Farewell to justification: Habermas, human rights, and universalist morality

Philosophy and Social Criticism 30 (1):73-96 (2004)
In his recent work, Jürgen Habermas signals the abandonment of his earlier claims to justify human rights and universalist morality. This paper explains the above shift, arguing that it is the inescapable result of his attempts in recent years to accommodate pluralism. The paper demonstrates how Habermas’s universal pragmatic justification of modern normative standards was inextricably tied to his consensus theory of validity. He was compelled by the structure of that argument to count on the current or future availability of a unified framework within which all can potentially articulate their needs and interests. With his abandonment of the justification Habermas has rid discourse theory of this controversial assumption. In weakening its defense of human rights and universalist morality against the charge of ethnocentrism, he has strengthened his theory’s foothold in the lived pluralist world. Key Words: argumentation • ethnocentrism • Habermas • human rights • justification • legitimacy • pluralism • rational consensus • Rehg.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453704039393
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Sarah Sorial (2008). Law, Cosmopolitan Law and the Protection of Human Rights. Journal of International Political Theory 4 (2):241-264.

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