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From Consensus to Responsibility as Solidarity or How does discursive ethics overcome its critiques?

Domenii publicaţii > Stiinte umaniste + Tipuri publicaţii > Articol în revistã ştiinţificã

Autori: Nicolae Morar

Editorial: Romanian Journal of Bioethics, June/September, 2007.


Jonas claims that Kant’s error concerning his categorical imperative lies in the fact that it entails the existence of a human community. While this fact was obvious for Kant, it is not an evidence anymore for Jonas. Kant’s maxim, which calls for an accord between our reason and the way we act, must be reviewed because it does not take into consideration the emergency of the situation. Jonas gives an argument for a new form of ethical obligation which entails the idea that human actions have to be in agreement with the future survival of humanity. What does discourse ethics, sometimes called an updated version of Kant’s ethics, answer to the challenge raised by Jonas? Is there a possibility for a model based on a symmetrical relationship among existing and communicative subjects to integrate a responsibility for future generations which implies an asymmetrical relation (non- reciprocal) and a non-existing subject? In other words, what can discourse ethics tell us about our responsibilities with respect to future generations and to future nature?
In order to clarify some of these questions and the way that Habermas engages with them, my discourse will be structured as it follows. First, I will attempt to bring out Habermas’ definition of communicative normativity through speech-act theory. My purpose is to state clearly whether or not a norm-conformative attitude toward nature can be rationalized and if a form of empathy is sufficient to create a moral obligation for human beings with respect to nature. Second, I will raise some critiques regarding the limits of this normativity and I will test it to see if it implies or not a real responsibility for nature. These critiques point out an inconsistent criterion that determines which attitudes are rationalizable and an insufficiency of a communicative ethical model in non-reciprocal relations. Third, I will move towards the argument developed by K.O. Apel in his answer book to Hans Jonas. This is not a way to abandon Habermas as long as Apel develops a similar argument and he claims sharing it with the former.

Cuvinte cheie: discursive ethics, solidarity, future generations