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This is an electronic version of an article published in The Philosophical Forum. Copyright (c) 2005 by Blackwell Publishing.
Arash Abizadeh. “In Defence of the Universalization Principle in Discourse Ethics.” The Philosophical Forum 36.2 (2005): 193-211.
Article Keywords: Jürgen Habermas; discourse ethics; Joseph Heath; universalization; pragmatism; justification
Numerous critics of Habermas’s discourse ethics have urged abandoning the universalization principle (U). In Communicative Action and Rational Choice, Joseph Heath argues that (U) unjustifiably (1) grounds moral validity in interests and so represents a lingering foundationalism at odds with Habermas’s diaological theory of justification and (2) seeks to guarantee moral convergence on common interests. I argue that (U) merely places a “welfarist constraint” upon moral justification, and that this constraint is consistent with a non-foundationalist, pragmatist theory of dialogical justification. (U) is indispensable to discourse ethics because it not only provides an account of what normative validity consists in, but also helps mark the critical distinction between any particular rationally motivated agreement and normative validity as such. But because controversies in value theory will inevitably impact the possibility of moral consensus, (U) must be reconceptualized to ground moral validity not solely in rationally motivated consensus, but also in a “reasonable accommodation” when rational consensus cannot be expected.
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