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Maeve Cooke

Maeve Cooke is Associate Professor of German Social and Political Thought at University College Dublin. She is the author of Language and Reason: A Study of Habermas's Pragmatics (MIT Press, 1994) and editor of On the Pragmatics of Communication (MIT Press, 1998), a collection of essays by Jürgen Habermas.

Titles by This Author

Contemporary critical social theories face the question of how to justify the ideas of the good society that guide their critical analyses. Traditionally, these more or less determinate ideas of the good society were held to be independent of their specific sociocultural context and historical epoch. Today, such a concept of context-transcending validity is not easy to defend; the "linguistic turn" of Western philosophy signals the widespread acceptance of the view that ideas of knowledge and validity are always mediated linguistically and that language is conditioned by history and context. In Re-Presenting the Good Society, Maeve Cooke addresses the justificatory dilemma facing critical social theories: how to maintain an idea of context-transcending validity without violating anti-authoritarian impulses. In doing so she not only clarifies the issues and positions taken by other theorists--including Richard Rorty, Jürgen Habermas, Axel Honneth, and Judith Butler--but also offers her own original and thought-provoking analysis of context-transcending validity.Because the tension between an anti-authoritarian impulse and a guiding idea of context-transcending validity is today an integral part of critical social theory, Cooke argues that it should be negotiated rather than eliminated. Her proposal for a concept of context-transcending validity has as its central claim that we should conceive of the good society as re-presented in particular constitutively inadequate representations of it. These re-presentations are, Cooke argues provocatively, regulative ideas that have an imaginary, fictive character.

A Study of Habermas's Pragmatics

Readers of Jürgen Habermas's Theory of Communicative Action and his later social theory know that the idea of communicative rationality is central to his version of critical theory. Language and Reason opens up new territory for social theorists by providing the first general introduction to Habermas's program of formal pragmatics: his reconstruction of the universal principles of possible understanding that, he argues, are already operative in everyday communicative practices. Philosophers of language will discover surprising and fruitful connections between Habermas's account of language and validity (especially his theory of meaning) and their own concerns.

Titles by This Editor

This anthology brings together for the first time, in revised or new translation, ten essays that present the main concerns of Jürgen Habermas's program in formal pragmatics. Its aim is to convey a sense of the overall purpose of Habermas's linguistic investigations while introducing the reader to their specific details.

Habermas's program in formal pragmatics fulfills two main functions. First, it serves as the theoretical underpinning for his theory of communicative action, a crucial element in his theory of society. Second, it contributes to ongoing philosophical discussion of problems concerning meaning, truth, rationality, and action.

By the "pragmatic" dimensions of language, Habermas means those pertaining specifically to the employment of sentences in utterances. He makes clear that "formal" is to be understood in a tolerant sense to refer to the rational reconstruction of general intuitions or competences. Formal pragmatics, then, aims at a systematic reconstruction of the intuitive linguistic knowledge of competent subjects as it is used in everyday communicative practices.