Reconciling communicative action with recognition: Thickening the ‘inter’ of intersubjectivity

Philosophy and Social Criticism 32 (3):377-400 (2006)
Abstract
There is an underlying idea of symmetry involved in most notions of rationality. From a dialogical philosophical standpoint, however, the symmetry implied by social contract theories and so-called Golden Rule thinking is anchored to a Cartesian subject–object world and is therefore not equipped to address recognition – at least not if recognition is to be understood as something happening between subjects. For this purpose, the dialogical symmetry implied by Habermas' communicative action does a much better job. Still, it is insufficient to embrace those kinds of recognition that are dependent on asymmetry and concrete difference. This article explores how communicative action could meet the demand of recognition by investigating a complementary source of validity in communicative rationality, apart from Habermas' validity claims, in which ‘inter’ is better characterized as mutuality than as symmetry. By recognizing both sources of validity, communicative action can open the door more fully to all aspects of recognition without giving up its universal pragmatic core. Key Words: communicative action • communicative rationality • discourse ethics • Jürgen Habermas • Axel Honneth • recognition • universal pragmatics.
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