The discourse principle and those affected

Inquiry 40 (1):63 – 71 (1997)
Focusing on the terms 'possibly affected persons' and 'those affected' in the Habermasian 'discourse principle', I argue that we need a notion of moral subjects in addition to that of a person (in terms of moral agents and moral discussants) and that this notion of moral subjects implies a 'normative gradualism' which weakens the participatory and consensual aspect of discourse theory and strengthens the aspect of enlightened 'advocatory' deliberation in terms of needs and the good life. I argue that this notion of moral subjects ('those affected') represents a challenge for the discourse principle. Confronted with the huge number of (different kinds of) moral subjects and of (hypothetical) future persons, demanding various kinds of advocatory representation, the Habermasian discourse principle, as stated in Between Facts and Norms , becomes unsatisfactory.
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