Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

* A Plea for Understanding--Beyond False Dilemmas on the Net, by Charles Ess

Habermas's Rules of Reason

Freedom of speech proponents will take heart in the rules of reason which Habermas argues underlie the ideal--and democratic--speech community:

1. Every subject with the competence to speak and act is allowed to take part in a discourse.

2a. Everyone is allowed to question any assertion whatever.

2b. Everyone is allowed to introduce any assertion whatever into the discourse.

2c. Everyone is allowed to express his attitudes, desires, and needs.

3. No speaker may be prevented, by internal or external coercion, from exercising his rights as laid down in (1) and (2). ([1983] 1990, 86)

Following these rules, participants in democratic discourse will maximize freedom and participation--while seeking agreement through only the best argument, rather than through force, ranging from overt violence to more suble forms of social coercion, including the subtle but powerful clues of hierarchy, status, gender, etc.

The key lies in how Habermas's rules articulate a -- requirement of justice.

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