Communicative action, the lifeworlds of learning and the dialogue that we aren't1
International Journal of Philosophical Studies
The first section of the paper reviews the kind of action which unfolds in Plato's Republic, and argues that, from Book II onwards, its character shifts from a genuine dialogue (communicative action) to a more manipulative kind of intercourse (strategic action). While the former kind of action was characteristic of the educational activities of the historical Socrates, the case is made that this kind of action became largely eclipsed in Western education and superseded by the strategic concerns
... strategic concerns to which Platonist conceptions of learning gave prominence. The Platonist legacy, it is pointed out, had a decisive impact on Western conceptions of learning, even beyond the Enlightenment. These conceptions were largely custodial rather than emancipatory in character. An argument is presented in thirteen steps in the second section of the paper, to establish the case that the kind of action which properly describes the experience of teaching and learning is that of a cultural courtship. A distinction is drawn between honourable and dishonourable forms of courtship, the honourable being a candidate for defence in universalist terms. The practical import of the distinction is considered. Under the title 'The Dialogue that we Aren't', the third section reviews postmodern objections -particularly those of Lyotard -to the kind of argument made in the thirteen steps, and the concluding section considers Habermas' later theories in relation to my own 'universalist' argument.