Habermas Commentary/Books/TCA1/p18

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Argumentation vs. Force (18.1)[edit]

In some instances, people cannot repair disagreements by relying on everyday routines, and must instead choose between argumentation and the potential or actual use of force. Argumentation is a practice that is ultimately based upon reason, in the sense that the rationality of the participants in an argument is determined by whether they could, if necessary, under suitable circumstances, provide reasons for their expressions. Reasons that count for this purpose may include any of three different kinds of rational expressions and their corresponding speech acts: objective (constative speech acts), normative (imperative speech acts), or subjective (expressive or preference speech acts).

The potential or actual use of force (i.e., the negation of argumentation) occurs when the situation fails to supply the necessary conditions -- the regulating principles -- for a communicative setting in which reasons can be given and discussed. Those conditions include the presence of people who, at the time, share equal social status, autonomy, and responsibility, and are open to criticism and willing to discuss reasons rather than assert dogmas. These conditions are the compenents of an ideal speech situation which, though rarely encountered in daily life, is tacitly understood as the ideal for communication -- which, that is, if not understood by one or more parties, negates their capability to participate in reasoned argumentation. It is the limit case in the sense that perfection is a limit case: within its specified criteria, one cannot exceed it.

According to the foregoing comments, an example would arise where the professor does not threaten or command, but simply asserts and repeats dogma (e.g., "An ethnography class is always essential"). Even without that, the mere disparity in social status and autonomy between professor and student typically limit the latter’s freedom to offer a spirited, self-respecting defense, such that almost any diagreement between a professor and student on a curricular matter would tend to transgress one or more of the foregoing regulating principles, though it seems unlikely that all such transgressions would be thematized (i.e., made a theme, in itself, of the ensuing discussion) -- that, indeed, it could be risky for the student to do so.

Strategic and Communicative Action (18.1)[edit]

Strategic action seeks to get something from others, as distinct from being honest. Absent sincerity, an expression of a subjective state fails to raise a claim of validity, and thus, unlike communicative action, is not a candidate for theoretical or practical discourse. An example arises when a person says that s/he enjoys something that, in fact, s/he does not, and is saying so only for purposes of creating an image of him/herself in the mind of the listener.

Grounding Is Interwoven with Learning (18.bot.3)[edit]

Truth claims are assertions about objective states of affairs. As such, they are a subset of validity claims, which also include normative and subjective rational expressions. Habermas understands "theoretical discourse" to be argumentation in which truth claims are thematized and discussed, and "moral-practical discourse" to be argumentation in which normative claims are thematized and discussed. Reasons advanced in argumentation may include objective, normative, or subjective expressions, all of which are (or perhaps have at least the potential to be) rational.

I am not certain, however, whether theoretical, moral-practical, and subjective forms of discourse are all capable of being grounded. All three are falsifiable (by e.g., pointing out that my allegation of a subjective state of mind does not square with my outward affect), and as such are a subset of validity claims. But the significance of falsifiability is that the expression in question "therewith has a relation to the objective world (that is, a relation to the facts) and is open to objective judgment" (TCA1, p. 9). To say that a normative or subjective expression "satisfies the precondition for rationality if and insofar as" it has this connection to objectivity (id.) seems tantamount to saying that a speech act is rational only to the extent that directly, or by objectification, it places the objective world in the foreground). Certainly an objective expression is "susceptible of criticism and grounding" (TCA1, p. 9) in this sense; but it seems that a normative or subjective expression is not, per se, but rather than that it can be made to be so through objectification -- when, that is, it is supported with objective, real-world reasons that supply its grounds (TCA1 p. 39).

Grounding is interwoven with learning, in that learning depends upon the ability to successfully identify one’s mistakes and learn from them, and also from the refutation of hypotheses and the failure of interventions (TCA1, p. 18). In studies of cultures, it seems that all three of those aspects of learning are implicated, insofar as one must learn to think as the people being studied think. Similarly, in a developmental context, Habermas believes that learning is best understood as an internal progression through stages of competence, whether in person-physical (Piaget) or moral practical (Kohlberg) terms. The emphasis upon internality appears to indicate that the study of development is best done, not as an externalist series of judgments upon the person’s relative capacity for a given kind of knowledge or performance, but rather as an internalist, phenomenological understanding of what it is like to be him/her at that time.