Reconsidering autonomy and consensus in Habermas's discourse ethics




McConnell, Jesse Manning

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In Habermas's latest work, The Future of Human Nature. he points out that with our newfound ability to intervene in the physical substratum of an as yet to be realized subjectivity we have unveiled the well-entrenched presuppositions that support our modern conception of autonomy. Habermas recognizes that autonomy may depend upon on critical assumptions concerning the nature of substance and this dependence threatens to undermine the Habermasian project of rational moral universalism by forcing it to reconsider its very foundations. Habermas argues that if we limit the extent to which we intervene in the human genome then we can protect our current concept of autonomy and thereby protect and maintain an egalitarian universalist morality and our ability to universalize moral norms. His proposed method for accomplishing this is via a "species-ethic". I argue that Habermas's species-ethic does not prevent the erosion of human autonomy. Moreover, makes this attempt comes at the expense of a procedural and cognitively empty rationality and is replaced with a rationality oriented by substantive values: in direct opposition to Habermas's process of a culturally unbiased framework. A comparative analysis of Kant's conception of freedom/autonomy lays the foundation for a rigorous examination of the process by which Habermas inaugurates the subject and develops human autonomy. Ultimately, Habermas's discourse ethic is shown to have a metaphysical bias in the form of a universal human nature that lends stability and unity to the moral realm.



Jürgen Habermas, ethics