Human Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 51–67 | Cite as

A Moment of Unconditional Validity? Schutz and the Habermas/Rorty Debate

  • Michael D. Barber


Richard Rorty challenges Jurgen Habermas's belief that validity-claims raised within context-bound discussions contain a moment of universality validity. Rorty argues that immersion within contingent languages prohibits any neutral, context-independent ground, that one cannot predict the defense of one's assertions before any audience, and that philosophy can no more escape its contextual limitations than strategic counterparts. Alfred Schutz's phenomenological account of motivation, the reciprocity of perspectives, and the theoretical province of meaning can articulate Habermas's intuitions.

Since any claim can be analyzed from an observer's perspective for its because-motives, it can always be shown to be context-related; but to the participant involved in the in-order-to project of establishing a claim's validity, the claim appears objectively valid until counter-evidence surfaces. Rorty, even when explaining what it is to “make a truth claim,” resorts to the observer perspective and omits reference to the in-order-to perspective, within which alone unconditional validity becomes visible. Furthermore, the expectation that one's claim is universally valid depends not on an empirical prediction that one's claim can survive hypothesized future possible audiences. Rather, because of the reciprocity of perspectives, making possible communication and a common life, theoreticians assume that others will recognize what they take to be objective or valid, independently of diverse biographical circumstances. Finally, within the theoretical province requiring relevances different from those of everyday life, philosophy articulates claims with a greater potential to arrive at universal validity than projects that aim less universally, in spite of the fact that its theoretical context is always susceptible to because motive analysis.


Everyday Life Political Philosophy Modern Philosophy Motive Analysis Theoretical Context 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael D. Barber
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySt. Louis UniversityUSA

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