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Philosophy & Social Criticism
http://psc.sagepub.com/content/23/4/41
The online version of this article can be found at:
 
DOI: 10.1177/019145379702300403
1997 23: 41 Philosophy Social Criticism
Marianna Papastephanou
Apel-Habermas debate
Communicative action and philosophical foundations: Comments on the
 
 
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41
Marianna
Papastephanou
Communicative action and
philosophical
foundations
Comments on the
Apel-Habermas
debate
Abstract
Anglo-American
and continental
philosophy
are often con-
sidered
sharply divergent,
even
hostile,
movements of
thought. However,
there have been several
attempts
to cross the divide between
them,
leading
some theorists to
very interesting
and
promising
new
projects. Apel
has
been one of the first German
philosophers
whose serious
preoccupation
with continental themes has not
impeded
his
thorough
and
responsible
investigation
of
analytic
and
post-analytic
issues.
Thus, Apel promotes
a
linguistic analysis
that
aspires
to unveil the
hidden, implicit,
but non-
circumventible
linguistic-pragmatic presuppositions
of
argumentation
and
to
explore
its
implications
for
epistemology,
ethics and
politics.
Whereas
Apel’s
controversial conclusions
concerning
foundationalism
are
widely
debated in
Germany,
in the
English-speaking
world the few refer-
ences to his work content themselves with
merely presenting
him as one of
Habermas’s associates. This results in
(1)
a lack of
appreciation
or even
comprehension
of the
arguments
with which
Apel
and Habermas
effectively
refute relativism
(e.g.
the
argument
of
performative
self-contradiction), (2)
the confusion of Habermas’s non-foundationalist
insights
with
Apel’s
foun-
dationalist tendencies and the universalism of the former with the tran-
scendentalism of the
latter,
and
(3)
a
neglect
of the
development
of the
nuances and distinctiveness of
Apel’s philosophy.
This
development
is the
main concern of
my
article.
My exposition
of the distinction between
Apel’s
and Habermas’s theories will be focused on their
justification
of the
priority
of communicative over
strategic action,
their
divergent
accounts of
prag-
matics and their different
underlying anthropological assumptions. Finally,
both theories are
regarded
as
promising
alternatives within the same
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42
paradigm
of
thought,
as both
critically engage
with a number of
pressing
sociopolitical
and
philosophical
issues.
Key
words communicative and
strategic rationality .
discourse ethics .
fallibilism . foundationalism . normative
presuppositions
of
argumentation . pragmatics .
transcendentalism
The
understanding
of our
(self-)reflective
activity
as a
subject’s
relation
to a world of
objects
has been one of the main
philosophical
concerns
of our
century.
From Freud’s
undermining
of the notion of an
absolutely
rational and
non-fragmented subjective world,
to the later
Wittgenstein’s
critique
of a non-situated
philosophizing
and
Heidegger’s rejection
of
Western
metaphysics,
down to the
poststructuralist liquidation
of a con-
ditioning
and autonomous
subject,
the focal
point
of criticism is one of
the most
deep-seated assumptions
of Western
philosophy:
the idea that
an external
reality
is
represented by
means of reflective
thought
in
human consciousness.
The
linguistic
turn in its various forms
promotes
a
critique
of the
philosophy
of consciousness and installs
language
in its
place.
It offers
the framework for a reformulation of that set of
problems
that was
previously
dealt with
by
means of a
subject-centred
reason.
Analytical
philosophy
on the one
hand,
and Saussurean
linguistics
on the
other,
have
inaugurated
a new
approach
to
problems concerning
the constel-
lation :
thought, signification
and
interpretation. Lyotard’s theory
of the
incommensurability
of
language games,
Derrida’s
différance,
and
Lacan’s
linguistic
reformulation of Freudian
psychoanalysis
are con-
sidered to be a
coup
de
grâce
to the
sovereignty
of the
subject-object
model of
thought.
However, endorsing
the
linguistic paradigm
means for some
philo-
sophers
a
necessary repudiation
of
reason, justice, truth, subjective
autonomy
and,
consequently, epistemology
and ethics. Such anti-
humanist
linguistic
accounts - often idealist or ultra-nominalist - can
have some
very negative implications. They
lead to an unwarranted
attack on
knowledge
and
science,
or to moral
scepticism,
or to an intel-
lectual abdication from all
political struggles. Apel
and Habermas
nego-
tiate the
premises
of the
linguistic philosophical
framework in order to
avoid
subject-centred
foundationalism
(or conversely, linguistic
deter-
minism)
on the one hand and the relativistic
predicament
on the other.
But their different
understanding
of certain
implicit assumptions
of their
common
project (what
I will be
calling
henceforth
’pragmatic philos-
ophy
of
language’)1
has
sparked
off an
ongoing
debate between them.
Some of these
implicit assumptions
I would like to examine in this
article, together
with the
explicit
terms of the contention between
Apel
and
Habermas,
a contention
that,
in
my opinion,
revolves
chiefly
around
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43
the
justification
of the
priority
of communicative over
strategic
action.
In
doing so,
I
hope
to show that within the
second-generation
Frankfurt
School version of the
linguistic
turn there arises a whole
spectrum
of
promising
alternatives to its
postmodernist counterpart.
A critical com-
parison
between Habermas’s and
Apel’s
work reveals tensions within the
project
of a
linguistic
turn
they
formulated
initially -
tensions which
can
prove
fruitful for the
general
discussion of what a
postmetaphysical
philosophy might
be like.
Apel’s theory points
in the direction of a
linguistic-pragmatic
accommodation of
philosophical
concerns about
foundations, objectivity, realism,
and non-circumventible
linguistic
structures. Habermas
adopts
a more anti-foundationalist
approach.
Apel’s project
of an ultimate
linguistic
foundation of discourse would be
considered
particularly pathbreaking by
those who - due to the
aporias
of the
philosophy
of consciousness - search for new frameworks in order
to restate old
problems
in fresh
terms,
but are not comfortable either
with the relativistic or defeatist
reasoning
of some
postmodern
accounts
of the
linguistic
turn or with Habermas’s weak
justification
of his non-
relativist outlook. In more
explicit terms,
those who do
accept
the
pri-
ority
of communicative over
strategic action,
but
plead
for more solid
grounds
for
justifying
it as
something
more than a
preference,
will find
Apel’s justification
more
convincing
than the one Habermas offers.
Others
may
believe that a weak
justification
suffices to
ground
our
pri-
oritization of communicative over
strategic
action if we want to break
with
philosophical assumptions self-proclaimed
as infallible.2
Nevertheless,
in Habermas’s and
Apel’s
theories, reality
does not form
an
extra-linguistic point
of reference to which we have a direct - thus non-
linguistically
mediated - access.
Language
and
society
are an
always
already
(immer schon)
condition of human
experience.
I
hope
that this
article will show that to
regard3
Habermas as the last theoretician of tran-
scendentalism, apriorism
and foundationalism is a
misreading
of his
work. As concerns
Apel, although
he retains these
terms,
his accounts of
them do not resemble in the least what
poststructuralist
thinkers
gener-
ally disparage
as a traditional and obsolete Cartesian
metaphysics.
What
seems to
emerge
as the
polemical
’other’ in some
poststructuralist
attacks
on Habermas and
Apel
as defenders of
modernity,
i.e. a
Cartesian,
absolutist and
patriarchal metaphysician,
is
only
a caricature.
Apel
and
Habermas
converge
in their
critique
of Cartesian
psychologism
and their
postmetaphysical aspiration
to
recuperate
a
context-sensitive,
discursive
and
’partisan’ conception
of
rationality.
To both
thinkers,
the
perspective
of an ideal
speech
situation is a
counterfactual potentiality
of
language,
not a
philosopher’s prescription.
Truth, validity, justice
are
regulative
ideas; they
are not in
any
case the absolute manifestations of an
origin
( Ursprung) prior
to human
linguistically
mediated interaction.
Roughly
sketched, Apel’s
and Habermas’s common
project
involves:
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44
(1)
a
theory
of human interests in which a
knowledge-constitutive
inter-
est in
emancipation
unveils a
(self-)critical ’partisan’
element intrinsic to
rationality; (2)
an
exploration
of
linguistic validity-claims (’universal’
or
’transcendental’
pragmatics),
language acquisition
and
linguistic
struc-
tures that reveals the embeddedness of reason in
language
and unmasks
dogmatism, ideology
and
strategicality
as distorted
communication;
and
(3)
a communicative ethics and
politics
based on the normative
presup-
positions
of
argumentation
and the
possibility
for a discursive will-
formation. Influenced
by
Peircean
semiotics,
the
Heideggerian critique
of Western
metaphysics, Wittgenstein’s
account of
language games,
Austin’s
speech-act theory,
and the hermeneutic attack on
positivism,
Apel
and Habermas have
inaugurated
a
linguistic-theoretical
reformu-
lation of the most
weighty
Kantian notions such as the
Categorical
Imperative,
the sensus
communis,
the
tripartite
distinction of
reason,
and the idea of
autonomy
in its
subjective
and
political
forms.
Having
described in
general
terms the common denominators of a
pragmatic philosophy
of
language,
let me
explain
how the latter fits in
the
contemporary philosophical
context. The debates within
analytical
philosophy during
the second half of the
century
focused on a
theory
of
language
that would offer the most
satisfactory
account of a
supposed
internal connection between
meaning
and truth. For
years
the
prevalent
understanding
of
language
assumed a relation of
representation
and
depiction
between sentences and states of affairs in the world. With the
later
Wittgenstein’s theory
of
meaning-as-use
and Austin’s and Searle’s
rehabilitation of
performativity,
a new dimension was
opened
for tran-
scending
accounts of
language
as
mirror-image
of a world of
objects
or
facts.
By speaking
we do not
only
refer to
sequences
of
episodes;
we also
promise, demand,
express opinions, explain
and so on. Intension ceases
to be a mere
supplement
of ostension and extension.
In this
context, philosophers
concerned with the
oppositional couple
’hermeneutic versus
nomological
sciences’ saw the
possibility
for a
decisive attack
against positivism,
no
longer
via
epistemology
but via a
philosophy
of
language. Analytical philosophy
did offer the means for a
shift from the
philosophy
of consciousness to the
philosophy
of lan-
guage. However,
it seemed reluctant to
identify linguistic expressions
as
carrying ideologies
and often
reflecting specific power
relations. It
seemed even more reluctant to extend its attention
explicitly
to ’ultimate’
questions
about its own
epistemological, anthropological
and
political
origins
and
significance. Apel
with his discussion of
Wittgenstein’s
later
philosophy
in his
Analytic Philosophy
and the
Geisteswissenscha ften
and Habermas with his distinction
of the
linguistic
functions in relation
to different dimensions of the world
(’What
Is Universal
Pragmatics’)
heralded a
rejection
of the
empirical ontology
that
grounded positivism
and
governed
formal semantics.
