for producing big, thick books that take weeks to read, let alone comprehend, although I must admit there are interviews and shorter works that give better insight into his theory. I was initially interested in his works by his "Philosophical Discourse of Modernity", which was not subject to either of these criticisms (if, indeed, they are fair). He appears to share the view expressed by Marx about the size of his books. Marx replied that he didn't have time to write short books. It certainly takes more time to condense and summarize that it does to exhibit a kind of verbal diarrhea. (Ditto with Sartre's later works). Bill Barger (sartre88@...)
- One must remember though that there is no Ideal
speaking (or speech) situation (ISSS) as there is no
ideal communicaiton in Habermas. There are
idealisations but that is another matter.
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- re: Ali, re: "Ideal Communication & Thinking"
Glad to hear from you, but you contradict your own
--- Ali Rizvi <ali_m_rizvi@...> wrote:
> One must remember though that there is no Ideal
> speaking (or speech) situation (ISSS) as there is no
> ideal communicaiton in Habermas. There are
> idealisations but that is another matter.
> Do You Yahoo!?
> Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam
> protection around