Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Communicative Action and Liberation Theology

No need to dust off an old book, there is Jurgen Habermas on YouTube, fergoodnesssakes smile.
Look a little further you will see a whole series of lectures and discussions.

I like this interview in particular because Habermas was asked to reflect on what he thought were his own most important ideas. Communicative action is mentioned in the context of democracy.

He describes Nazi Germany and the "re-education" policies of that regime and he talked about the generational discourse that occurred as a consequence of WWII, how the academic cohort of the time, the many scholars, philosophers and sociologists "made their bones" out of that time of torment.
( My own spin, Habermas doesn't make the implication of an academic Mafia but there are some interesting parallels don't you think?)

Anyway, the result was a rich texture of intellectual activity:some sublime philosophy, some rationalization and justification of evil by intellectuals using "scientific processes" and many academic careers were launched.

We are at a time in history where a similar generational discourse needs to occur and is occurring. Just as those in Habermas's intellectual generation engaged in communicative discourse in the commons to expose evil and try to heal humanity, we now have an opportunity to do the same. (I wonder if Habermas feels that some of that effort was wasted because humanity seems to be doing some of the same things over and over.)

Difference is we now have much broader access to the channels of communication of the public sphere and almost instant access to other minds in the noosphere. Just gotta figure out how that Google search works and how to engage in the dialog by comment on a blog or wiki.

A person can even add comments to the dialog on the Habermas YouTube video.
The comments, and there are many, from the ridiculous to the sublime, the profane to the rapturous, give an idea of the impact of an idea, or a thought. It gives you a chance to add your voice and engage the public sphere, be part of an immersive environment.

The other thing I like about watching this clip on YouTube is the visual dimension, because I never met Habermas or seen him in a lecture. I had no idea that he had a physical deformity and I can just imagine what things must have been like for him as a young person in the era of post Nazi Germany. The Nazis exterminated people with physical deformities, so when I read what he writes it now has a whole other texture of meaning for me. His personal response to evil is not an academic issue, he knows how important it is that everyday people inform themselves and take responsibility for the public discourse.
Makes me think about the famous Martin Neimoller poem.
Interesting also to note that Habermas has engaged in dialog with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. That name is familiar from somewhere.

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