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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2018

7. Theorizing the Ambitions, Opportunities, and Limitations of Democratic Dialogue

Melanie Loehwing

Abstract

Discourse ethics offers an ambitious, if controversial, framework for evaluating the degree to which discursive exchanges follow basic rules of dialogic reasoning in pursuit of moral judgment. These rules include incorporating the participation and views of all affected by an issue, affording each perspective equal weight regardless of standing or authority external to the exchange, and permitting relatively unrestrained participation in the deliberation that leads to mutual understanding of a common good. Jurgen Habermas and Karl-Otto Apel have developed the foundational theoretical accounts of discourse ethics, which have in turn sparked spirited debate among critics who find discourse ethics to be unrealistically idealistic, to perpetuate harmful exclusions in democratic polities, and to limit democratic dialogue to the objective of consensus. Despite ongoing disagreements about the feasibility and preferability of discourse ethics, the framework has nonetheless informed important scholarship in a variety of communication fields and related academic disciplines, including work on clinical psychology, journalism, digital and online communication, pedagogy, philosophy, and social scientific inquiry.

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston