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Discourse Theories on Consensus - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 160
Consensus/deliberative democracy/Discourse theories/Bohman: for some proponents of deliberative democracy, a strong distinction between reasoned argumentation and mere discussion provides the basis for the claim that deliberation must be oriented to consensus (Habermas, 1996(1); Cohen, 1997(2)). Deliberation is not merely discourse or dialogue, Cohen argues, because
it must be 'reasoned', that is based on 'public argument and reasoning among equal citizens' that yield the single best answer (1997(2): 74).
VsHabermas/VsCohen: Critics often charge that both of these claims are exclusionary and lead to undemocratic consequences under the
Gaus I 161
circumstance of background injustice and pervasive inequalities. It might seem that an orientation to consensus is not a requirement of deliberation, even if it may function as a regulative ideal. Deliberation must at least resemble argumentation to the extent that it is a matter of giving and asking for reasons. The reasons that make a decision acceptable ought to be distinguished from modes by which they are communicated. Democratic standards demanded for decisions need not apply to the medium of communication as such, and not all formal public spheres need to be ideally inclusive. This means that formal theories of communication and rationality cannot decide in advance precisely what modes and forms of communication are empirically appropriate in various settings. >Deliberative democracy/Dryzek.
Gaus I 162
Habermas: Habermas thinks that participants in argumentation must be guided by the ideal of a
single right answer to which all agree 'for the same reasons' (1996(1): ch. 8; Bohman and Rehg, 1996)(3). VsHabermas: He may well be correct that an overly agonistic conception of public discourse would undermine the epistemic basis for claims to democratic legitimacy, that is, that democratic deliberation is legitimate and not only is a fair process, but is more likely to find the most equitable and true outcome (Estlund, 1997)(4). For all its attractions to critics of deliberation, agonistic debate is no less open to the charge of elitism (Benhabib, 1991)(5), and even less based on the sort of co-operation needed to resolve conflict mutually. >Argumentation/Crosswhite.

1. Habermas, Jürgen (1996) Between Facts and Norms. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
2. Cohen, Joshua (1997) 'Deliberation and democratic legitimacy'. In J. Bohman and W. Rehg, eds, Deliberative Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
3. Bohman, James and William Rehg (1996) 'Discourse and democracy: the formal and informal bases of democratic legitimacy'. The Journal of Political Philosophy, 4 (l): 79_99.
4. Estlund, David (1997) 'Beyond fairness and deliberation: the epistemic dimension of democratic authority'. In J. Bohman and W. Rehg, eds, Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics. Cambridge, MA: MIT
5. Benhabib, Seyla (1991) Situating the Self London: Routledge.

Bohman, James 2004. „Discourse Theory“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Discourse Theories
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004

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