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    On violence in Habermas's philosophy of language

    Ashenden, Samantha (2013) On violence in Habermas's philosophy of language. European Journal of Political Theory 13 (4), pp. 427-452. ISSN 1474-8851.

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    Habermas does not rule out the possibility of violence in language. In fact his account explicitly licenses a broad conception of violence as ‘systematically distorted communication’. Yet he does rule out the possibility that language simultaneously imposes as it discloses. That is, his argument precludes the possibility of recognizing that there is an antinomy at the heart of language and philosophical reason. This occlusion of the simultaneously world-disclosing and world-imposing character of language feeds and sustains Habermas’s legal and political arguments, where he states that in order to achieve consensus rational deliberation must eliminate force. In this paper, I claim that this argument operates through a manoeuvre that leaves Habermas’s position curiously blind to its own predicament. To explain why, I turn to Kant’s treatment of the problem of evil in Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. Here, as in the Western philosophical tradition more generally, evil has no separate existence: it is folded back into Kant’s philosophical scheme. Arendt notes that as soon as Kant identifies the problem of evil he rationalizes it into comprehensible motives. I will show how, through a move that is structurally similar to Kant’s rationalization of evil, Habermas rationalizes and attempts to eliminate violence from his consideration of law and language. In Habermas’s work, law and language appear as ciphers for reason. The case to be made here is that Habermas’s inability to recognize the paradoxical character of language and reason makes his work blind to the violence in which it is unavoidably implicated.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): evil, Habermas, Kant, philosophy of language, proceduralism, violence,
    School: School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Politics
    Research Centres and Institutes: Moving Image, Birkbeck Institute for the (BIMI)
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2013 08:05
    Last Modified: 14 Dec 2016 09:36


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