Between measurability and immeasurability: The politics of care in Habermas and Derrida

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Ganis, R

This study considers whether the tradition of moral universalism is correct to dissociate\ud the asymmetrical perspective of "care" from the principle of impartial treatment for all\ud or whether there is in fact a legitimate and indeed necessary place for the care\ud perspective when addressing questions of universal justice. In examining this question,\ud the study utilises the writings of Jiirgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida as a\ud philosophical backdrop, according particular attention to each thinker's engagement\ud with the principle of "measure." It notes that unlike Derrida, Habermas sets forth a\ud categorical distinction between instrumental measure (oriented towards the world of\ud objects) and noninstrumental measure (appropriate to the realm of the social). From\ud this vantage point, not every effort to "count" is as injurious to "difference" as Derrida\ud alleges. In fact, in distinguishing "communicative reason" from "instrumental reason,"\ud Habermas is able to envisage a type of measurable equality that is facilitative of human\ud flourishing rather than a hindrance to it. In failing to bifurcate the principle of measure\ud in these terms, Derrida's deconstructive care ethics invites the prospect of not only\ud moral relativism but also of a "re-enchanted" conception of nature and the knowledge\ud of nature.\ud The thesis appeals to the dialogue that the two thinkers have initiated in an\ud effort to lay the groundwork for a reconstructed critical theory that is more\ud accommodative of the gesture of unlimited care for a single unrepresentable individual than Habermas's discourse-ethical project has being willing to countenance. Yet in so\ud doing, it is at pains to assure that such an intervention does not undermine the\ud categorical primacy accorded to universalistic moral rights and duties in the\ud philosophical tradition of Kant. Although it finds the recognition theory advanced by\ud Axel Honneth to be encumbered by a number of conceptual difficulties, the thesis\ud positions Honneth's framework as a promising launching point for such a\ud reconstruction.
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