In her recent article “Realism and Idealism: Was Habermas’s Communicative Turn a Move in the Wrong Direction?” Maeve Cooke examines the evolution of Jürgen Habermas’s thought over the past five decades. According to Cooke, Habermas’s so-called “communicative turn” was a necessary step in his philosophy’s systematic attempt to derive a universal norm from the immanent context of human practices and institutions. In her opinion, however, Habermas is unable to uphold his pragmatically-based claim to “transcendence from within” without encountering problems of epistemic justification when it comes to his theory’s treatment of normative validity claims. Cooke believes that despite Habermas’ exhaustive efforts, any political theory that discredits the possibility of metaphysical truth inevitably relinquishes the “context-transcending moment” that his idea of validity is meant to capture. In this essay, I examine how Habermasian philosophy attempts to assimilate such criticisms by deriving its normative ideals from the Theory of Communicative Action. In conclusion, I seek to characterize the dilemma thusly: the epistemic criticism raised by Cooke places her in the unenviable position of defending metaphysically-justified validity claims—a pitfall that Habermas’ theory is designed to avoid.

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