Frank in this article treats the disagreement between François Lyotard and Jürgen Habermas over whether there are arguments that cannot be decided rationally. Lyotard identifies rational undecidability as the “postmodern condition.” Habermas objects that reasonable procedures do exist that are adequate for the resolution of any argument among reasonable participants. Frank judges Lyotard’s argument as unpersuasive yet blames Habermas for dismissing altogether the idea of rationally undecidable disagreements. Frank then turns from contemporary philosophy to early German Romantic hermeneutics and literary theory to substantiate a claim that unresolvable disagreement exists even amid consensus. “Every consensus,” Frank writes in explication of Friedrich Schleiermacher, “contains a residual misunderstanding that will never entirely go away, and this is why no consensus as to either the meaning or the interpretation of the world can ever be final or universally valid.” Frank moreover cites the even more radical position of Friedrich Schlegel: “All truth is relative—but together with that proposition another must be coordinated: there is essentially no such thing as error.” Frank’s own conclusion, reached after comparing these Romantic notions with Jacques Derrida’s concept of différance, is that “the shaping of consensus will never lead us to a universal symbolism that everyone must make use of in the same way.”
Research Article| April 01 2019
Are There Rationally Undecidable Arguments?
Common Knowledge (2019) 25 (1-3): 63–75.
Manfred Frank, Ruth Morris, Barry Allen; Are There Rationally Undecidable Arguments?. Common Knowledge 1 April 2019; 25 (1-3): 63–75. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-7299126
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