Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 48 (1):66 - 93 (1986)

In this article the author submits as thesis that Habermas's concept of communicative action results from an uncritical appropriation of the concept ‘speech act’. For this purpose, firstly the origin of Habermas's idea of a ‘power-free communication’ in his discussion with Gadamer will be considered. The legitimacy of such a concept of language is — following Habermas — adequately shown most of all by Searle. Secondly therefore, Searle's theory of the speech act will be taken in consideration. Indeed, Searle places the speech act at the heart of any adequate study of the language: in the speech act a trouble-free semantic transport takes place. But, as the author claims, two very disputable presuppositions lie at the root of the concept of ‘speech act’. These are: on the one hand the distinction between illocution and perlocution and on the other hand the principle of expressibility. With reference to Grice and Derrida the disputability of these presuppositions is shown. However, Searle uses these principles mainly in a methodological sense in order to constitute the object of ‘speech act’. Finally, Habermas's ontological use of these principles in his theory of communicative action is shown. If one, however, does not accept these — and this article finds that there are good reasons for not doing so —, the crucial distinction between communicative and strategic action breaks down
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