The Moral Truth about Discourse Theory

Ratio Juris 19 (2):217-229 (2006)
Abstract
The fundamental impulse of Discourse Theory is to eschew the moral substantivism of ethical rationalism in favour of a pragmatic, procedural approach to ethical and legal analysis. However, this paper argues that even if the analysis of Communicative Action as reconstructed by Habermas’s “Universal Pragmatics,” and the implied procedural rules of practical discourse advanced by Robert Alexy are accepted, the validation or “redemption” of all authoritative and distributive claims must, in terms of logical priority, encounter the substantively general necessity of Gewirth’s Principle of Generic Consistency. This result operates as a reductio ad absurdum of the project of Universal Pragmatics and prompts us to reconsider the epistemological status and the political and ethico-legal function of Discourse Ethics in Civil Society
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