November 29, 2009 1:34 AM   Subscribe

Can anybody explain Habermas in brief? Or point me to some good resources (other than wikipedia)?
posted by moorooka to Religion & Philosophy (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Habermas, alas, is not a whole so 'explaining' him really would be difficult; the dude's put out a shitload of theory in a lifetime and much of it is quite subtle and differentiated. He's not like, say Baudrillard, for example, where a few key concepts will pretty much do for the whole.

For quick, decent summaries, you can't go past the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
posted by smoke at 2:18 AM on November 29, 2009

Seconding what smoke said very heavily. If you say more about what part of Habermas's theory you're interested in, I might be able to make some suggestions.
posted by paultopia at 3:38 AM on November 29, 2009

See The Dialectical Imagination by Martin Jay (1973). A history of the Frankfurt School.
posted by madstop1 at 5:31 AM on November 29, 2009

I'm a huge fan of Oxford's VSI series. I haven't read their Habermas introduction, but based on some of their other volumes I bet it's top notch. The first Amazon review listed has a nice summary and comparison to other introductions.
posted by farishta at 6:32 AM on November 29, 2009

Seconding Oxford's Very Short Introduction series. There's even a Kindle edition for the Habermas volume for about $7. If you don't have a Kindle, there's free Kindle for PC software.
posted by Anephim at 11:43 AM on November 29, 2009

What I am particularly interested in is trying to understand what the hell people actually mean by "hermeneutics", and where Habermas puts the role of "social science" in relation to the "lifeworld"
posted by moorooka at 9:37 PM on November 29, 2009

What I am particularly interested in is trying to understand what the hell people actually mean by "hermeneutics"

Ah, that I can help you with. :) Hermeneutics is literally the art of interpretation. Its genesis was primarily through biblical studies (pun intended) - how does one interpret the word of god? An important question in a very religious culture. Writers like St Augstine, and Schliermacher (spelling?) could be considered some of the earlier hermeneutics.

As society, and (I would argue) mass communication became more widespread, so did both the number of things to be interpreted, and also the number of ways to interpret them. Hermeneutics is largely a continental concern - with the most obvious exceptions being Leavis and New Criticism from the UK, and your Stanley Fish reader-response type theory from the US. Germany, by way of (in no particular order) Husserl, Hegel, Ingarden (he's polish), the Frankfurt School (Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse particularly), Gadamer and your man Habermas has been a particularly strong force in hermeneutics.

So hermeneutics isn't a theory, per se, but rather the application a theory to the goal of interpreting something, the pursuit of meaning, if you will. Thus - aside from the philisophers I have mentioned - there is room in hermeneutics for people like Lacan and even Freud, Susan Sontag, bell hooks, etc. They just tend to reside under their own nomenclature than adopting the hermeneutic one.

I haven't touched Habermas in a long enough time that I don't really feel confident answering your second question.
posted by smoke at 10:07 PM on November 29, 2009

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