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Article: On the Philosophy/Rhetoric Binaries, or, Is Habermasian Discourse Motivationally Impotent?

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

Abstract: The susceptibility of Habermas’s sociopolitical theory (and notion of constitutional patriotism) to the charge of motivational impotence can be traced to a problem in the way in which he conceives of discursive practical reason. By implicitly constructing the notion of discursive rationality in contrast to, and in abstraction from, the rhetorical and affective components of language use, Habermas’s notion of discursive practical reason ends up reiterating the same binaries – between reason and passion, abstract and concrete, universal and particular – that provide the tacit parameters used by his critics to motivate the charge of impotence. Habermas’s project of reconciling social integration and political rule with freedom can succeed only by rebuilding his discourse ethical theory of politics upon a notion of discursive practical reason that overcomes these philosophy/rhetoric binaries common to both camps.

(c) 2007 Sage

Photo: Cesare Maccari (1840–1919), Cicero Denounces Catiline, 1889

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