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The Metaphysics of Communicative Action: A Critique of Habermas’s Moral Theory

The Metaphysics of Communicative Action: A Critique of Habermas’s Moral Theory

Tarcísio Amorim Carvalho, “The Metaphysics of Communicative Action: A Critique of Habermas’s Moral Theory,” Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 75, no. 1 (2019): 447–76, https://doi.org/10.17990/RPF/2019_75_1_0447.

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The Metaphysics of Communicative Action: A Critique of Habermas’s Moral Theory

Type Journal Article
Author Tarcísio Amorim Carvalho
Rights © 2019 Aletheia - Associação Científica e Cultural | © 2019 Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
Volume 75
Issue 1
Pages 447-476
Publication Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
ISSN 0870-5283
Date 2019
DOI 10.17990/RPF/2019_75_1_0447
Language English
Abstract Jürgen Habermas’s communicative theory is characterised by a postmetaphysical account of morality. This perspective stems from Habermas’s appropriation of Modernisation Theory (MT), with the Weberian distinction between questions of taste, truth and rightness. In view of the “disenchantment of the world”, Habermas proclaims the autonomy of science and morality from metaphysical perceptions, and conflates substantive ethics with issues of taste. As I demonstrate, such distinction between ethical and moral reasons takes the validity of MT, along with its epistemological assumptions, as a presupposition for the requirement of universal and impartial normative claims in discourse acts. However, this aprioristic validation of MT is at odds with Habermas’s own view that particular linguistic schemes of reason determine epistemological and truth standards of validity – as in accordance with a Pragmatic Theory of Meaning (PTM). Thus, by challenging Habermas’s differentiation of ethics and morality, I argue that communicative rationality should allow for a substantive account of normative validation, which in my theoretical framework combines elements of Alasdair MacIntyre’s theory of traditions, reconfigured into a universalistic project of ethical learning. Furthermore, I contend that once the validity of MT is brought into question through PTM, metaphysical reasons can be rehabilitated for the justification of metaethical principles of communicative action.
Date Added 24/04/2019, 19:28:00
Modified 24/04/2019, 20:57:11

Tags:

  • moral philosophy,
  • Alasdair MacIntyre,
  • Habermas,
  • kantian ethics,
  • modernisation theory,
  • pragmatic theory of meaning,
  • theory of traditions

Notes:

  • Cooke, Maeve. “Meaning and Truth in Habermas’ Pragmatics.” European Journal of Philosophy 9, no. 1 (2001): 1-23. 
    Finlayson, James Gordon. “Modernity and Morality in Habermas’s Discourse Ethics.” Inquiry 43, no 3 (2000): 219-340.
    Gilson, Étienne. Pourquoi Saint Thomas a Critique Saint Augustin, Suivi de Avicenne et le Point de Depart de Duns Scot. Bibliotheque D’histoire De La Philosophie, 1986.
    Habermas, Jürgen. “Faith and Knowledge.” Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels, 2008.
    Habermas, Jürgen. “A Reply.” In Communicative Action: Essays on Jürgen Habermas’s The Theory of Communicative Action, edited by Axel Honneth and Hans Joas. Translated by Jeremy Gaines and Doris L. Jones. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991. 
    Habermas, Jürgen. “Prepolitical Foundations of the Constitutional State?.” In Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays, edited by Jürgen Habermas. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2008.
    Habermas, Jürgen. “Religion in the public sphere.” European Journal of Philosophy 14, no. 1 (2006): 1–25.
    Habermas, Jürgen. “The Boundary Between Faith and Knowledge: On the Reception and Contemporary Importance of Kant’s Philosophy of Religion.” In Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays, edited by Jürgen Habermas. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2008.
    Habermas, Jürgen. An Awareness of what is missing. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010.
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    Habermas, Jürgen. Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990.
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    Habermas, Jürgen. The Theory of Communicative Action. Volume 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.
    Habermas, Jürgen. The Theory of Communicative Action. Volume 2: Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.
    MacIntyre, Alasdair. “Politics, Philosophy and the Common Good.” In The MacIntyre Reader, edited by Kelvin Knight. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998.
    MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue (3rd edition). Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981.
    MacIntyre, Alasdair. Dependent Rational Animals. Peru: Carus Publishing Company, 1999. 
    MacIntyre, Alasdair. Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity: An Essay on Desire, Practical Reasoning and Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
    MacIntyre, Alasdair. Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990.
    MacIntyre, Alasdair. Whose Justice, Which Rationality. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988.
    Martens, Wilfried. Europe: I Struggle, I Overcome: I Struggle, I Overcome. London: Springer, 2008.

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