A substantivist construal of discourse ethics

Abstract
This paper presents a substantivist construal of discourse ethics, which claims that we should see our engagement in public deliberation as expressing and elaborating a substantive commitment to basic moral ideas of solidarity, equality, and freedom. This view is different from Habermas's standard formalist defence of discourse ethics, which attempts to derive the principle of discursive moral justification from primarily non-moral presuppositions of rational argumentation as such. After explicating the difference between the substantivist and the formalist construal, I defend the former by showing that it is not only intuitively compelling, but also particularly well equipped for addressing four important objections recently levelled against discourse ethics and its political applications (Rawls's concern that it lacks substantive guidelines, Gunnarsson's challenge that it has not been proven to be superior to alternative moral conceptions such as utilitarianism, Scanlon's complaint that it lacks an account of moral motivation, and Galston's and Young's worries that it could lead to political practices of cultural imposition). I conclude by pointing out some consequences of the previous discussion for the future of Critical Theory.
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Christian Rostbøll (2009). Dissent, Criticism, and Transformative Political Action in Deliberative Democracy. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 12 (1):19-36.
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