On the Pragmatics of Social Interaction: Preliminary Studies in the Theory of Communicative Action

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In 1971 Habermas delivered the Gauss Lectures at Princeton University. These pivotal lectures, entitled "Reflections on the Linguistic Foundation of Sociology," anticipate The Theory of Communicative Action and offer an excellent introduction to it. They show why Habermas considers the linguistic turn in social philosophy to be necessary and contain the first formulation of formal pragmatics, including an important discussion of truth.

In these lectures and two additional essays, Habermas outlines an intersubjective approach to social theory that takes the concepts of meaning and communication to be central. In doing so, he situates his project relative to other influential accounts of how meaning is constituted, in particular those of Edmund Husserl, Wilfrid Sellars, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. He examines the nature of social interaction and its connection to communication, developing a linguistic conception of convention and intentionality. He also offers an account of social and individual pathologies using the concept of systematically distorted communication. Taken together, these analyses contribute significantly to current debates in the philosophy of action and language.

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About the author (2001)

Jurgen Habermas is a German sociologist who studied at the universities of Gottingen, Zurich, and Bonn. He taught at Frankfurt am Main, Marburg, and Heidelberg before becoming professor of philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. His works, widely translated, have made him one of the most influential social theorists of our time. Habermas is considered by some to be an intellectual heir to Max Weber and what has been called the Frankfurt School. His work has centered mainly on the role of communication and technology in changing patterns of social relations, human activity, and values. An outspoken advocate of the Enlightenment and a champion of reason, he has also cautioned that the technical rationality associated with modern capitalism often functions as ideology and may stand in the way of human progress.

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