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Jurgen Habermas-Philosophical Contributions

Jurgen Habermas

Jurgen Habermas was born in Dusseldorf Germany on 18 July 1929. He is considered a prominent sociologist and philosopher. He is a political and social thinker. In Germany, he was considered an influential philosopher in the second half of the 20th century. When he was 10 years old, he joined Hitler Youth. He belongs to the second generation of Frankfort school. He completed his secondary education after World War 2 and after that he was admitted to the University of Bonn. He got his Ph.D. degree in philosophy from the University of Bonn in 1954.

Contributions In Philosophy

The contributions of Jurgen Habermas in Philosophy are as follows:

1. The Theory of communicative action

The theory of communicative action was published in 1981. It is a two-volume book. In the philosophy of Jurgen Habermas, communication is an essential concept. In most cases, communication (the concept given by Habermas) is associated with the meaning of communication which we utilize in our daily life.

  • Definition of Communication by Habermas

According to Habermas, communication occurs between two or more than two people. Both persons and groups of persons give arguments seriously without quarreling. They give arguments on any existing thing in the world or anything that should exist in the future and during this communication, language is used as the medium.

  • Difference between discussion and communication

There is a difference between discussion and communication for German thinkers. In communication, we generate a symbolic world, but in the discussion, we don’t generate a symbolic world. The discussion comes to a point by any person when anyone wants to win through arguments. On the other hand, in communication, both groups want to learn from each other and to generate new knowledge too.

2. Rationality

We have seen that rationality was criticized during world wars when there were many atrocities and it was called a tool to manipulate the people. So, at that time many intellectuals started to say that “reason is no longer remains valid and possible in philosophy.” Habermas gave a new meaning and rebirth to the idea of human rationality when he came into the field of philosophy.

Habermas believes that the idea of human rationality is not to get a certain goal but to build a community through communicative procedures. A community that works for harmony, and well-being for each other and where humanity prevails.

So, to build that kind of society, there should be the practice and concept of free speech for people, so that, they can speak without any hurdles and through rationality they can get solutions for their problems.

Habermas further says that; human beings are intuitively capable of reaching mutually agreed conclusions, with the help of speech. So, we should thus strive to change this inherent know-how into crystal clear knowledge.

3. Democracy

Habermas used the theory of communication practically in law and politics. He gave his idea of democracy in which the law and constitution are open to the people's discussion and opinions. He believes that this form of democracy where people can give their opinions will make people more aware of their responsibilities and interests.

This form of democracy will increase the sense of responsibility and duty for the state. This form of democracy will give us a classless and free environment, where the potential of human intellect is fully recognized and put to good use. When the laws are made through people's consensus in a democratic way it increases the stability of the state and integration among the people.

For Habermas, the roots of democracy are legitimate laws, which were given by people. Habermas beautifully explains that a law must not only express the democratic will of the community but must also be non-subordinately with morality. For Habermas, both moral and legal laws are complementary to each other.

According to Habermas democracy today is not the democracy that was present in the 19th century, due to the following reasons :

  • Passive consumers

Passive consumers mean that people don’t bother to use their minds, intellect, and knowledge to contribute to society for the social good. People become passive consumers because they are accepting things without recognizing what is bad and what is good.

  • Spectacular democracy

According to Habermas, When the people decide their right and wrong, this is real democracy. Now people can only read newspapers and watch TV on state issues. They cannot directly participate in these debates and conversations; they can only watch the parliamentary debate. They are limited to enjoying the talks on TV.

4. Habermas Theory of Truth

Habermas has explained the truth in this theory. He explained that for any proposition, to which we are claiming it is true, we have to prove it by linking it with an existing object or accurately representing actual states of affairs.

So, to connect our proposition with any existing thing or any object, we use language as a medium to link proposition and truth. So, we use a realist approach to prove the truth, linking our claim with the existing thing. This method is epistemological because here language is used as a medium that links the claim and truth together.

5. Theory Of Social Evolution

Jurgen Habermas worked on the theory of social evolution and he attempts in his early philosophical era in the critical school of thought. In this theory, he explained communication, human interest, knowledge, and the evolution of society.  For Habermas, humans have the knowledge of social progress and science which is guided by three types of “knowledge constitutive interests” which settled intensely in the human species anthropologically which are technical, emancipatory, and practical.


Jurgen Habermas has briefly explained how to make an ideal society where all people can make free speech and discuss the problem through communication by taking language as a medium. As we know that he belongs to Germany, and he also served in Hitler's youth but he criticized the ideology of Nazis and Hitler's activities and actions. His idea of rationality is to make a community whthatpread harmony in society. He briefly explained the concept of democracy in which laws should be made by incorporating the views of the public which resultantly increases the integration in society and stability of a state.

Picture Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica

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