Communication and content: Circumstances and consequences of the Habermas-Brandom debate

Abstract

The recent exchange between Robert Brandom and Jürgen Habermas provides an opportunity to compare and contrast some aspects of their systems. Both present broadly inferential accounts of meaning, according to which the content of an expression is determined by its role in an inferential network. Several problems confront such theories of meaning - one of which threatens the possibility of communication because content is relative to an individual's set of beliefs. Brandom acknowledges this problem and provides a solution to it. The point of this paper is to argue that it arises for Habermas's theory as well. I then present several solutions Habermas could adopt and evaluate their feasibility. The result is that Habermas must alter his theory of communicative action by contextualizing the standards for successful communication.

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Kevin Scharp
University of St. Andrews

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