Philosophical Inquiry

Volume 42, Issue 1/2, Winter/Spring 2018

In Honor of Jürgen Habermas

Piet Strydom
Pages 168-189

The Problem of Limit Concepts in Habermas
Toward a Cognitive Approach to the Cultural Embodiment of Reason

This essay deals with Habermas’ concept of truth in his late theoretical philosophy. Assuming his suggestive yet highly inspiring inauguration of a cognitive turn in Critical Theory, it probes his use of the notion of limit concept against the background of the tradition of thought from which it originally derives with the intention of identifying the notion’s potential for taking this promising departure further. It brings to the fore a number of issues in his late writings that reveal the presence of what may be considered the problem of limit concepts in his thought. For present purposes, these issues are located in two areas: Habermas’ revision of his long-held concept of truth and the related criticism of Peirce; and his account of the role of limit concepts like truth and warranted assertibility or rational acceptability in processes of discursive justification. The analysis finds that there is a structural deficit in his presentation that could be filled by cognitively conceived cultural structures that not only correspond to the major types of limit concepts, but also answer to his undeveloped vision of the ‘cultural embodiment of reason’.