• Born June 18, 1929 in Gummersbach (Düsseldorf), Germany
• Still alive
• Joined the Hitler Youth at 10 y.o. (a youth movement to train them in Nazi ideologies)
• Completed secondary education and attended the Universities of Bonn, Göttingen, and Zürich. (After Nazi defeat in May 1945)
• (At University of Bonn) Received Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1954, with a dissertation on Friedrich Schelling (a German philosopher)
• Worked as Theodor Adorno's (German philosopher known for the critical theory of society) first assistant at the Institute for Social Research from 1956-1959
• Left the Institute at 1959 and completed his second doctorate in 1961 under political scientist Wolfgang Abendroth at the University of Marburg; published with additions in 1962 as Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit (The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere)
• Became a privatdozent (unsalaried professor and lecturer) in 1961 at University of Marburg; in 1962 was named extraordinary professor (professor without a chair (head of department)) at University of Heidelberg
• Succeeded Max Horkheimer as professor of philosophy and sociology at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main (Frankfurt University) in 1964.
• Protested against curbs on civil liberties in domestic and anti-terrorist legislation in 1977
.• “From a moral point of view, there is no excuse for terrorist acts, regardless of the motive or the situation under which they are carried out.”
• Spent 10 years as director of the Max Planck Institute in Starnberg (1971-1981), before returning to Frankfurt and retiring at 1994.
• Taught in the U.S. at Northwestern University and New York University
“From a moral point of view, there is no excuse for terrorist acts, regardless of the motive or the situation under which they are carried out.”
What is Discourse?
• A verbal interchange of ideas; especially: conversation.
• Any social interaction involving two opposing viewpoints aimed at achieving a rational consensus.
What is Ethics?
Moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity.
Therefore are moral principles of how people interchange ideas with one another.
Any social interaction which is accepted uncritically by the population in question.
Habermas noticed that whenever people had different opinions, for they usually end in violence.
He wanted to resolve these differences through discourse and achieve a more rational consensus/agreement.
Why was Discourse Ethics created?
Four Presuppositions of Discourse
Presupposition - a thing tacitly assumed beforehand at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action.
To have genuine discourse one must aim at a rational consensus (no one stop until it ends in agreement)
It is possible to attain a rational consensus (neither side wants to cooperate, or willing to bend or listen)
It is possible to tell a true consensus from a false consensus (when everyone has had their say and reached genuine agreement)
Only rational consensus can ground truth claims a valid and binding for all participants (we can only have a rule that everyone is expected to follow when everyone agrees)
An expression of a general truth, principle, or rule of conduct
Principle of Universality
Kant's Principle of Universality: All affected can accept the consequences and the side effect. Its general observance can be anticipated to have for the satisfaction of everyone’s interests
“Act as if the maxim of your action were by your will to become a universal law of nature”
But for Habermas...
Instead of being alone and asking that question by yourself, why don’t you share that maxim to everyone else and discuss it through discourse and have a consensus of the maxim and then make it universally binding.
“Act so as to treat humanity, whether in your own person, or that of another, always as an end, and never as a means only”
Kant's version of the Golden Rule
Treat everyone with a sense of a respect and with a sense of dignity
Principle of Discourse
Habermas' Principle of Discourse
Only those norms can claim to be valid that meet (or could meet) with the approval of all affected in their capacity as participants in practical discourse.
Best way to show respect is to make sure that everyone has a say in creating a rule that everyone is expected to follow
We cannot expect people to follow a rule that they did not help create
“Rather than ascribing as valid to all others any maxim that I can will to be a universal law, I must submit my maxim to all others for purposes of discursively testing its claim of universality.“
Habermas' Reformulation of the Categorical Imperative (moral obligation)
For Habermas, the ultimate respect you can give to people is by letting them have a voice with a rule that they are expected to abide to.
The Ideal Speech Situation
(Also known as Rules of Reason as it was based on Robert Alexy’s Rules of Reason.)
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 his attitudes, desires, and needs.
3.No speaker may be prevented, by internal or external coercion, from exercising his rights as laid down in (1) and (2).
The Freedom To participate in the discourse in critical ways so as to express one's own attitudes, desires, and needs.
The Freedom From coercion of several sorts.
In other words it stresses:
Reciprocity - All have an equal chance to express attention
Symmetry - All have the equal chance to initiate communication, make our own arguments and challenge other people’s arguments
Absence of Hierarchy - One’s status does not influence the validity of the argument
The Ideal Speech Situation can be summarized in 3 Keywords:
YOU FOR LISTENING!
Bohman, J., & Rehg, W. (2014, August 04). Jürgen Habermas. Retrieved August 5, 2018, from
Bowman, K. (2017, December 2). Quick Explanation of Habermas' Discourse Ethics