According
to the
ontology
assumed
by
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45
traditional
linguistic theories,
language
has a
descriptive
relation to the
world
regardless
of whether the former refers to entities or to facts of
the latter.
Therefore,
what is at stake in assertoric sentences is their true
correspondence
to
something
outside
language.
This kind of
empirical
ontology
is criticized
by Apel
and Habermas
(with
arguments
of dis-
tinctly Heideggerian provenance)
as
being inadequate
to account for the
complexity
of our relations to inner and outer worlds as well as the con-
stant sociocultural
shaping
we
undergo
as
language-speaking beings.
A
polemic
directed
against
an
empirical ontology
that
aspires
to
extract from
strictly spatiotemporal
relations an
all-encompassing
theory
of
reality
and human action does not
necessarily imply
a break
with
objectivity
and realism. On the
contrary, Apel’s
views on the
problem
of a
proof
of the existence of the actual world are realist. And
he is less reluctant than Habermas to consider the existence of an
external world as a solid
ground
for
philosophical justifications.
Haber-
mas would not
deny
to the
study
of the
objective
world its
significance
but he would have
misgivings
about
subscribing
to the realism that con-
vinced
Peirce,
and as a
consequence
his views on the issue are rather
ambivalent.
Thus, although
both
Apel
and Habermas avoid the relativist
conclusions of some
postmodern theorists, they disagree
on the
signifi-
cance
they grant
the
problem.
The debate on this
point
becomes clear in
the
following
remark
by Apel:
J. Habermas,
in
interpreting
Peirce in KHI
[Knowledge
and Human Inter-
ests
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987)],
criticizes the indirect
proof
of the
existence of the real
world,
as well as the
meaning-critical postulate
of the
cognizability
of this real world in an unlimited
process
of
inquiry.
Haber-

mas takes them to be
petitiones prtnczpit,
because both the
assumptions
and
the fact that
they imply
one another
correlatively go
to make
up
the tran-
scendental
framework
of Peirce’s
philosophy,
and
only
to that extent can
they
not be called into
question
(see KHI, pp. 117-18).
I would maintain
against
such a view that this transcendental framework is not
arbitrary,
but
is rather
necessarily presupposed
in our
speech
about what is real. This is
clearly
evident in Habermas’s own
attempt
to call this framework into
ques-
tion
by
means of Nietzsche’s
’perspectival
and irrationalistic
concept
of
reality’,
which
proclaims
that we can
very
well conceive of a
reality
that
consists
only
of a
plurality
of ’fictions related to a
standpoint’.
It seems to
me, however,
that we cannot hold such a
concept
of
reality.
To do so we
must either
change
the
meaning
of
’reality’
so that we
destroy
the
point
we
are
trying
to make
(just
as in the sentence
’everything
is
only my dream’,
where the
point
of the sentence cancels itself
out)
or
tacitly
assume Peirce’s
concept
of
reality
in our use of the
concept
‘fiction’.4
4
Regardless
of their different
response
to the issue of external
reality,
both
theorists avoid a
prioritization
of the
symbolic
over the material
expla-
nation of the world. Habermas via Marx and
Apel
rather via Peirce
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46
reconcile
theory
with
practice.
I consider as the basic motive for the
development
of
Apel’s
and Habermas’s
pragmatics
the wish to offer an
alternative to a
distinctly lopsided understanding
of
language
and the
world. Where the established
analytical philosophy
sees
only
one case
of
meaning,
the literal
one, Apel
and Habermas find an
explicitly
or
implicitly implied
’intended’ and ’utterance’
meaning.5
And
that,
because
they
do not want their
theory
to subscribe to the idealism of a
logical,
autonomous,
internal world mirrored in
language
or to the crude
materialist idea of an external world that exhausts its content in factual
presence,
a
fallacy
termed
’descriptive’6
or ’abstractive’7
by
Habermas
and
Apel respectively.
Consequently,
each time we refer to
something
in the world we
explicitly
attach ourselves in a relation to
objects,
or to
norms,
or to our
inner nature and
implicitly
to a manifoldness of world-relations. What
we
say,
can be contested from
any
world
perspective
and hence it raises
automatically
claims
of
truth,
rightness, sincerity.
The
explicit
claim in
each case is the one which is closer to the
prevalent aspect
of
reality.
Thus, validity
is
split
in three main
aspects -
of an
analogical
statUS8 -
related to the three dimensions of the world.
By
the fact that
validity-
claims are
always
within an
expression,
we ’understand a
speech
act if
we know the conditions which make it
acceptable’.9 Being
the basic
assumption
of universal
pragmatics,
this statement
signifies
a break with
a traditional semantics which
sought
to establish and
analyse
an internal
connection between
meaning
and
validity-as-truth,
and
suggests
an
internal connection between
understanding
(Verstehen)
and
processes
of
reaching understanding (Verständigung).10
In
Apel’s
version of
prag-
matics,
the
Verständigung
über etwas entails both
understanding
meaning
and
coming
to
agreement
about
validity-claims.&dquo;
In the
light
of these
remarks,
the basic aims of universal
(Haber-
masian)
or transcendental
(Apelian) pragmatics
become clearer. It is a
theory
of
language
that takes
up
the task of
identifying
and recon-
structing
universal conditions of
possible understandingl2
while
taking
into consideration the
pragmatic-contingent aspects
of
ordinary
lan-
guage.
It debunks the traditional
approach
to the relation of
language
and the world as one-sided and
ideological.
It undermines the omni-
science and
sovereignty
of a
correspondence theory
of truth. It
supplies
linguistic competence
with the
complementary
notion of a communi-
cative
competence.13
It reveals the self-reflective character of
language
that renders redundant all formal
metalanguages. By emphasizing
the
intersubjective prerequisites
of
reflection,
it shows how
inadequate
is a
Cartesian
conception
of a
monological subject
to account for
thought
as
a whole. And it
displays
how
rationality
is inherent in
language
and mir-
rored in the
validity-claims
of the
speech-acts
raised in relation to each
one of the world dimensions. ’There is no
pure
reason that
might
don
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47
linguistic clothing....
Reason is
by
its
very
nature incarnated in con-
texts of communicative action and in structures of the lifeworld.’14
Therefore,
to reach
understanding and,
possibly, agreement
reveals
a
potential
rather than a
utopian
ideal or a
philosophical
vision. The
ideal
speech
situation or the ideal communication
community
are
regu-
lative ideas. That
they implicitly guide
action is a fact we
experience
in
our encounters with
any
form of otherness in our lifeworlds. But as
ideals, they
are
perpetually deferred,
their
meaning
never there for us to
pin
down or
conclusively
to actualize. As
Apel puts it, ’&dquo;regulative
ideas&dquo; in our
context,
are normative
principles
of
practical
reason which
are
binding
on action in the sense that
they
define
obligations
and
provide guidance
for the
long-term, approximative
realisation of an
ideal. At the same
time, however,
they give expression
to the
insight
that
nothing
which can be
experienced
in time can ever
fully
accord with the
ideal’
(emphasis added).1s
Concerning ethics,
a
pragmatic philosophy
of
language
offers to the
’moral
point
of view’ a
justification
that needs no recourse to a
pre-social
or
pre-reflective metaphysical origin. Equality
and
responsibility
are
’obligations’
and
’promises’
we
implicitly
make to others from the
very
moment we enter a
practical
discourse with them. As
against strategi-
cality,
communicative action can make sense
only
as
genuine
concern for
reaching understanding,
that
is,
for
opening
ourselves to
alterity.
Thus
no
pre-fixed
interest or
goal, apart
from the one in
understanding
the
co-speakers,
can solicit communicative action.
These
convergences
in
Apel’s
and Habermas’s
views,
and
many
more
regarding
the views
they
share about formal
logic
and
performative
con-
tradiction,
rationalization
process
and
legitimation crisis,
universalism
and
emancipation - points
I cannot take
up
in detail in this sectionl6 _
suffice in
my opinion
to demonstrate the
paradigmatic affinity
of the
theories of
second-generation
Frankfurt School thinkers.
Nevertheless,
there are some differences
particularly
in their
implicit assumptions
about the
grounds
of a
pragmatic philosophy
of
language. Perhaps
the
main difference can be reduced to the fact that
Apel
remains faithful to
the initial idea of a
complete
transformation of the basic
premises
of the
philosophy
of consciousness to the
philosophy
of
language
in order to
revamp
them
by divesting
them of their
traditional-metaphysical
traits
and worn-out
metaphors
and
searching
for
post-metaphysical
foun-
dations,
whereas Habermas has
misgivings
about the
very
idea of foun-
dations. He
suggests
not
only
a
post-metaphysical,
but also a
post-foundationalist
and non-transcendental shift. A most
conspicuous
example
of this
discrepancy
is
terminological: Apel
terms his
prag-
matics of
language
’transcendental’ while Habermas names it ’universal’.
This
difference,
which arose in the
early 1970s, anticipated,
I
believe,
the contention that followed
mainly
after the
publication
in 1981 of
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48
Habermas’s
Theory of
Communicative Action
(TCA).
Habermas’s
preference
for the term ’universal’ can be
explained by
his decision to
find a third
way
between foundationalism and relativism
following
his
encounter with Kant’s
philosophy.
In his Communication and the Evo-
lution
of Society
Habermas writes: ’Kant terms transcendental an
investigation
that identifies and
analyses
the
apriori
conditions of
possi-
bility
of
experience.
The
underlying
idea is clear: in addition to the
empirical knowledge
that relates to
objects
of
experience,
there
is, sup-
posedly,
a transcendental
knowledge
of
concepts
of
objects
in
general
that
precedes experience,.’17
This wish to break with Kantian
apriorism
becomes clearer when one takes into account the
implications apriorism
has for the
concept
of
subjectivity
and the connotations of rationalism
and dualism it bears. On the other side lies the
danger
of
(neo)pragma-
tism and contextualism. The answer
provided by
Habermas to this
Scylla
and
Charybdis
dilemma is the term ’universal’: the conditions of
poss-
ible
understanding
are universal and this means
only
that
they
are
general
and
necessary.18
He also understands these conditions as non-
circumventible but he is reluctant to use
Apel’s
term ’transcendental’
because such a move ’could conceal the break with
apriorism
that has
been made in the meantime’.19 That
is,
there can be universal and
empiri-
cal conditions of
understanding
for
Habermas,
whereas for
Apel
the
same conditions have to be universal and transcendental. If we
attempt
to extract a common element from their accounts we could
say:
these
conditions are universal as transhistorical.
