The Morals of Language: Habermas, Levinas and Discourse Ethics
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
emmanuel levinas, ethics, jurgen habermas, philosophy of language
This dissertation examines the respective attempts by the philosophers Jurgen Habermas and Emmanuel Levinas to broach questions in ethics and ethical philosophy via a turn to language and discourse. The notion that we can learn something about ethics from the nature of language is not entirely new. But what separates Habermas's and Levinas's work from other such linguistic approaches to ethics, and what they share in common despite the many differences that exist between their theories, is the attention they direct to language and meaning as a whole. So, while thinkers like R.M. Hare present an analysis of the "language of morals," an analysis of specifically normative terms like "good" and of imperative statements or commands, Habermas and Levinas focus on the "morals of language" as such, arguing that a normative procedure or moment pervades the entirety of language and discourse. The dissertation outlines the philosophies of language put forth by Habermas and Levinas and explains how each thinker attempts to derive an understanding of the ethical from the event of language or discourse. Finally, the argument is made that elements of Levinas's thought, both on the level of philosophy of language and moral philosophy, can respond to or deal with a series of problems in both Habermas's conceptions of language and of ethics.
Campisi, J. (2005). The Morals of Language: Habermas, Levinas and Discourse Ethics (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1675