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Title of Thesis

Javed Iqbal Ameeri.
Institute/University/Department Details
University of Karachi/ Department of Philosophy
Number of Pages
Keywords (Extracted from title, table of contents and abstract of thesis)
habermas philosophy, language, habermas’ early theory, communicative rationality, rational reconstruction

Jurgen Habermas is today not only of Germany’s but also one of the west’s leading philosophers, social and political theorists. He combines all three qualities in himself. This thesis, therefore explores his philosophy of language in an expository mode and set in a developmental framework. The former facet is meant to bring but the strengths and weaknesses of his theory while the latter puts his work in perspective showing how Habermas has responded to criticisms and modified, improved or strengthened his theory. When taken as a whole it becomes clear that Habermas’ Philosophy of language is quite different from the other versions on offer.

This thesis shows that Habermas’ theory of language passes through two intermediate stages before attaining the shape it has now. The first stage is characterized by an almost speculative theorizing and is soon given up. In the second stage Habermas orients his theorizing to a more empirical method namely rational reconstruction that has the virtues of empiricism without the pitfalls of positivism. One can clearly discern in the complex ideational edifice that is Habermas’ that it is begun to be constructed on Hegelian foundations but in response to criticisms shows a gradual tilt towards Kant. The first stage is presented in chapter II and the second and final stages in chapter III and IV. The diverse thought strands which inform Habermas work are finally synthesied at the third stage under the notion of communicative action and communicative rationality. When these two notions inform his philosophy of language he is able to reap mythological advantages in the dimensions of philosophical ethics and social theory as well political philosophy.

Habermas calls his mature philosophy of language, formal pragmatics. His central argument for this is based on the primacy of speech over language in the backdrop of the collapse of the philosophy of consciousness. By connecting this to the notion of communicative rationality, which has its own elaborate structure Habermas argues that speech has a rational core. This however is to be found only in modern societies because it is only in modernity especially as it has evolved in today’s post metaphysical age that one can find such structures of consciousness as are bound by a sense of self and of the other and are motivated by and responsive to the force of the better argument. Habermas’ formal pragmatics then is not mere theory but an actual reconstruction of types of speech acts used in interaction in modern western societies. The advantage that the structure of speech acts as expounded by formal pragmatics has over other versions of pragmatics is that the former is able to the matise more dimensions of life while at the same time remaining firmly within the ambit of rationality specific to modernity. It is able to bring important dimensions of human life like society, self and aesthetics at par with science and thereby to counter positivism on its own ground.

Having highlighted the strengths, the thesis then goes on to take a look at its shortcomings and comes to the conclusion that Habermas’ philosophy of language has only a limited advantage over other versions. The reasons for this lie in the fact that on the one hand there are certain basic structural weaknesses in formal pragmatics that have not been set right and on the other hand what is apparently the enabling notion, namely communicative rationality turns out to have far reaching negative implications especially in the dimension of intercultural understanding. The thesis goes on to suggest that if the latter weakness in not rectified, communicative rationality may turn into another version of the much detested instrumental rationality.

Download Full Thesis
2446.67 KB
S. No. Chapter Title of the Chapters Page Size (KB)
1 0 Contents
124.77 KB
2 1 Introduction 1-8
251.4 KB
3 2 Habermas’ Early theory 19-68
653.62 KB
4 3 Universal Formal Pragmatics 69-131
842.66 KB
5 4 Communicative Rationality 132-177
612.92 KB
6 5 Conclusion 178-187
196.37 KB
  5.1 Additional Bibliography 188-194