Back to Habermas Studies page a note on pragmatics of justification
part 7 of “Habermas and Truth
gary e. davis
October 3, 2003 / June 1, 2014

At the bottom of page 371 (OPC), Habermas wants to show how all the pieces of his case may accord as a singular argumentation sketch. Again, JH is providing a pragmatic theory of justification (and application), not a pragmatic theory of truth (though a pragmatic theory of truth can be derived from my modified version of his argumentation, an appropriative theory of truth). [I didn’t do a derivation, but that kind of work—in a workbook mode—is indirectly exemplified by “In virtue of ethical pragmatics.” I would work through numerous essays by Habermas in the exploratory way I worked there, then later constellate the explorations. That would be a lot of work, just to do revision of Habermas’s modeling. Someday, perhaps.]


...we have only to bring together in the right way the partial statements assembled here up to now. [First,] In the lifeworld actors depend on behavioral certainties.

You recall that I focused on this earlier, but I want to add a new dimension to JH’s assertion here. By “actor,” JH means, of course, a person or participant in activity or carrying through action. But JH’s theory of action types (TCA-1) includes dramaturgical action, such that we are always, to some degree, actors in self representation of our lives (subjectivities, according to JH, but I will give richer meaning to dramaturgical action than does JH—not today [but that's very developed by now, offline]—in full accord with what JH means by dramaturgical). The pragmatic importance of this presently is that the actor is primarily understood relative to action—persons as action-interested and action-oriented, but the self investment in pragmatic action is far more than Habermas apparently discerns, due to the inappropriately supplementary status that he gives to dramaturgical action. The dramaturgical action type tends to become the central one in individuating lives; other action types tend to become supplemental. But I know that this may easily seem to suggest an egoistic view of action; it is not this.

Anyway, persons’ relationships to knowledge and understanding, with wide variations of certainty (and uncertainty), pertain to all types of action. “Behavioral” certainties are not the keynote of lifeworld relations to knowledge and representational understanding. [Certainly, we need certainties—epistemic, valuative, and self-identical—but a good life, a good basis for theorizing lifeworldliness, is at best happily awash in ambiguity, unpredictability, and flexible perspectivity toward the inestimable variability of others. Daily life is awash in intentionality, personage, and personification, not behaviors as such (which are abstractions from how we live: in ecospheres of intentionality.]

But a sense of bedrock behavioral certainty is what JH needs for his theory to associate to some “unconditional” feature, in the following synoptic statement:

There is a practical necessity to rely intuitively on what is unconditionally held-to-be-true. This mode of unconditionally holding-to-be-true is reflected on the discursive level in the connotations of truth claims that point beyond the given context of justification and require the supposition of ideal justificatory conditions—with a resulting decentering of the justification community. (372)

JH claims that he’s “bringing together partial statements,” but he hasn’t earlier claimed that “there is a practical necessity to rely intuitively on what is unconditionally held-to-be-true,” unless one reads his earlier reference to behavioral certainties as meaning just that. (His earlier “presupposition” of ideal conditions has now become “supposition,” as I recommended earlier.) [Confusing here is that behavioral certainties are factical presumptions, while unconditionality in discourse is an idealization. Only a preconventional, if not illiterate, mind would regard factical presumptions as unconditional. I don’t understand why JH finds preconventional presumption reflected in post-conventional idealization. But this is all resolvable for an appropriate pragmatics of truth. However, I don’t find Habermas providing enough basis for appropriation.]

JH has simply presumed the place of behavioral certainties earlier, and I’ve earlier indicated how (1) there are levels and gradations of lifeworld background, contrary to his apparently monolithic regard for the lifeworld backgroud; and (2) we normally live with degrees of certainty about the objective world. (JH presumes a singular relevance of the objective world, which is contrary to the manifoldness of the lifeworld itself. Though his own argumentation about “truth,” “rationality,” and “justification” moves around types of validity claims, he thematizes the lifeworld-to-discourse continuum relative to only the objective domain of the lifeworld, but the continuum involves all modes of validity, as truth is a notion expressing lifeworld-general interest in reliability and fidelity of action to what matters.)

The only way to justify a focus on bedrock thinking in the lifeworld is to emphasize pre-conventional and concrete-operational consciousness, which is associated with children and illiteracy. So, the more that one incorporates a lifeworld of educated adults and advanced modernization, the less that bedrock thinking figures into a general appreciation of the lifeworld—and the less credible is any correlate unconditionality for discursive “reflection.” If, on Habermas’s terms, it follows that the more that one presumes immaturity and illiteracy, the more that a reflection of unconditionality is to be found at the discursive level, that would be something like a Platonism. [My surmising here is merely a bit of exasperation about Habermas’s frame of mind at this point in his discussion, not claiming that he’s a secret Platonist. I appreciate that essays are time-specific things that can’t be revised! He, like I, is a conceptual prospector. Take what rings true! Leave behind what rings false. This is why I’m so attached to his work, not because I seek foundationalism in one other mind.]

Platonism is not connoted by a pragmatic theory of justification that is modified in ways that I’ve suggested in earlier pages here, in light of JH’s discussion. Overtones of a “required” unconditionality that look ultimately stipulated are of no significance for the basic tenability of a twofold hermeneutical continuum, from lifeworld to discourse and back (involving scales and modes of need for validation, relative to project-oriented adaptability of fallibilism, etc., as I’ve discussed), i.e., an appropriative pragmatic of justification and application. [See also, “pragmatics of justification,” October 2005, though that’s not directly recollective of this current project.]

I agree, though, that:

...the process of justification can be guided by a notion of truth that transcends justification.... (372)

So perhaps JH would see his entire theory of validity as a coherence theory of truth. In any case, discursants will bring to mind as rich of a sense of validation or truth-finding as they need. Participants decide the degree of idealization that’s appropriate, which is a matter of the scale of interest or questioning of relevant Truth, not only the scale of conditionality in justification of factual claims and/or freedom of constraint in inquiry.

The remainder of Habermas’ essay (OPC 372-77) continues his critique of Rorty, so his pragmatic of justification, as it stands for him, becomes largely critical application, and is worthwhile reading—critical exemplification—for that reason. But my interest is, has been, and remains the philosophical pragmatics as such, and JH doesn’t return to this anymore in his essay. So it’s time to move on.

Next: “Truth of JH’s ‘creative renewal’

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

Be fair. © 2014, g. e. davis.