chapter  5
24 Pages

From Communicative Rationality to Communicative Thinking: A Basis for Feminist Theory and Practice

ByJane Braaten

The feminist critique of science and reason has figured centrally in the development of feminist theory in the last twenty years. The principal targets of this critique are the apparent links between traditional conceptions of reason on the one hand, and androcentric theories of autonomy, models of political legitimacy, and ideals of community on the other. Although Jürgen Habermas rejects the "philosophy of the subject," which locates the foundations of knowledge in the thinking subject, some of these objections still apply to his theory of communicative rationality. I argue that it is his limitation of a critique of reason to a theory of justification, rather than the content of that theory, that constitutes the crucial point of divergence from feminist conceptions of reason and knowledge. While Habermas is correct in seeing a relation of dependence between conceptions of knowledge and ideals of community, feminist theory tends to reverse the traditional relation of dependence, deriving criteria of rationality and knowledge from substantive ideals of solidarity and community, rather than vice versa. I will discuss these ideals, and outline a conception of feminist thinking-communicative thinking-rooted in a feminist understanding of solidarity.