Apel argues
that the
presuppositions
of
argumentative
discourse
constitute an
apriori
of
communication,
an
’always already’
of inter-
subjectively
mediated interaction
which, by being linguistic, escapes
the
charge
of
monologism
and
dualism,
while
by preceding experience
it
remains transcendental.
Thus,
the normative
presuppositions
of
argu-
mentation are transcendental ’in so far as one cannot
deny
or refuse
them without at the same time
supposing
them and
thereby committing
a
performative
self-contradiction’.2° Such a claim is too
strong
for
Habermas,
for whom a
similarity
between the normative content of the
pragmatic
rules and transcendental conditions suffices to defend the
argument
that ’we cannot avoid
making
certain universal
presupposi-
tions when
using language
in order to reach
understanding’.21 Although
the
pragmatic
rules of communication are similar to transcendental con-
ditions,
’they
are not transcendental in the strict sense’ for
(1)
’we can
also act in a non-communicative manner’ and
(2)
’the
ineluctability
of
idealizing suppositions
does not
imply
that these will in fact be ful-
filled’.22
The last remarks
prove
that the
problem goes
far
beyond
termin-
ology.
Habermas is
willing -
and indeed finds it
necessary -
to defend
universalism but he
prefers
not to back it
up
with transcendentalism.
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The latter term not
only
is elusive and obscure because of all the ideo-
logical baggage
associated with
it;
it also has
far-reaching implications
in its association with ultimate
justifications
or
foundationalism
par-
ticularly
in ethics.
Apel, however,
elaborates a
theory
that accommo-
dates foundationalism albeit in a
postmetaphysical
version.
Setting
out to
develop
a
theory
of a
postmetaphysical
ultimate foun-
dation of
knowledge,
one is
confronted,
as Hans Albert
argues
and
Apel
admits,
with what is called the ’Minchausen trilemma’: either an ulti-
mate foundation
leads( 1 )
to an endless
regression,
or
(2)
to a
logical
cir-
cularity
in which what has to be
proven
is
presupposed by
the
proof,
or
(3)
the ultimate foundation breaks out of the
regression by simply
declar-
ing, dogmatically,
that the notion of an ultimate
ground
of all
things is,
quite simply, intuitively
obvious.23 It should be
noted, however,
that the
scope
of Albert’s
charge
is limited to cases where the ultimate foundation
is
supposedly
achieved
by
means of
deduction,
that
is,
it
applies
in all
and
only
those cases where the foundation is defined as the derivation
of
something
from
something
else.24
Having
Peirce’s three
syllogistic
forms -
deduction,
abduction and
induction - as a
starting-point, Apel
shows that these traditional forms
necessarily
fall
prey
to
circularity
or
dogmatism
or infinite
regression.
The
philosophical
foundation he
suggests, though,
does not
presuppose
any
substantive statements that would need other statements to
rely on;
it
presupposes only
those statements the abandonment of which would
amount to a
performative
self-contradiction. In
Apel’s
words:
’my
method ascertains
only
what it itself relies on as a method of
foundation;
it ascertains
only
those kinds of
presuppositions
that it itself cannot
dispute
if it is to avoid
performative
self-contradiction. It can
provide
no
ontological-cosmological explanation
of the whole
world; rather,
it
pro-
vides
solely
for the self-ascertainment of
argumentative
reason’.2s
Therefore,
the
presuppositions
of
argumentation, by
not
being
subject
to
dispute
without the
speakers falling
into a
performative
self-
contradiction,
gain
the status of unavoidable conditions of discourse. In
addition,
the device of
performative
self-contradiction
acquires
a
par-
ticular
philosophical significance
not
only
for the
negative
task it
fulfils,
namely,
to refute
scepticism,
but also
by
virtue of its
positive
role as a
yardstick
of the
apriori
or
non-apriori
character of statements.
Apel
uses
it -
among
other
things -
to refute an unrestricted fallibilism
(promoted
by
some
Popperians).
Influenced
by
Peirce and
Popper, Apel
endorses fallibilism but not in
an
unmitigated
version. He
poses
the
question
of how it is
possible
or
even
necessary
not to assume
anything
as certain
apriori,
and if it is
so,
how do we
manage
to
carry
out
fallibility
tests if we do not assume as
certain at least the means
by
which we
examine, criticize,
or even
falsify
hypotheses.
This
question
leads to a chain of
arguments
each
aiming
to
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show that
things
with fallibilism are more
complicated
than
they appear
to be.
A first
step
is to recall
Wittgenstein
and his
theory
of
language
games.
As
Apel puts
it,
’every
concrete
doubt,
which
places
a scientific
theory
into
question,
must itself
lay
claim to
paradigmatic
certainties,
to
certainties that are
part
of a
language game
and that make that
language
game possible’.26
If one
disputes
whether these
paradigmatic
certainties
can be considered as certainties at all and assumes that
they
are also
subject
to
fallibility,
then one still invokes the
principle
that
everything
can be doubted
universally. Therefore,
for
Apel,
even if
everything
is in
principle
falsifiable,
fallibilism itself cannot be
subjected
to a fallibilistic
test.
Consequently,
if we do not want fallibilism to be
meaningless,
according
to
Apel,
we must assume
among
other
things
that
(1)
there
are true statements in distinction to false statements and
(2)
there is a
’community
of discourse or
argumentation
that has at its
disposal
a suf-
ficiently
shared and clear
language
in which it can formulate not
only
its
problems
but also
possible
solutions to these
problems’.27
The latter
assumption points
to a discourse
principle
that functions as the con-
dition for the
possibility
and
comprehensibility
of fallibilism itself.
Thus,
the discourse
principle
that
guarantees
communication free of domi-
nation is
proclaimed
an ultimate foundation that makes
possible
the fal-
sification or verification of
philosophical hypotheses.
Fallibilism is another
point
of contention between Habermas and
Apel.
Habermas seems to
accept
an unrestricted
principle
of
fallibilism,
that
is,
he believes that fallibilism itself is also
empirically
testable. In his
’Reply’,
Habermas
attempts
to
analyse
the reasons for his
disagreement
with
Apel -
and Kuhlmann - on fallibilism but his reduction of the dis-
agreement
to a
divergence
in discourse
theory
of truth28 seems rather
elusive. What is clearer is that for him fallibilism is a
simple grammati-
cal matter.29 That
is,
as
presuppositions
of
testing
the
presuppositions
of
argumentative
discourse are
non-circumventible,
but as
grammatical
sentences
they
are
subject
to
empirical testing
themselves.
(Granted,
for
Habermas,
no statements can form a
metalanguage,
thus even the dis-
course
principle
cannot be understood as a
metalinguistic principle
or as
a
metanorm.)
For
him,
’there cannot be
any
evidence or criteria of assess-
ment that are
completely prior
to
argumentation
that do not have to be
justified
in turn in
argumentation
and validated
by rationally
motivated
agreement
reached in discourse under the
presuppositions
of
argumen-
tation’.3° As to
fallibilism,
that means that there are not
any presuppo-
sitions of
fallibility
that would form a sort of
apriori
basis3l - even if
only linguistic -
which would be immune to
questioning.
On the other
hand, Apel
claims that a
principle
of fallibilism under-
stood as itself
empirically
testable would lead to a
paradox:
’we would
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have to be able to
falsify
the
presuppositions
in
question and,
at the same
time,
thereby presuppose
these same
presuppositions
as valid’.32
Whereas at first
sight
this
appears convincing
and well
argued,
Haber-
mas takes issue with it for he
suspects
that on such accounts no other
sort of
speculation
and research is
capable
of
imposing
restrictions on
fallibilism
apart
from
philosophy.
But this would amount to
granting
philosophy
a
special
status
among
the
disciplines
of
knowledge;
and if
philosophy
has the
privilege
of
making
infallible
assumptions,
even if
only linguistic
and not
metaphysical-ontological,
then such an
Archimedean
point
would
give philosophy - through
the back door this
time - the title that Kant attributed to it:
’Queen
of sciences’.
Apel’s
transcendentalism and his
conception
of the
presuppositions
of
argumentation
as an Archimedean
point
owe their
plausibility
to their
immunity
to the
charge
of self-contradiction:
... the whole structure of the
necessary presuppositions
of
argumentative
discourse ... is
absolutely
non-circumventible
(nichthintergehbar)
for
argu-
mentation ;
it cannot be contested or
questioned by arguments - e.g. by
those of a
skepticist -
because
any
such
argument actually
has to
lay
claim
to what it wants to
contest,
at least
implicitly.
(This
type
of transcendental
argument is, by
the
way,
different from those initiated
by
Peter
Strawson,
since it does not relate to the
propositional
content of
arguments -
and
thereby
to
categorial
schemes of
knowledge -
but to the
performative part
of the
argument by
which the
validity
claims are
raised.)33
Apel
does not limit his
application
of the
performative
contradiction
to its role in
refuting
the
sceptic’s
claim of not
being
involved in
argu-
mentation,
but also
develops
it into a method for
seeking
an
Archimedean
point.
Even if
every propositional
content could be
ques-
tioned,
the
’very speech
act of
questioning
would
actually lay
claim’ to
the
presuppositions
of
argumentative
discourse.34 The
opposite
would
amount to a
performative
self-contradiction.35
Therefore,
even if all
empirical knowledge
could be
disputed
and
proved fallible,
our fallibil-
ism would ’reach its
limits,
when we reflect on the
necessary presuppo-
sitions of
argumentative
discourse’.36
Now we can reconstruct the
theory Apel
invokes when he charac-
terizes the
presuppositions
of
argumentation
as
nichthintergehbar:
these
presuppositions
are
transcendental,
that
is, prior
to
experience, they
con-
stitute an Archimedean
point -
but
being part
of the structure of lan-
guage they
do not
point
to a
prelinguistic reality
or
origin ( Ursprung) -
and
(given
the
assumption
that
people employ language
even in their
most
introspective
and reclusive moments of
reflection), they
form an
’always already’
in which
people
find themselves and which
gives
them
the
yardstick by
which to decide on the
validity
or otherwise of
empiri-
cal statements. Whereas for Habermas this is an over-ambitious and
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dubious
assumption fraught
with
metaphysical connotations,
for
Apel
here lies the
point
of
departure
for an ultimate
justification
of the uni-
versalization
principle
of discourse ethics: ’these
presuppositions [of
argumentation,
i.e.
co-responsibility
and
equality
of
rights
of all
par-
ticipants : M.P.] are
inevitable - that
is,
they
cannot be
questioned
without
falling
into a
performative
self-contradiction - and in
my
opinion, they
contain
implicitly
a
principle of discourse ethics;
it is about
a
principle
that can be understood as a
post-metaphysical
transform-
ation of the universalization
principle
in ethics - i.e. the
categorical
imperative -
first formulated
by
Kant’. 37
Part of what
Apel suggests
is
very
welcome to Habermas because it
offers ethics the
possibility
of a
radically
different
justification
from
those
employed
in the
past.
He also avails himself of Strawson’s
philo-
sophy, particularly
his
analysis
of
feelings
related to
morality (e.g.
resent-
ment, obligation, gratitude),
an
analysis
that offers ethics a weak
justification.38
Ethics does not now need to be founded on an absolute
explanatory principle
of the world or the
Being
or nature. The
import-
ance of this statement becomes clearer if one calls to mind the conse-
quences
that the ’seccularization of worldviews’
(Weber)
and the
transition from traditional to modern societies had for
morality.
Haber-
mas
praises Apel’s
contribution to a defence of
cognitivist
ethics:
’Apel
has succeeded in
revealing
the buried dimension of the nondeductive
justi fication
of basic ethical norms’
(emphasis added).39
What
Apel actually
does is to add to the
validity-claims always -
explicitly
or
implicitly -
raised in communication due to the self-reflec-
tive character of
language (which
Habermas also
accepts)
a normative
content that is
prior
to
any
concrete communication and carries a series
of
philosophical implications
some of which
Apel
seems to
exploit
in a
fruitful
way.
Discourse ethics in the
Apelian version, precisely
because
of this ultimate
justification,
accommodates concerns for ’universal
responsibility
to the future’
(this
term hints at
Apel’s
encounter with
Hans
Jonas’s
ethical
theory).
Discourse ethics as advocated
by
both
theorists,
Habermas and
Apel,
is a
cognitivistic,
universalistic ethics. It is formal because it
pro-
vides
only
one
principle (the
discourse ethics
principle: only
those norms
can claim to be valid that
meet,
or could
meet,
with the
approval
of all
affected in their
capacity
as
participants
in a
practical
discourse)
that
treats all norms as
equal
candidates for
approval, thereby leaving
the
actual decisions to those involved in that discourse. In contrast with
Kant’s
Categorical Imperative,
which is
monological
since it is the actor-
subject
who tests whether others would
agree
to
accept
his/her norm as
a universal
law,
the discourse ethics
principle suggests
a test that can be
carried out
only
in an actual
process
of
argumentation
and the norm in
question
must be
accepted by
all affected.
Now, ’every
valid norm has
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53
to fulfil the
following
condition: All affected can
accept
the
consequences
and the side effects its
general
observance can be
anticipated
to have for
the satisfaction of
everyone’s
interests
(and
these
consequences
are
pre-
ferred to those of known alternative
possibilities
for
regulation)’.4° Thus,
with the universalization
principle
the
generalizability
of interests is
secured.
Apel
takes discourse ethics as a
point
of
departure,
bascd
primarily
on its consensual
character,
in order to account for a macro-ethics of
responsibility.
He
aspires
to
provide
an ultimate foundation for ethics
by
ascribing
an ethical character to the
presuppositions
of
argumentative
discourse. In his
view,
’the transformation of transcendental
philosophy
by
means of a
pragmatics
of
language
can show two
things: first,
that
in
public thought
as well as in
empirically
isolated
thought,
we can con-
stantly presuppose
the normative conditions of the
possibility
of an ideal
argumentative
discourse as the
only
thinkable condition for a
redemp-
tion
(Einlbsung)
of our normative claims of
validity; second,
it can also
show that
thereby
we
already acknowledge implicitly
and
by necessity
the
principle
of a discourse ethics’.41
Thus,
when we
get
involved in a serious
argumentation,
the
pre-
suppositions
we
implicitly accept
are: the fact that we are members of a
real communication
community,
and also a certain
pre-understanding
of
the
world,
which are
empirical-pragmatic presuppositions.
But
also,
and
due to the above
conditions,
we
implicitly
make some additional
pre-
suppositions : co-responsibility
and
equality
of
rights
in
principle.
These
presuppositions
of
argumentation
are inevitable in the sense that we
cannot contest them without
performative
contradictions. The next
step
Apel
takes is to
suggest
that ’when we
argue
we
always already
acknow-
ledge, simultaneously
with communicative reason as a discursive ration-
ality,
the
validity
of a moral law under the form of a
principle
of
discourse ethics’.42 Whereas for Habermas the latter
point
is considered
-
and
rejected -
as an assimilation of communicative with
practical
reason,
for
Apel
this is the
starting-point
for
addressing problems
that a
weak
justification
of ethics cannot
cope
with so
convincingly.
Two of
these
problems
are: the
possibility
of an ethics of
responsibility
to the
future,
and the
application
of ethics when the issue is a concrete moral
problem.
One of the
advantages
of a
universalistic, postconventional
and foun-
dationalist ethics is that it can be more
compatible
with an ethics of
responsibility
to the future
(like
the one
provided by
Hans
Jonas)
than
ethical theories of a
particularistic
or conventional character. In individ-
ualistic
ethics,
the moral
agents
think of themselves alone
(or
their own
responsibility
to
others)
and are accountable
only
for the actions with
which
they
are involved.
Methodological solipsism
is
inadequate
not
only
at an
epistemological-linguistic
level but also in its
implementation
to
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54
morality.
Conventional ethics cannot
provide
a
non-particularistic
ethics
of a
non-time-specific responsibility. Only
a
postconventional,
universal-
istic ethics could accommodate a demand for such
responsibility.
The
necessity
for a shift in our moral views towards
universality
in
spa-
tiotemporal
terms
appears
more
pressing nowadays
because of the
global
character information has
acquired (space)
and the effects of our
decisions for future
generations (time),
which in current societies and
with an increased futurism in
technological aspirations (artificial
intelli-
gence,
radicalization of human
procreation,
colonization of the moon
and so
on)
are more visible and
predictable.
If an ethics wishes to take
serious account of the
complexity
of our
societies,
then it has to
enlarge
its
imperatives
in
space
and time. In an
illuminating analysis43
of the new
situation that has
emerged
for the whole
planet, Apel
discusses the short-
comings
of a conventional ethics that
mostly
undertakes issues related to
what
Apel
calls micro- and meso-ethical
stages,
that is to
say, questions
of ’conventional morals of
family
clans and of the state
(of law)’.
In
my
view,
an ethics with a
binding
character like the one
proposed by Apel
can
effectively
stress a
critique
of:
(1)
the
apolitical
behaviour of Western
social actors
expressed by
the
conception
of the citizen as
merely
a cus-
tomer of the
state,
and
(2)
the demoralization of
politics, again very
characteristic
(although
not a
monopoly)
of modern industrial states.
A
macro-ethics,
as
Apel
names
it,
can retrieve a
philosophical pre-
occupation
with the
responsibilities
of moral
persons beyond
their
immediate action because of its recourse to a formal-rational
principle
that
presupposes
the
possibility
of a universalistic and
postconventional
morality.
Thus
Apel’s theory
combines Kantian
cosmopolitanism
with
the
findings
of
Kohlberg’s developmental psychology
of moral
stages.
It
moves the latter
(as
Habermas also does and
Kohlberg approves)
from
the
ontogenetic
level to the
phylogenetic,
in a
theory
that can
prove
to
be
exceptionally
fruitful for
radicalizing
and
remoralizing
world
politics
and the relevance of which extends to several domains of
research,
inter-
national law included. Like
Kant,
Apel
sees
that,
so
far,
there are two
ways
to
embody
in an ethics concerns of a universalistic character:
by
resorting
either to a
’quasi-ontological’
moral
principle44
of a
pre-
Kantian
sort,
or to a formal-rational universalization
principle
of a
Kantian
type.
Once
again, Apel appears
faithful to Kantian ideals and
his intention to renew them
through
a different
way
of
philosophizing,
hoping
at the same time that the new
paradigm
will
purge
Kantian ethics
of its weaknesses.
Apparently,
for
Apel,
what went
wrong
with Kant’s
ethics was its
incapacity
to break with a
metaphysics
of consciousness
that hindered a
conception
of
language
as
something
more than a
medium of
thought.
From this
point
of
view,
Habermas sounds less
Kantian,
because he
goes
further in
questioning
the Kantian - and the
Apelian - prioritization
of
normativity.
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55
Fundamentally, cognitivistic
ethics become embroiled in
problems
of
application
of norms and contextualization of maxims thus
attracting
the
charge
of Kantian
rigourism. Apel distinguishes
within discourse
ethics what he terms
’part
A’ and what he terms
’part
B’. Part A is formal
while B relies on
history.
Within
part
A he
distinguishes
between a level
of ultimate foundation of norms and a level of foundation of norms that
rely
on situations. In his own
words,
’in
my view,
it follows that dis-
course ethics must
directly -
that
is,
in its
foundational part
A -
expli-
cate the transformation of a Kantian
principle
of universalization of a
deontological ethics,
as I
previously
mentioned: it is about the foun-
dation of a
formal principle of procedure, namely
a metanorm deter-
mining
the discursive foundation of norms that are
universally
appropriate
to sustain consensus. But discourse
ethics,
as an ethics
of
responsibility relying
on
hzstory,
must
clearly establish,
in a
foundational
part B,
the
way
in which its
exigency
of consensual foundation of norms
can be re-inscribed in factual circumstances
prevailing
in
given
situ-
ations.’45
Apel regards
this distinction as crucial for
coping
with
problems
of
application
since it entails an ethics indifferent to
consequences
and
another ethics oriented to them.
Habermas, however,
finds an alterna-
tive solution to the
problem
of
application
of norms. Both admit that
when it comes to
applying
a valid moral
principle,
there are contexts
that annul the effectiveness of the
principle.
But Habermas does not wish
to
go
as far as
Apel
does. Habermas introduces a
principle
of
appropri-
ateness
(Angemessenheit)
that serves the
goal
of
determining
which of
the norms
already accepted
as valid is the
appropriate
one for a
given
case ’in the
light
of all the relevant features of the situation conceived as
exhaustively
as
possible’.46
What Habermas wants to avoid is the
charge
of
rigourism
directed
by
critics at Kantian ethics. He wants a flexible discourse
ethics,
one that
does not
aspire
to
regulate every
human
activity,
thus
allowing
some
problems
to be dealt with
by way
of decision
procedures
or via the
ethical-communal life.
