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Beyond Universal Pragmatics

Studies in the Philosophy of Communication


Colin B. Grant

The explicit ambition of this collection is to move ‘beyond’ the Universal Pragmatics of Jürgen Habermas. It is without doubt an ambitious programme whose architect has led since the 1960s a series of reflections on the rational potential of western society from the Enlightenment to the present. However, this theoretical emphasis on the irreducibility of the rational content of debate cannot avoid abstracting communicative universals from the empirical communication practices which are always embedded in multiple contexts of discourse, identity, media and institutions. This tension in Habermas’s œuvre has developed an antagonistic potential. An example of this antagonism can be seen in the distorting effects of a normative theory of communication whose very normativity means turning a blind eye to a history of social communication. For example, Habermas infamously neglects the constitutive role played by the media in constructions of what is held to be ‘public’ and even his more recent revisions do not resolve this dilemma.
The nine contributions in this volume from the fields of psychology, politics, media, epistemology and aesthetics set out to move beyond the influence of communicative universals and propose alternative approaches to the challenge of reconciling autonomy, interaction and social organisation.
Contents: Colin B. Grant: Introduction – Edmond Wright: Habermas as Lacking in Faith? – Mark Olssen: Discourse, Complexity, Life: Elaborating the Possibilities of Foucault’s Materialist Concept of Discourse – Bart Vandenabeele/Stijn Van Impe: Kant ‘after’ Habermas and Searle. Towards a Pragmatics of Aesthetic Judgements – Siegfried J. Schmidt: The Self-Organisation of Human Communication – João Salgado/Jaan Valsiner: Dialogism and the Eternal Movement within Communication – Katerina Strani: Communicative Rationality and the Challenge of Systems Theory – Loet Leydesdorff: Luhmann Reconsidered. Towards an Empirical Research Programme in the Sociology of Communication? – Tino G.K. Meitz: In Praise of Hubris: Habermas, Epistemology and Theory Formation – Colin B. Grant: Radical Contextualism vs. Universal Pragmatics.