Back to Habermas Studies page A Brief Sense of An American Pragmatism
gary e. davis
    May 2003 / March 2014  

Preface March 6, 2014

My discussion below doesn’t require this preface, but someone may be interested in background context. The discussion introduces itself sufficiently; so, you can skip this preface. I easily exhibit the Derridean sentiment that everything becomes a preface.

In 2003, I got involved in a very tedious commentary on Habermas’s article about the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (JH’s article: “Interpreting the Fall of a Monument”), which was a short discourse of appropriation by him that he related to aspects of his theory of democracy. Part of my commentary included a perspective on pragmatism, which I’m reproducing below, revised today (within the constraints of the initial, improvised discussion), but without its earlier link from and to my longer commentary on his entire article (my shameless display of working with themes from his article). Someday, I’ll re-format the 2003 discussion for better use. (Someday, I’ll reformat this page. Anyway, its URL here is permanent.)

My 2003 discussion commented at length on each short part of Habermas’s article. The part below was done in light of Habermas’s statement that “It was precisely the insight of American pragmatism that reciprocal perspective-taking paves the way for grasping what is in each case equally good for all parties.”

Actually, I was using an earlier translation below (which is one of the reasons now why I should re-do the entire discussion, as well as re-formatting it, before linking to it). The earlier translation was: “It was American Pragmatism itself which made insight into that which was good and just to all parties concerned dependent upon a reciprocal acceptance of mutual perspectives.”

Obviously, the two translations express a different locus of insight. The latter assertion (earlier translation) associates insight with the evaluation of interaction; the former (later translation) associates insight with American pragmatism itself. So, the following is less about Habermas’s assertion than about Habermas generally vis-à-vis my conceptual prospecting.

In the following, I’m concerned with the relationship of insight to the valuation of interaction, which is a worthwhile pursuit, apart from what Habermas had in mind (the later translation). Insight about interaction is ambiguously distinct from (a) insight brought to interaction and (b) insight resulting from interaction. What’s endorsed by each as good for all is rooted for each in insight about what’s good for each that’s cogently and appealingly generalizable.

In 2003, I replied: “Might it be more important that the dependence goes both ways? From a progressive point of view, could it even be vital that agreement and perspective depend on insight? I say ‘yes’ to each question and explain why.” There, I’m drawing Habermas’s sociocentric point into my interest in the basis of social insight brought to eventually-insightful interaction.

That interest is part of a longstanding issue for me that can be capsulated in the difference between [1] “individuation through socialization" (JH’s reading of George Herbert Mead) and [2] socialization through individuation (i.e., the self-initiated interest—the self-formative interest of child development—in growing capability to originate contributions to insightful interaction). Socialization itself cannot be the basis for insightfulness in individuation or creativity which may catalyze (if not lead) processes of insightful interaction. Progress does not proceed from a status quo ante. And developmental psychology is not a species of sociology.

2003 was a long time ago. But this discussion remains valid to me and a good entrance into a lot of issues that I’ve continued to work with.

March 2017: The bulleted links below, going to the sections of my 2003/2014 discussion, may be substantially revised later in 2017, which this preface and introduction/conclusion below doesn
’t yet accomodate. This page wont be further revised.



A Brief Sense of An American Pragmatism
May 2003 / March 2014

Though pragmatism doesn’t belong to America, the philosophical approach (firstly a school of thought) called pragmatism is distinctly American in its roots, and it thrives presently in terms of overtly pragmatic philosophers who have engaged Habermas in some detail. But Habermas’ interest is basically sociocentric, while the character of American pragmatism is more psychocultural--or better individuative (The appropriate dyad here is not socio- vs. ego-centric, though JH’s sensitivity to subject-centered reason may lead one to suspect otherwise).

Here, I want to briefly prospect:

This isn’t about inherited American pragmatism in terms of these topics, rather about these topics—conceptual prospecting—as foci that explicate a growing sense (2003—circa 2008, those discursive stances) of balancing conceptual ambition (“idealism”?) and ambitious prudence (“realism”?) that I regard as pragmatic. In retropect (2014), I seem to have been exploring the immanent, interactive horizon of what I’m lately calling “pragmatics as progressive realism.”

The May 2003 version of this discussion was my earliest of the “discursive stances” that I’ve listed from a larger set elsewhere. It seems most appropriate as a background to “pragmatics of justification.” | March 22, 2014: Yet, this discussion turned out to be part of an intensive dwelling with Habermas philosophically during 2003, especially during September and October: “Habermas and truth,” “Reason: reflexivity and rationalization.” All of those “discursive stances” happened after 2003.

Also: This discussion is associated with the “good thinking” area of

Be fair. © 2017, g. e. davis