Therefore,
’once we have established which norm
is the
only appropriate
one in the
particular case,
it
may
be
necessary
to
examine whether the
singular judgment
that follows from it
requires
an
action that cannot be
reasonably expected
from an existential
point
of
view’.47 Habermas discards
Apel’s
idea of a
dichotomy
within discourse
ethics because he has
already
drawn a distinction that offers a solution
to the
problem
of
application
but on a more abstract level. He has dis-
tinguished
three orientations that
practical
reason takes:
’practical
reason, according
to whether it takes its orientation from the
purposive,
the
good,
or the
just,
directs itself in turn to the choice of the
purpo-
sively acting subject,
to the resoluteness of the
authentic, self-realising
subject,
or to the free will of the
subject capable
of moral
judgment’.48
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56
In this
way,
he
poses
a
pre-condition
for the
development
of a discourse
ethics: it can be an ethics relevant to
questions
of
normativity
and not
to
questions
of the
good
life or existential self-realization or even
pur-
posive decision-making.
Apel argues
that discourse ethics better achieves the
unity
of reason
Kant
envisaged,
since
by suggesting
a
linguistic
ultimate
justification
of
ethics,
discourse
theory
avoids the Kantian dualism of noumenal and
phenomenal
and the human
being
ceases to be a ’citizen of two worlds’.
That
happens
because ’when we
argue,
we
always already acknowledge,
as we
simultaneously
do with communicative reason as discursive
rationality,
the
validity
of the moral law in the form of a
principle
of dis-
course ethics’.49
It is true that reason finds a
unity
that is not
extra-linguistic and,
consequently,
transcendental in Kantian terms.
However,
Apel pays
a
price
similar to the one
paid by
Kant: like
Kant, Apel
reconciles
pure
with
practical
reason
by assimilating
communicative to
practical
ration-
ality. By identifying
communicative
rationality
as
ethical,
he creates an
ethics that needs indeed an ultimate
justification
with all the
problems
that occur because of such a need. Given Habermas’s tendencies in his
earlier
work, 50
one
might
conclude that this
priority
accorded to
practi-
cal reason is a
necessary step
and a
predictable
result of the
linguistic
transformation of Kant’s
philosophy.
Habermas’s more recent
work,
however,
shows that this is
only
one
possible way
of
reformulating
reason and that the
unity
of reasonsl can
just
as well be
plausibly pre-
served
through
the recourse to a weak
justification
based on an inter-
lifeworld
factuality
(which
Rorty, mistakenly,
in
my view, interprets
as
a
neo-pragmatist
turn in Habermas’s
work).
With the
Habermas-Apel
contention,
as I see
it,
what is at stake is not the
unity
of
reason,
which
in
any
case was achieved
by
Kant himself.52 What is at stake is the
way
this
unity
is achieved.
Therefore,
whereas for Habermas the
challenge appears
to be a
search for a third
way
between foundationalism and relativism or neo-
pragmatism,
for
Apel
the aim is to divest foundationalism of all its meta-
physical (in
the traditional
sense)
entailments. In Habermas’s
case, pure
reason is not
opposed
to
practical
reason because in both modes of
reason the
prevalent
element is the communicative
one,
and not the stra-
tegic. Therefore,
for a
participant
aware of his/her
position
in the life-
world the orientation to
generalizable
interests is
stronger
than the
motivation to follow
private
interests. Pure reason can be
mainly
com-
municative and not
strategic
even without
(or
precisely
without)
being
subordinated to moral
reasoning.
For
Apel, pure
reason without an ethical element can
very
well be
mainly strategic
and therefore in conflict with
practical
reason - a
problem that,
when transferred to
sociopolitical
contexts,
evokes the
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57
issue of
private
vs
public
interests. In other
words,
whereas for Haber-
mas the
participants
in rational
discourse, just by recognizing
their
being
in the
lifeworld,
would endorse
generalizable
rather than
private
inter-
ests,
for
Apel,
without an ultimate
justification
of a normative sort that
would have a
binding
force
upon
the
participants,
no other motivation
would
guarantee
a
communicatively
and not
strategically generated
con-
sensus.
For
Habermas, by conforming
to the
presuppositions
of
argumen-
tation,
’the communicative
agent
becomes the
subject
of a &dquo;must&dquo; in the
sense of weak transcendental
necessitation,
without
encountering
the
perspective
&dquo;must&dquo; of a rule of action’.
Further,
’communicative
reason,
unlike
practical reason,
is not itself a source of norms of
right
action’.$3
Communicative
rationality
as a
whole,
as is borne out
by
the distinction
among
different
validity-claims,
lacks a
binding
character in the strict
sense.
Therefore,
one
component
of communicative
rationality
cannot
subordinate the rest.
Again
in Habermas’s
words,
’communicative
rationality precisely
does not amount to the sum total of its
practical-
moral
components. Everyday
communicative
practice
covers a wider
range
of
validity;
claims to normative correctness constitute
merely
one
of numerous
validity aspects.,54
To
summarize, Apel
seems to
identify
communicative with moral
action and
appears
more realistic as concerns the
destiny
of
public
debates, especially
on
topics
that do not touch
directly upon
ethical
problems,
debates where no normative restriction is
presupposed.
Habermas, by emphasizing
the
analogical
status he has
granted
to his
distinct domains of reason that find their
unity
in
communication,
appears
to stress more
consistently
the
anthropological significance
of a
rejection
of
apriorism.
Seen this
way,
the contention leads us to focus on
a crucial
point
where the above
assumptions
find their
application:
the
necessity
and the
possibility
of an answer to the
question ’Why
act
morally?’
Apel
connects the
necessity
for an ultimate foundation of
knowledge
especially
with the
problem
of
morality.
In his
view,
an ultimate foun-
dation constitutes an answer to the
question ’Why
should I act
morally?’S5
Such a foundationalist answer is
sufficient,
he
claims,
to
dispel any
relativistic conclusions of a
person
who
poses
this
question
about moral action. For ’what
possible
comfort could such a
person
derive from an answer that
provides
no ultimate
justification,
but that
immediately
relativizes itself as
being
limited or
wholly
revisable?’S6 For
a
sceptic
who doubts whether we act
rationally
when we act
morally,
and if
so, why
we should not act
irrationally,
or
immorally,
a
pragmatic-
commonsensical answer does not suffice. What is
required
is a
philo-
sophical
ultimate foundation.
Habermas
regards
the
problem
as ethical-existential rather than
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58
moral because in his view
philosophy
discloses but it does not
compel.
By ’disclose’,
I mean here that
philosophy
makes
people
aware of the
moral dimension of life. That is an
epistemic
aim and not an existential
one,
and Habermas seems concerned about what he
suspects
is an
element of existential
obligatoriness
in
Apel’s
account of reason. Haber-
mas
argues
that ’the
meaning
of an &dquo;ultimate
justification&dquo;
cannot be
explicated solely
within the framework of moral-theoretical reflections
but must be understood in terms of a
lingering (though
unacknow-
ledged)
foundationalism that still
pervades
the architectonic
disposition
of
Apel’s philosophy’.57
The rather
vague
and elusive character of this
charge sounds,
if not
unfair,
at least
premature.
Another
way
of inter-
preting Apel’s
wish for an ultimate
justification
would be to examine
closely
the
justification
of the
priority
of communicative over
strategic
rationality.
For
Apel,
this
priority
would be better backed
up by
a well-
founded moral
theory.
Habermas’s
tripartite
distinction between
decision, morality
and ethical life as
symmetrical
modes of
practical
reason does avoid the
problem
of the
equation
of
practical
reason with
morality
and the concomitant subordination of theoretical to
practical
reason.
However,
for
Apel,
it leaves the
priority
of communicative over
strategic
action devoid of a
strong philosophical
foundation. If this
really
holds for
Apel’s thinking,
then the motive for an ultimate
justification
is
not a tacit or unconscious
impetus
for foundationalism but rather a
concern caused
by
the
ghosts
of
positivism
in
epistemology,
of Hobbe-
sianism in
anthropology,
and of
scepticism
in ethics.
By considering
the
presuppositions
of
argumentation
as ultimate
foundation and
by proclaiming
the moral demand an Archimedean
point,
that
is, by answering positively
the
question ’Why
act
morally?’,
Apel prioritizes practical
reason over other dimensions of
rationality
and
thus attributes an
overwhelmingly
ethical character to reason as a whole.
Like
Kant, Apel
attains the
unity
of reason
by subjugating pure
to
practi-
cal reason.58
Consequently,
reason as a whole ceases to be neutral and
becomes
positively charged.
It becomes
ethical, normative-prescriptive.
A
theory
that is
grounded
on such a
conception
of reason
opens
itself to
theological-mystical interpretations59
if one
pursues
the
priority
of the
normative content in
language
to its
logical
conclusion and asks
why
and
how moral action could be a
linguistic imperative. Although Apel’s
theory
itself does not seem at all
willing
to
go
that
far,
it would never-
theless be
compatible,
at least on this
point,
with a
Heideggerian
or Lev-
inasian
conception
of
language
as vocation.6° In this
way,
discourse
ethics would reconcile
cognitive
and affective elements of
morality by
presenting
them as
indistinguishable
manifestations of a
positively
dis-
posed
human
nature,
where to be reasonable would amount to
being
ethical,
and to care for the other would entail a
willingness
to
engage
in
the other’s
language game.
To be
sure,
Levinas would be
strongly
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59
opposed
to reason
(in
Levinas’s
thought
related to
ontology
which in
turn is
secondary
to
ethics)
seen as
morally binding; however,
it is
obvious that a view of
language
as a vocation could have
something
in
common with a view of
language
as an ethical demand.61
The
implications
of a
priority
of
practical
reason are crucial for the
Habermas-Apel dispute.
One can trace Habermas’s reluctance to
accept
a
positively
or
negatively charged
reason back to his
early
work. In
my
interpretation,
Habermas’s insistence on this
point
is due to the risks that
such a
step
would entail. If communicative reason is
basically
moral,
and
given
the
priority
of communicative action over the
strategic,
then
reason raises an
imperative
for ethical action.
By being
embedded in lan-
guage,
that
is, by being nothing
outside
language,
such a moral reason
renders
linguistic validity-claims
a sort of vocation. The
self, being
lin-
guistically constituted,
becomes in
principle
moral - it
acquires
an ethi-
cally positive
content. The moral
agent, therefore,
becomes the exact
opposite
of the moral
agent
that is almost
always
an
implicit
or
explicit
background assumption
of ethical theories within occidental liberalism.
