In the bad old days of academic insularity, when Anglo-Saxon philosophers dismissed Continental philosophy as so much hot air, Continental philosophers were equally ready to dismiss analytical philosophy in its Anglo-Saxon form as flippant and trivial. It is a measure of how far things have changed for the better that Professor Habermas of Frankfurt not only commands a substantial following in the English-speaking world but is himself as willing to proffer a citation from Austin or Ryle as from Husserl or Heidegger. He is a frequent visitor to the philosophy departments of American universities. His writings are regularly translated into English and supplemented by commentaries and symposia in which they are exhaustively re-analysed and discussed. This latest volume is the first of two which are announced by his English publishers as his 'long-awaited magnum opus'. Hazardous, therefore, as it may be to try to assess the significance of so prolific an author on the strength of a single volume which is only the half of a two-part work, the attempt has to be made as best it can. Is this the distillation of a theory both original and profound? Or the manifesto of an emperor with no clothes?
LRB 4 October 1984 | PDF Download