File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0011, message 83


Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000 19:40:07 -0800 (PST)
Subject: HAB: Habermas vs. Searle, addendum




GD: Continuing from earlier from Bill Hord, "Re: HAB: Re: What are
institutions?," 11/30:

BH: ....Second, you claim that Habermas's position is more clearly
stated. 

GD: Specifically, I replied "certainly not" to your passing comment
that "certainly Searle's account of speech acts is the most clearly
stated (H acknowledges this as well)." I said this because I find
Searle's account of speech acts to confuse the character of
communicative interaction, which Habermas's theory more adequately
addresses. A theory that is more adequate--or that is "incomparable"
(which I added earlier)--would provide for a clearer sense of what is
really happening in communication. 

Fundamental here is the distinction between subjective and
intersubjective components of communicative action (where the
intersubjective dimension is not basically a relational exchange of
information; i.e., intersubjectivity is not the same as two
subjectivities in a mere relationship). A theory of speech that
confuses this difference may do so very clearly (as it doesn't
discern an important distinction), but that doesn't make theory a
clear account of speech itself, because communicative action *cannot*
be tenably analyzed in terms of Searlean intentional acts. As I
avowed earlier: "Habermas' [inter]subjective theory of communicative
action is incomparable to Searle's egoistic theory." I'm surely not
making anything clear by avowing that, but I am expressing that there
is something worthwhile to be said or, as it turns out, to be reached
in understanding. 

BH> Habermas writes that, in adopting the intersubjectivist
position,"the intentionalist description is replaced not only by a
more complex (and vaguer) one, but by a different conceptualization"
([first page of the essay, p. 257 of Cooke edition]).

GD: (Don't miss the fact that "different" is emphasized in JH's
text.) What does "adopting the intersubjectivist position" refer to?
This isn't part of your quotation. Looking at JH's essay--the opening
paragraphs you're drawing from--we see that the "view" at the
beginning of the essay is about "intuitions" "guid[ing]...what it
means to perform a speech act successfully," not general stances
about the different theories, though of course  general theoretical
difference is ultimately the issue (by the end of the essay). But the
context you're quoting is clearly an early point in an extended
argument, precisely: different conceptions of language (258 top). The
intersubjectivist view pertains to "reaching understanding" where the
intentionalist view pertains to "get[ting] an address to recognize an
intention...." (257) A shared endeavor to reach understanding is more
complex than an inter-individual (or ego-to-ego, as Habermas has put
it) "process" of "transmitting subjective contents." Being more
complex, this endeavor is "thus vaguer," as the character of complex
intersubjectivity is more elusive than the character of two
individuals transmitting information; reaching understanding is more
complex and elusive than getting an other to recognize one's own
intentions. But an inadequate conception of language can't deal with
this complexity, cannot bring clarity to the proximal vagueness of
intending to reach understanding.

In short, it's certainly not the case that Habermas believes that
Searle's model of language provides a clearer account of
communication itself. 

BH:....Farther down the same page: "the intentionalist can provide a
more elegant explanation...."

GD: Explanation of what? Explanation of something which an
intersubjectivist view "presupposes"; i.e., the intersubjectivist
view of communication can be conceptualized in terms of a richer
sense of "the linguistic rule system" than the intentionalist view
cannot do (258), therefore the intentionalist view must *explain*
dimensions of linguisticality that it cannot appreciate as inherent
to communication itself. Elegance is sustained at the expense a
reductionistic theory of language. It so happens that the complex
reality of communicative life--its interplays of intersubjective,
objectivating, and subjective dimensions of understanding--is rather
inelegant. 

BH: ....(Compare this, also, with your point about the intentionality
of actions: Habermas is here distinguishing his own position from the
one you attribute to him.)  

GD: Not at all. To counter your earlier claim that intentionality
doesn't figure into JH's view, I indicated that intentionality is
inherent to the subjective dimension of communicative action. But I
didn't connote in any way (I hope) that communicative action is
*based* in that dimension (as Searle tends to do). Quite the
contrary, this intentionality that is inherent to the speech act
(within communicative interaction) is richer than that of a Searlean
intentional subject, since intentionality pertains to
intersubjectvity as well. Indeed, a potentially elegant potential of
communicative action is its fluid balance of shared and unshared
intentions in the to-and-fro of changing points, foci, etc., what's
tacitly and overtly "mine", tacitly / overtly "yours" and tacitly /
overtly "ours".

Between veritable strangers with only textuality between them, in our
case, this fluidity is indeed vague. 

But isn't it fun. Wish I had time to do a lot of this, but I don't.
THANKS, though.


Gary

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