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Mimesis and Reason

Habermas's Political Philosophy

Gregg Daniel Miller

Publication Year: 2011

Excavates the experiential structure of Habermas’s communicative action. Complicating the standard interpretation of Habermas as a proceduralist, Mimesis and Reason uncovers the role that mimesis, or imitation, plays as a genuinely political force in communicative action. Through a penetrating examination of Habermas’s use of themes and concepts from Plato, George Herbert Mead, and Walter Benjamin, Gregg Daniel Miller reconstructs Habermas’s theory to reveal a new, postmetaphysical articulation of reason that lays the groundwork for new directions in political theory.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Front Matter

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pp. v-vi

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-xiii

Under the broad rubric of modernity, postmodernity, and the democratic imaginary in a postsocialist age, a certain set of normative questions—together with the question of whether normativity can be asserted at all—motivates the studies of many political theorists and philosophers working today: What secular sensibility can govern the legitimate exercise...

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pp. 1-7

Those in earnest over the modern narrowing of human interests to economic interests must revisit such basic processes as meaning-making in communication to help think past a narrowly instrumental and interest-based account of human activity and the political. Jürgen Habermas’s conception of critical theory extends the scope of critique deeper than and beyond...

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1. Reason and Mimesis

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pp. 9-34

Habermas’s theory of communicative action proceeds in a self-consciously postmetaphysical way, which is to say, it insists that we cannot but think and act politically without the confidence of an extra-worldly source of validation for those activities, and that we must always be on guard that our most cherished convictions, and even the seemingly most prosaic...

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2. Mimesis in Communicative Action: Habermas and Plato

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pp. 35-67

Chapter 1 set out a simple and schematic opposition between reason and mimesis, where mimesis is largely given over to Adorno’s usage: a nondominative relation between humans and nature, and the subversive mimesis epitomized in the best modern art. In this chapter, we shall see that this schematic opposition does not, in fact, fully capture the scope...

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3. The Subject in Communicative Action: Habermas and George Herbert Mead

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pp. 69-108

As we saw in Chapters 1 and 2, Habermas posits communicative rationality as a moral alternative to mimetic power. These two modes of interaction are asymmetrically opposed in Habermas’s account because communicative rationality requires that speech participants retain a decisive autonomy to make reflectively conscious, moral decisions, to participate...

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4. The Experience of Mimesis: Habermas and Walter Benjamin

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pp. 109-136

I stressed in Chapter 2 the one-sided nature of Habermas's depiction of communicative action. How is it that Habermas should isolate affect from understanding in working out of his new postmetaphysical categorical imperative if it depends precisely on pantomimetic role-playing, that, if the Platonic tradition continues to exert its force, works on the basis of...

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Coda: Habermas and the Affective Bond of Understanding

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pp. 137-141

As should be clear from the course of my argument, the opposition between mimesis and reason is sensible only in a metaphysical light. In The Cambridge Companion to Habermas, Strong and Sposito argue that “Habermas’s thought should require that he retain the postmodernists as other and not seek to eliminate them as enemies” (1995, 269). Within...


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pp. 143-167


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pp. 169-181


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pp. 183-185

E-ISBN-13: 9781438437415
E-ISBN-10: 1438437412
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438437392
Print-ISBN-10: 1438437390

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2011