Habermas does
reject
the Western liberalistic model of a moral self - a
model that finds its most extreme
expression
in Hobbes’s
anthropology62
and assumes an
egoistic being
directed to the
protection
of its
private
interests
by
definition. But Habermas does not resort to an
optimistic
anthropology
either
(for
reasons that will be obvious
soon);
he rather
suggests
an
empty
self
(pre-linguistically
and
pre-socially),
a
morally
neutral
agent.63 This,
in
my view,
is what should be inferred from the
following
Habermasian comment:
’[Apel] regards
the issue of whether
we can view ourselves as
capable
of moral
insight
as
depending
on
whether we are
already
in a certain sense moral. This is reminiscent of
a
figure
of
thought
familiar from
religion
and
metaphysics:
we
may
regard
ourselves as
capable
of &dquo;the truth&dquo; because we are
already
&dquo;within the
truth&dquo;’(emphasis added).64
Apel
and Habermas
agree
on the
priority
of communicative over
strategic rationality.
In other
words, they reject
the idea that a
partici-
pant
in discourse is
necessarily,
because of some
metaphysical
or natu-
ralistic
force,
strategically
rational. Their
disagreement,
however,
would
be over the content of the word ’communicative’. The Kantian
assump-
tion that
pure
reason cannot reach results
opposed
to
practical
reason
would be translated in the new
paradigm,
in
Apel’s
version,
as follows:
pure
reason cannot reach conclusions
opposed
to
practical
reason
because the
validity
of such results is
dependent
on normative reason
itself, so,
to
go along
with
pure
reason in
contesting practical
reason
would amount to
contesting something
we
already presuppose,
and that
results in
performative
self-contradiction.
Moreover,
the
strategic
element of reason remains
secondary
and
subject
to communicative
testing
in the same
way
that
pure
reason remains
secondary
and
subject
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60
to moral
testing.
What is thus achieved is a full transition from the
para-
digm
of
conflicting
interests
(which trapped
even
Kant)
to the
paradigm
of a
priority
of a
well-justified
communicative
rationality and,
further-
more,
a faithful and
complete
translation of Kant’s ethics from the
philo-
sophy
of consciousness to the
philosophy
of
language,
thus
avoiding
(some of)
its weaknesses.
Habermas
diagnoses
a
danger
of one more
metaphysical
account of
the self in a
primordially
moral communicative
rationality.
If the rational
subject
is
positively moral,
then the Good is extracted from life-within-
the-community
and becomes
prior
to the
community.
There are two
implications
that
probably
Habermas wants to avoid.
First,
one
might
argue
that the
Apelian
version of reason would be
open
to an
interpre-
tation that would see in it
metaphysical
or romantic elements - as in
Shaftesbury’s optimistic anthropology
or Rousseau’s account of the
human self.
Second,
the
binding
force of reason could be construed as
an
uncompleted promise65 (in
the sense of
unfulfilled, unactualized)
and
therefore the counterfactual character of the ideal
speech
situation
(or
the ideal communication
community
in
Apel’s terms)
could be
played
down in favour of a
quasi-utopian perspective.
From this
point
of
view,
Habermas’s
critique66
of
Apel’s conception
of communicative reason as
basically
moral reveals a concern about the direction the
linguistic para-
digm may
take rather than the influence of
neo-pragmatic
or neo-Aris-
totelian
philosophy.
Apel
seems more concerned about the
consequences
of a Hobbesian
anthropology, against
which an ultimate
justification
of discourse ethics
effectively argues,
than about the
possible interpretations
of his
theory.
For
him,
’the human
being
as a
linguistic being
can never maintain a
purely strategic relationship
to his fellow
beings
as was nevertheless
pre-
supposed,
for
instance,
in the Hobbesian &dquo;state of nature&dquo; as a
meaning-
ful fiction’.67 As he writes
elsewhere,
’I consider the Hobbesian fiction
of a &dquo;state of nature&dquo; made
up
of
purely strategic
interactions between
human
beings
to be
incompatible
with the fact of mutual
linguistic
understanding’. 68
With
good reason,
he sees that the frail
priority
of
communicative reason over
strategic
is better
grounded
with a
justifi-
cation
(Letztbegrondung)
that extends
beyond
the actual communi-
cation
community.
In
addition,
he is
possibly
more concerned about that
philosophical
ethical stance that sees ethics as non-rational
(be
it Stevenson’s emo-
tivistic ethics or ethical
scepticism
or
postmodern ethics),
for a non-
rational ethics is more vulnerable to a
critique
of
ideology
than a
cognitive
rational one. This is
why,
for
Apel,
an ultimate
justification
’is
required
if we want to demonstrate
by compelling argument
not
only
that universal moral
validity
claims are to be found in the ethical life-
worlds of
every
sociocultural
variety -
this much Max Weber could
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61
accept -
but that these
claims,
rather than
retreating
before rational
questioning (or &dquo;enlightenment&dquo;)
as
illusions,
can on the
contrary
be
definitively justified by
the reflective awareness such
questioning brings
to bear on its own normative conditions of
possibility’.69
I would locate the crucial difference between Habermas and
Apel
in
the
way they attempt
to secure the
priority
of communicative over stra-
tegic
reason. This is how I
interpret Apel’s
assertion that their difference
of views ’indicates not so much a difference in
[their]
philosophical
aims
as in
[their] strategies
of
argument
and
concept
formation’.70
Apel
resorts to an ultimate
justification
of
knowledge
in order to
ground
the
priority
of communicative over
strategic rationality
whereas Haber-
mas
appeals
to a
sociology linguistically
reformulated so as to
explain
the coordination of action via communicative
means,
a coordination
that stabilizes the
significance
of the
corresponding type
of
rationality.72
’Because all lifeworlds have to
reproduce
themselves
through
the
agency
of action oriented towards
reaching understanding,
so the
general
char-
acter
of
communicative
rationality
stands out within the
multiplicity of
concrete norms
of life’ (emphasis added).73
And that
holds,
no matter
whether or not in actual and
particular
lifeworlds the most
popular
or
the most
frequently applied
form of interaction is one based on
strategic
or communicative
rationality.
This
Apelian
subordination of
pure
to
practical
reason leaves
open
the
possibility
of
privileging philosophy -
and hermeneutics in
general -
over the
nomological
sciences.
Apel’s Heideggerian past encourages
him
to see technoscientific
knowledge stemming mainly
from the
Heideg-
gerian
’frame’
(the
understanding
of the world as a
totality
of
objects
and states of affairs which we
approach
in order to achieve a
technically
exploitable knowledge
of
them), although, contrary
to
Heidegger,
he
identifies a
potential
for a remoralization of the natural sciences
through
an
understanding
of their own
dependence upon
normative
presupposi-
tions of
argumentation. However, although
he makes the
logos
of tech-
nology
and sciences
dependent upon
(and
complementary to)
the
logos
of communicative action
(allowing
for
moralization, purification
and
redemption
in contrast to the later
Heidegger’s
renunciation of modern
techno-science),
he nevertheless sees a will to
power
and
strategicality
built into it. This is not a
contradiction,
as it seems at first
sight,
if we
take into account the
complexity
of the relation of
pure
and
practical
reason
already
found in Kant.
Science, technology,
the material
repro-
duction of the
lifeworld,
are
necessary to, complementary to,
but not
analogous
to
reflection,
communication and
symbolic reproduction.
While
agreeing
with
Apel
on the need for a
rigorous critique
of the
strategicality
and will to
power
found in modern
conceptions
of techno-
science,
Habermas does not see these attributes as built into science and
technology.
The
primacy
of the communicative dimension inherent in all
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62
modes of
reason,
of the
logos
of science and the
logos
of
ethics,
can
equally
be
sidestepped by
a
strategicality
located in
any
kind of human
action at a certain historical time.
Strategicality
and will to
power
are
not
solely
a matter of our relation to the world of facts and
objects
and,
correspondingly,
communicative
rationality
is not
only
ethical: we some-
times
approach
a scientific-theoretical
problem
not in order to serve a
purposive goal
or
expand
our control over
nature,
but with the com-
municative ideal of
revealing
a ’truth’ to our
community.
A
preoccu-
pation
with
something material,
a relation to an
object
in itself is not
always strategic.
In Habermas’s theoretical ’distribution’ of communi-
cative and
strategic
dimensions to the different modes of
reason,
the
mind-body bipolar disjunction appears
divested of
any ontological
or
ethical
preference
for the one or the other
pole - perhaps
because of
Habermas’s Marxian
past.
If these are
really
the
implicit Apelian
assumptions,
then transcendental semiotics does indeed need a
strong
justification
and foundation of communicative
rationality,
and one that
has to come from
philosophy
as
reflection,
rather than a weak
justifi-
cation that comes from a
sociological
reconstruction of lifeworld
assumptions
(intentio
recta as
Apel
terms
it).
A weak
justification
that
drops
the
philosophical
metatheoretical
grounding
can be criticized from an
Apelian viewpoint
as
involving
a
naturalistic
fallacy:
an
Ought (moral point
of
view)
derived from the Is
(lifeworld).
On the other
hand,
Habermas
may
retort that if the
ineluctability
of the normative
presuppositions
of
argumentation
tran-
scends their
grammaticality
and therefore
escapes fallibility
then it
assumes the role of an Is.
Morality
is the non-circumventible
presuppo-
sition of
any
communication. All communication is ethical
(no
matter
whether this ethical element
operates
or remains
unspoken).
The Is is
levelled with the
Ought.
In both cases the naturalistic
fallacy
is a
poss-
ible
implication
of discourse ethics. Is this a
paradox
of human ration-
ality
in its desire to attribute all
evil,
misfortune and
violence,
observable
in all
lifeworlds,
to a
’fall’,
a human
failure,
a ’deviation’ from what
would otherwise
appear
to us as an
imperative
of
Being?
Or is it an
impasse
of the
priority
of communicative over
strategic rationality
as
promoted by
discourse ethics?
Perhaps
it is
something
much less dra-
matic : I tend to believe that both versions of discourse
ethics, Apel’s
and
Habermas’s, escape
the
charge
of
committing
a naturalistic
fallacy
from
the
very
moment
they
conceive of
values,
human
rights
and moral
conduct as based in
language
and communication and not in
any
kind
of
divine, natural,
or
pre-linguistically
established order.
Apel’s
and
Habermas’s ethics are two alternatives to traditional occidental ethics
(of
which
many
have arisen and
many
more
might
arise)
and their
central
affinity
lies in their
departure
from the
philosophy
of conscious-
ness and in the
linguistic
turn
they negotiate.
