20th Century Philosophy

Jürgen Habermas

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Cambridge Companion to Habermas
Between Facts and Norms : Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy Between Facts and Norms : Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy by Jurgen Habermas, William Rehg (Translator)

Jurgen Habermas, an esteemed political philosopher who lived in Germany during the Nazi reign, has produced a thought-provoking work on what he calls "deliberative politics." To summarize his view, true democracy isn't just the compilation of opinions or a blanket treatment of majority rules, but a social process in which people meet, discuss, modify and, ultimately, agree. He draws connections between how such a process could shape the making of laws and direct the course of nations. His writings here represent a lifetime of political thought on the nature of democracy and law, and deserve an audience and a place in the foundations of democratic theory.

"[A] fascinating synthesis of Continental and Anglo-American legal theory. . . full of interesting insights, acute criticisms, and striking passages." -- Richard A. Posner, The New Republic

In Between Facts and Norms Jürgen Habermas works out the legal and political implications of his Theory of Communicative Action (1981), bringing to fruition the project announced with his publication of The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere in 1962.

This new work is a major contribution to recent debates on the rule of law and the possibilities of democracy in postindustrial societies. It offers a sweeping, sociologically informed conceptualization of law and basic rights, a normative account of the rule of law and the constitutional state, an attempt to bridge normative and empirical approaches to democracy, and an account of the social context required for democracy. The work concludes with a bold proposal for a new paradigm of law that goes beyond the dichotomies that have afflicted modern political theory from its inception and that still underlie current controversies between so-called liberals and civic republicans.

About the Author
Jürgen Habermas is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Frankfurt.

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Critical Theory of Jurgen Habermas


Jurgen Habermas is widely considered as the most influential thinker in Germany over the past decade [1970-80]. As a philosopher and sociologist he has mastered and creatively articulated an extraordinary range of specialized literature in the social sciences, social theory and the history of ideas in the provocative critical theory of knowledge and human interests. His roots are in the tradition of German thought from Kant to Marx, and he has been associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theorists which pioneered in the study of the relationship of the ideas of Marx and Freud.' (Mezirow, 1981)


The Unfinished Project of Enlightenment:  The Critical Theory of Jurgen Habermas

Maintained by Kelley Walker, Ken Mackendrick, Kirsten Nielsen and Jordan Hayes.  These pages are a part of a wider project called Pulp Culture:  Writing the Social, a guide to theory on the internet.

This site includes a biography of Habermas, as well as bibliographies, essays and notes by Habermas, and links to sites about Habermas.


The Discourse Ethics of Habermas

By Dr. Antje Gimmler.  


One of the most famous phrases of the discourse ethics of Jürgen Habermas is: in discourse the unforced force of the better argument prevails. Or to put it in the words of hermeneutic philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, who gives this a popular turn: What the Others are saying could be right! As everyone knows, this ideal is very difficult to achieve in scholarly and everyday discussions. But there is a obvious deficit in practical philosophy - namely, its fundamentally "unresolved openness" [Unabgeschlossenheit] concerning its problems and its various attempts at their solutions. This fundamental, unresolved openness becomes a great virtue in discussions - the virtue of fallibilism.


Books by Thomas McCarthy

Habermas' stupendous project is, in McCarthy's words, to formulate a critical social theory that will "be empirical and scientific without being reducible to empirical-analytic science, philosophical in the sense of critique but not of presuppositionless 'first philosophy,' historical without being historical, and practical in the sense of being oriented to an emancipatory political practice but not to technological-administrative control." -- Murry Bookchin, Finding the Subject:  Notes on Whitebook and "Habermas Ltd."


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