Habermas as philosopher
for beginning readers

Gary Davis
August 29, 2010 / January, 1, 2011

Since the 1960s, Jürgen Habermas has made lasting contributions to political philosophy, philosophy of language, social theory, moral theory, philosophy of law, and other areas, as his work involves many topics in the human sciences and contemporary life, recently including views on bioethics, religious meaning, naturalism, and the future of Europe. (He’s well-known in Europe as a public intellectual).

He discursively finds reason for democratic humanity in the nature of our communicative life (which I’ve discussed synoptically), but he greatly exemplifies his own interdisciplinary view of philosophy by providing a rigorous way to integrate views of language, moral consciousness, social evolution, political life, etc. without metaphysicalism.

In Dublin, on Bloomsday, 2010, Maeve Cooke provided a good introduction to Habermas before he received a “Ulysses Medal.”

Since he’s been most influential among theorists in the social sciences, his comprehensively philosophical character is commonly marginalized in accounts of his work. Contrary to this tendency, professors James Bohman and William Rehg provide an authoritative synopsis of Habermas’s philosophical development and career for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

An outstanding (and longstanding) reader of Habermas’ work, David Ingram, has recently published a comprehensive, career-encompassing discussion of Habermas’ thought: Habermas: Introduction and Analysis, Cornell UP, 2010 (384 pp).

Good examples of Habermas’ thinking, in easily-available paperbacks (which are also exemplary works by Habermas), include:

  • chapter 6 of his The Postnational Constellation, “Conceptions of Modernity”
  • chapter 1 of his Justification & Application, “On the Pragmatic, the Ethical, and the Moral Employments of Practical Reason”

For subscribers to the Yahoo! list, there are occasioned interviews and articles in the group “Files” section, including major articles by Habermas. (These listings haven’t been updated much since mid-2008. During 2013, all of that subscriber-only material will be transferred to another server, allowing non-subscriber access to those supplementary materials, some of it difficult to otherwise obtain.)

Thomas Gregersen’s longstanding interest in tracking Habermas’ career has led to an exemplary sense of Habermasian interest in political theory via his very active blog.

I expect to become more engaged with “Habermasian” (Habermasian and post-Habermasian) ventures during 2013 and onward through a new blog.