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63
The
Apel-Habermas debate,
extending
from their
understanding
of
realism and fallibilism to their ethical
theories,
does not
endanger
the
version of the
linguistic
turn
they
have
promoted;
on the
contrary,
it
enriches it
by rendering
it multi-dimensional. The debate itself demon-
strates the counterfactual character of a
pragmatic philosophy
of lan-
guage,
i.e. the
possibilities opened
with the new
paradigm.
The
spectrum
of these
possibilities comprises
ultimate
philosophical foundations,
a
strong realism,
and a
linguistic
transcendentalism as well as weak
justifi-
cations and non-foundationalist universalism. 74 A communicative
(Habermas)
and a discourse
(Apel)
ethics are
just
two realizations of the
possibilities
offered
by
a
pragmatic philosophy
of
language.
University of
Wales,
Cardiff,
UK
Notes
1 This is a term Albrecht Wellmer uses to account for the
philosophical
assumptions
he shares with Habermas. See A.
Wellmer,
’The Institution of
a Common World and the Problem of
Truth’,
in Reason and its Other:
Rationality
in Modern German
Philosophy
and
Culture,
ed. Dieter Freund-
lieb and
Wayne
Hudson
(Providence,
RI and Oxford:
Berg, 1993).
I believe
that the term can be
enlarged
to include the
philosophy
of K. O.
Apel,
Manfred
Frank,
Hauke
Brunkhorst,
Thomas A.
McCarthy,
Axel Honneth
and all those
philosophers
who endorse in one
way
or the other a
theory
of communicative
action,
formal
pragmatics
and discursive ethics.
Roughly,
pragmatic philosophers
of
language
seem to assimilate elements of Peircean
semiotics
(at
variance with
poststructuralism
and its indebtedness to Saus-
sure),
of Husserlian
phenomenology (e.g.
the
concept
of
’lifeworld’),
of G.
H. Mead’s
theory
of ’ideal-role
taking’,
of the later
Wittgenstein’s
and
Austin’s
analytic philosophy,
of German
hermeneutics,
and of the classical
Frankfurt School.
2 For criticisms of Habermas’s
justification
of the
priority
of communicative
over
strategic
action see
Jonathan Culler,
’Communicative
Competence
and
Normative
Force’,
New German
Critique
35
(1985): 133-44;
and David
Rasmussen, Reading
Habermas
(Cambridge,
MA:
Blackwell, 1990).
For a
defence of Habermas’s views see
Georgia Warnke,
’Communicative Ration-
ality
and Cultural
Values’,
in The
Cambridge Companion
to
Habermas,
ed.
Stephen
K. White
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
and
James
L. Marsh in his book
review,
in International
Philosophical Quar-
terly
33
(1993):
480-2 of Rasmussen’s
Reading
Habermas. There Marsh
refers to
Apel’s argument
of
performative
self-contradiction that
demostrates this
priority.
3 On this
point,
see
Lyotard’s
criticisms of Habermas in
Jean-François
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64
Lyotard,
’What Is
Postmodernism?’,
in The Postmodern Condition: A
Report
on
Knowledge,
trans. G.
Bennington
and B. Massumi
(Manchester:
Manchester
University Press, 1984).
4
Apel,
Charles S. Peirce: From
Pragmatism
to
Pragmaticism,
trans.
J.
M. Krois
(Amherst: University
of Massachusetts
Press, 1981), p. 233,
fn. 19. On
Apel’s
employment
of the
Wittgensteinian argument
of
paradigmatic
certainties see
Apel, ’Wittgenstein
and
Heidegger: Language
Games and Life
Forms’,
Engl.
trans., typescript
in
my possession;
German
original
in Der Löwe
Spricht
und
Wir Können Ihn Nicht Verstehen
(Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1991).
5
Habermas, Postmetaphysical Thinking ,
trans. M.
Hohengarten (Cam-
bridge : Polity Press, 1992),
p.
65.
6
Habermas,
Communication and Evolution
of Society,
trans. T.
McCarthy
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 1984), p.
43
(henceforth CES).
7
Apel,
Charles S. Peirce: From
Pragmatism
to
Pragmaticism, p.
ix.
8
See,
for
instance, Habermas,
Moral Consciousness and Communicative
Action,
trans. C. Lenhardt and S. W. Nicholsen
(Cambridge: Polity
Press,
1992), p.
76
(henceforth MCCA).
9
Habermas,
’A
Reply’,
in A. Honneth and H.
Joas (eds)
Communicative
Action
(Cambridge,
MA: MIT
Press, 1991), p.
237.
10
ibid., p.
238.
11
Apel,
’The Hermeneutic Dimension of Social Science and its Normative
Foundation’,
Man & World 25
(1992): 247-70, p.
248.
12
Habermas, CES, p.
1.
13 Because the term ’communicative
competence’
is so characteristic of uni-
versal
pragmatics
and so
crucial, particularly,
for a radicalization of seman-
tics,
and
moreover,
because it is a
point
where
Apel’s
and Habermas’s views
converge,
I find it useful to
quote
comments on it
by
the two thinkers.
In Habermas’s words: ’In order to
participate
in normal discourse the
speaker
must have at his
disposal,
in addition to his
linguistic competence,
basic
qualifications
of
speech
and
symbolic
interaction
(role-behaviour)
which we
may
call communicative
competence.’ Habermas,
’Towards a
Theory
of Communicative
Competence’, Inquiry
13
(1970): 360-75, p.
367.
In
Apel’s
terms: ’The
general problem
to be solved - the
problem
of our
understanding
the
occasion-meaning
of utterances even in those cases where
its verbal
expression
deviates from the so-called normal or conventional
expression by language - may
be better solved
by
a division of
labour,
so
to
speak,
between a semantic
theory
of
linguistic competence (i.e.
of the lan-
guage-system
as a
system
of conventional rules that
may eventually
even be
partly grounded
on a universal
theory
of all
possible
human
grammars),
and,
on the other
hand,
a
universal-pragmatic theory
of communicative
competence’ (emphasis added). Apel,
’Comments on
Davidson’, Synthese
59
(1984): 19-26, p.
24.
14
Habermas,
The
Philosophical
Discourse
of Modernity,
trans. F. Lawrence
(Cambridge,
MA: MIT
Press, 1987), p.
322.
15
Apel,
’The
Hermeneutic...’, p.
26.
16 See further
my
Consensus and Its
Presuppositions: Prospects for
a Lin-
guistic-Pragmatic Philosophy
and Communicative Action
(forthcoming).
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65
17 See
Habermas, CES, p.
21.
18
ibid., p. 1.
19
ibid., p. 24.
20
Apel,
’The Problem of
Philosophical
Fundamental
Grounding
in
Light
of a
Transcendental-Pragmatic
of
Language’,
Man & World 8
(1975): 239-75,
p. 250.
21
Habermas,
’A
Reply’, p.
228.
22
ibid., p.
229.
23
Apel,
’Can an Ultimate Foundation of
Knowledge
Be
Non-Metaphysical?’,
Journal of Speculative Philosophy
7
(1993): 171-90, p.
172. See also
Apel,
’The Problem of
Philosophical
Fundamental
Grounding’, p.
240.
24
Apel,
’Can an
Ultimate ...’, p.
180.
Habermas, although
in
disagreement
with
Apel
on the latter’s foundationalistic
aspirations, accepts Apel’s
cri-
tique
of Albert’s
understanding
of foundationalism and admits that
Apel’s
ultimate foundation is not a
product
of deduction: ’K. O.
Apel
has
subjected
fallibilism to an
illuminating metacritique
and refuted the
objection
to the
Munchausen trilemma’. For more on H. Albert’s account and Habermas’s
response
see
Habermas, MCCA, p.
79.
25
Apel,
’Can an
Ultimate ...’, p.
181.
26
ibid.,
p.
176.
27
ibid., p.
177.
28 Habermas writes:
’Perhaps
the
disagreement
between
Apel,
Kuhlmann and
myself
focuses not on
fallibilism,
but on truth
theory.
I do not understand
the discourse
theory
of truth to mean that the consensus achieved discur-
sively
is a criterion of truth
(as
was the case in some of
my
earlier state-
ments) ; rather,
it should
explain
via the discursive
redemption
of
validity-claims
the
meaning
of each element of
unconditionality
which we
intuitively
link with the
concept
of truth’
(Habermas,
’A
Reply’, p. 233).
And also: ’I understand fallibilism
only
in the sense of a
grammatical expla-
nation which must itself
naturally
be
justified
and is therefore in
principle
itself
open
to revision’
(ibid., p. 232).
29
Habermas, ibid., p.
231.
30
Habermas, Justification
and
Application,
trans. C. Cronin
(Cambridge:
Polity Press, 1995), p.
79
(henceforth J
&
A).
31 For more on Habermas’s
understanding
of
fallibilism, see J
&
A, pp.
38-9
and
94,
and for more on Habermas’s
critique
of
Apel’s understanding
of
fallibilism see
ibid., p.
82.
32
Apel,
’Can an
Ultimate ...’, p.
179.
33
Apel,
’The
Hermeneutic ...’, p.
253.
34 ibid.
35
According
to
Apel,
a
performative
self-contradiction,
as understood
by
a
pragmatic philosopher
of
language, ’assumes,
for
example,
that the
paradox
of the liar does not occur because of the self-referential use of
language
alone as it manifests itself in statements such as "All men lie" or "I am now
lying".
Such statements are
paradoxical
also
because,
in
making
such state-
ments,
the
speaker simultaneously denies,
and therefore
cancels,
his claim
to truthfulness and
thereby
also his claim to
speak
the truth. We should
note also that the rule that forbids the commission of a
performative
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66
self-contradiction is not
introduced,
like a
principle of noncontradiction ,
as
an axiom of
propositional logic. Rather,
it is the result of a reflexive
insight:
i.e. the
insight
that the introduction of
any
conceivable
theory
or
any
con-
ceivable set of axioms
already presupposes
the
performative
self-consis-
tency
of
speech....
Performative
self-consistency
is thus a
requirement
of
thinking
and
argumentation
that cannot be
side-stepped.
It follows that the
rule
prohibiting performative
self-contradiction cannot be
grounded
if
by
"grounded"
we mean - as is
customary
in the tradition of
logic -
the
process
of deductive or inductive inference from final
premises.’ Apel, ’Challenge
of a
Totalizing Critique
of Reason and the
Program
of a
Philosophical
Theory
of
Rationality Types’,
in Reason and Its
Other, p.
29.
36 ibid.
