Born in Düsseldorf, Habermas was educated at Bonn and Marburg, before holding posts at the Institute for Social Research, and eventually becoming professor of philosophy at Frankfurt. He is the leading contemporary representative of the Frankfurt school, and is noted for his sustained attack on the problems of the nature of communication and self-consciousness, and their role in the causation of social action. Habermas distinguishes three cognitive interests common to human beings: the technical interest in knowing and controlling the world around us, the interest in being able to understand each other and join in common activity, and the interest in removing distortions in our understanding of ourselves, the last of which gives rise to the critical sciences. These distinct interests stand in the way of the economic determinism of classical Marxism (see also base and superstructure). He is also prominent for trying to develop a foundation for ethics in the notion of an ideal speech situation, a ‘discourse’ oriented version of Kant's principle of the categorical imperative. His works include Theorie und Praxis. Sozial-philosophische Studien (1963, trs. as Theory and Practice, 1973), Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns (1981, trs. as The Theory of Communicative Action, 2 vols., 1984, 1986), and Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne (1985, trs. as Philosophical Discourse on Modernity, 1986).
Subjects: Arts and Humanities.