Some problems of rationality, understanding, and universalistic ethics in the context of Habermas's theory of communicative action

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 24 (4):466-484 (1994)
The arguments presented in this discussion point to some problems in the theory of communicative action considered as a starting point for a sociological theory with both normative and explanatory aspirations. It is argued that Habermas's notion of consensus is not sufficiently developed to constitute a foundation of the ethics of public debates; that both social action and communicative action are grounded in social actors' references to the same three worlds, which makes the coordination of actions by means of understanding achieved in speech possible; that the criteria of rationality underlying use of language in the communicative action are ultimately those that are made explicit and consciously worked out in science; and that, finally, it is Parsons' solution to the Hobbesian problem and his concept of social action that provide a possible foundation for universalistic ethics
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