From the Second to the Third Person and Back Again

Abstract
Habermas and Brandom remain divided on a key point in their theories of language concerning the priority of a participant vs. a third-person, observational perspective onto language. I examine this dispute as it has played out in a recent exchange between them, attempting to explicate and defend a qualified version of Habermas’s claim in the light of his more developed treatment of this issue elsewhere. Once the defensible content of Habermas’s claim is clarified, I argue that Habermas’s critique of Brandom highlights an important way in which Brandom fails to follow through adquately in the development of his own understanding of language as a distinctively social practice. The value in Habermas’s criticism of Brandom’s work lies not in exposing an unbridgeable gulf between their two positions, but in helping us to work out more consistently the social perspective onto language that informs both their work
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