37
Apel, ’L’Éthique
du Discours comme
Éthique
de la
Responsabilité’,
Revue
de
Métaphysique
et de Morale 98
(1993): 505-37, p.
515
(my
translation
of the
paragraph).
38 For more details of how Strawson’s
essay
’Freedom and Resentment’ is dis-
cussed
by Habermas,
see
Habermas,
MCCA.
39
Habermas, MCCA, p.
80.
40
Habermas, MCCA, pp.
65-6.
41
Apel, ’L’Éthique
du
Discours’, p.
511
(my translation).
42
ibid., p.
516.
43
Apel,
’The Problem of a Universalistic Macroethics of
Co-responsibility’,
in
What
Right
Does Ethics Have?
(Amsterdam:
VU
University Press, 1990),
pp. 24-40.
44 In
Apel’s view,
this is what Hans
Jonas
does. See
Apel,
’The Problem of a
Macro-ethic of
Responsibility
to the Future in the Crisis of
Technological
Civilization: An
Attempt
to Come to Terms with H.
Jonas’s "Principle
of
Responsibility"’,
Man & World 20
(1987): 3-40,
pp.
15-21.
45
Apel, ’L’Éthique
du
Discours’,
p.
523.
46
Habermas, J
&
A,
pp.
13-14.
47
ibid., p.
86.
48
ibid., p.
10.
49
Apel, ’L’Éthique
du
Discours’, p.
516.
50 In his
Knowledge
and Human
Interests,
trans
J. Shapiro (Cambridge: Polity
Press, 1987), p.
203
(henceforth KHI)
Habermas writes: ’all interest is ulti-
mately practical,
and even that of
speculative
reason is
only
conditioned. It
is
complete only
in its
practical employment.’
In this sense
only
would
Habermas’s shift in The
Theory of
Communicative
Action ,
Vols 1 and 2
and in his MCCA seem
unexpected
and
possibly unjustified.
51 ’Reason should reveal the
unity
of the moments of reason
separated
out in
all three Kantian
critiques:
that of theoretical reason with
practical-moral
insight
and aesthetic
judgment’ (Habermas, Autonomy
and
Solidarity ,
ed.
Peter Dews
[London
& New York:
Verso, 1992], p.
101
[henceforth
A &
S]).
52 I see Kant as a dualist at three
points:
the distinction of
phenomenal
and
numenal
(reminiscent
of the Cartesian res
cogitans/res extensa ),
the
private
vs
public,
and the distinction between form and
content;
and thus I would
agree
with the
Hegelian critique
on these
points.
On the
problem
of
reason,
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though,
I believe that Kant was not a
dualist, mainly
because of the
priority
he used to
give
to
morality,
and thus I would
agree
with those
interpre-
tations of Kant that take a
unity
of reason for
granted (i.e. Christopher
Norris,
The Contest
of Faculties;
Onora
O’Neill,
Constructions
of Reason;
Panayiotis Kondylis, Europaikos Diafotismos ).
53 Both
quotations
are from
Habermas, J
&
A, pp.
80 and 81
respectively.
54
Habermas,
’A
Reply’, p.
219.
55 To avoid a
misunderstanding,
I must
say
that
Apel
understands the
ques-
tion not as a
pedagogic
one that seeks for a
prescriptive answer,
but rather
as ’the
question
of the ultimate rational
ground
of "moral existence"’. See
Habermas, J
&
A, p.
76.
56
Apel,
’Can an
Ultimate ...’, p.
174.
57
Habermas, J
&
A, p.
79.
58 This does not
imply
that
Apel
reiterates Kant. What
Apel
does is
analogous
to Kant’s account but is
by
no means the
same,
since the ultimate
justifi-
cation in
Apel’s theory
lies not on a ’fact of reason’ in its transcendental
form
expressed
in
premises
of a
philosophy
of
consciousness,
or on a
petitio
principii -like justification through
the notion of an autonomous
will,
but
on
presuppositions
of
argumentation,
that
is,
on
language.
59 One
might
ask
why Apel’s justification
can be
interpreted
in such a
way,
whereas Kant’s
justification escaped
from
charges
of this sort. I believe
that,
precisely
because Kant’s
justification
as a ’fact of reason’ is more
precarious
than a
linguistic justification
based on
presuppositions
of
discourse,
it is
open
not
only
to idealistic
interpretations
but also to behaviouristic ones.
Apel
has steered clear of the
positivistic
elements of
epistemological
neo-
Kantianism. In
Apel’s case,
the structure of
language
as such offers the ulti-
mate
justification. If,
let us
say,
other
beings
from other
planets possessed
some sort of code for communication of a self-reflective character
(validity-
claims)
we would be able to communicate with them no matter how differ-
ent the
physiological apparatuses. This, automatically,
excludes
corporality
(mental
dispositions,
racial ...)
as a
possibility
of ultimate
justification.
In
Kant’s
case,
the fact of reason is more
ambiguous
and more
open
to
accommodating
a naturalistic
interpretation
than a
theological-mystical
one
whereas,
in
Apel’s case,
the
opposite
is more
likely
since the behav-
iouristic alternative is
obviously rejected. Anyway, language
for Kant was
not
granted
a
special
status and it would be difficult to
charge
him with a
kerygmatic
account of
language
as in the cases of
Heidegger
and Levinas.
60 That does not mean that
Apel’s conception
of
language
as it has been formu-
lated so far has an obvious
similarity
to
Heidegger’s
or Levinas’s
respective
accounts. I am
talking
about some
implications
of
Apel’s
ethical
’always
already’
and I am not
describing
the basic statements of transcendental
semiotics.
61 For more on Levinas’s attribution of a
kerygmatic
character to
language
see
Re-Reading Levinas ,
ed. Robert Bernasconi and Simon
Critchley (London:
Athlone
Press, 1991).
62 This
model,
residues of which can be identified in almost
every
liberalistic
political
or ethical
theory, goes along
with a modern rehabilitation of nature
and
corporeality
that
paved
the
way
for a
philosophical rejection
of the idea
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68
of a
metaphysical
desire for
knowledge
as the
origin
of human
creativity
and an
explanation
of the latter via a
theory
of
self-preservation
and vital-
ism
(manifestly promoted by Nietzsche).
63 To avoid a
possible misunderstanding, given
the debate between communi-
tarian and
cognitivist
ethical
theorists,
I would like to
clarify
that Haber-
mas does not
empty
the self
up
in a Rawlsian
way, namely, by putting
the
participant
in a discourse under a veil of
ignorance,
but conceives a
morally
empty
self
only
outside
society.
As
long
as a
being
is within a
society,
granted
the
priority
of communicative over
strategic action,
it is not an
empty subject any more,
but a
being gifted
with communicative
rationality
-
through language acquisition -
and
thereby capable, potentially,
of
developing
a moral self.
64
Habermas, J
&
A, p.
77.
65
Apel’s theory
has
already
been criticized for
utopian
tendencies
(see
Wellmer’s
essay,
Ethik und
Dialog [Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1986])
and chil-
iastic concerns. His
response
to these criticisms
(see
his
’Ethics, Utopia,
and
the
Critique
of
Utopia’,
in The Communicative Ethics
Controversy,
ed. S.
Benhabib and F.
Dallmayr [Cambridge,
MA: MIT
Press, 1990])
is
very
con-
vincing
as far as it concerns the
spirit
and the letter of his own
theory.
When
it comes to the
possibilities
his
theory opens,
I see how a
daring interpre-
tation would
exploit
these.
66 The
following
comment
by
Habermas
proves
that the
subjugation
of
epis-
temology
to
normativity
indeed worries him. He writes:
’Although
Kant’s
practical
reason is not restored
[in Apel’s
work:
M.P.] to
its
position
of
pre-
eminence in the
intelligible realm,
it nonetheless retains
something
of its
omnipotence’ (J
&
A, p. 77).
67
Apel, ’Ethics, Utopia ...’, p.
46.
68
Apel, ’Normatively Grounding
"Critical
Theory" through
Recourse to the
Lifeworld? A
Transcendental-Pragmatic Attempt
to Think with Habermas
against Habermas’,
in A.
Honneth,
C.
Offe,
T.
McCarthy
and A. Wellmer
(eds)
Philosophical
Interventions in the
Unfinished Project of Enlighten-
ment
(Cambridge,
MA: MIT
Press, 1992), p.
169.
69 ibid.
70
Apel, ibid., p.
125.
71 The fact that their aim is
very
similar becomes more obvious if one realizes
that one of the most contested
(by Apel
and
Habermas)
ideas of other
ethical
theories,
is the conviction that
regards
ethical
principles
as
possible
only
in a
strategic
form
suggesting
’an ad hoc
compromise
between con-
flicting parties’.
See Habermas’s
critique
of
Tugendhat’s
ethics and
Apel’s
critique
of Hobbes or Lubbe’s model of the
justification
of norms
by
the
agreement
of interested
parties,
in MCCA
and J
& A as well as
’Ethics,
Utopia ...’ respectively.
72 I
hope
I do
justice
to Habermas when I assume that his main reason for
writing
the two-volume
Theory of
Communicative Action is to address
problems
of
justification
of the
priority
of communicative reason without
any ontologico-ethical assumptions.
The transformation of
sociology
attempted
there aims at
proving
the attainment and maintenance of social
order to be
primarily
a matter of communicative action and not
strategic
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69
as a
non-linguistic
sociology
holds. In this
way, any
ultimate
justification,
that
is, any assumption
of an a
priori
of
community,
even a
linguistic one,
is shown to be at least redundant. This
interpretation
of
TCA,
Vols 1 and
2
explains sufficiently,
I
think, why
the contention between
Apel
and Haber-
mas
grew
after the
publication
of TCA
(1981),
a fact that is shown from
the
publication
of relevant texts from both
parts.
73
Habermas,
’A
Reply’, p.
220.
74 There are also other
possibilities
within a
pragmatic philosophy
of
language
that,
for reasons of
space,
I cannot
analyse
here.
Indicatively,
I mention A.
Wellmer’s
critique
of
Apel’s
and Habermas’s consensus
theory
of truth
(Ethik
und
Dialog ),
Manfred Frank’s defence of the idea of a
pre-reflective
self-acquaintance
as
against
the
prioritization
of
intersubjectivity (What
Is
Neostructuralism?
[Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota
Press, 1989]),
and Axel Honneth’s
mediatory approach
to
postmodern
Derridean-Lev-
inasian ethics
(see,
for
instance, Honneth,
’The Other of
Justice:
Habermas
and the Ethical
Challenge
of
Postmodernism’, [see
note
2]).
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