[MG] Voting XOR Rational Discourse

Ned Conner npconner at earthlink.net
Sun Jun 23 15:04:16 EDT 2013

Hi Stephen,

Rational discourse is an everyday thing. You and I, in this email 
exchange, are engaging in rational discourse. We are trying together to 
understand and agree upon which method of decision making would work 
best for us-the-network. In the end, we may reach that understanding and 
agreement. Or, we may reach a point where we see that further discourse 
(at least for now) will not take us toward understanding and agreement. 
At that point, we would table the discourse, always with the possibility 
of resuming it at a later time, as new insights and understandings and 
articulations occur to us as we go through life.

The philosopher Jürgen Habermas is the big name in arguing that 
democracy and "communicative action" are a good match:

    In strategic action, actors are not so much interested in mutual
    understanding as in achieving the individual goals they each bring
    to the situation. Actor /A/, for example, will thus appeal to /B/'s
    desires and fears so as to motivate the behavior on /B/'s part that
    is required for /A/'s success. As reasons motivating /B/'s
    cooperation, /B/'s desires and fears are only contingently related
    to /A/'s goals. /B/ cooperates with /A/, in other words, not because
    /B/ finds /A/'s project inherently interesting or worthy, but
    because of what /B/ gets out of the bargain: avoiding some threat
    that /A/ can make or obtaining something /A/ has promised (which may
    be of inherent interest to /B/ but for /A/ is only a means of
    motivating /B/).

    In communicative action, or what Habermas later came to call “strong
    communicative action” in “Some Further Clarifications of the Concept
    of Communicative Rationality” (1998b, chap. 7; German ed., 1999b),
    speakers coordinate their action and pursuit of individual (or
    joint) goals on the basis of a shared understanding that the goals
    are inherently reasonable or merit-worthy. Whereas strategic action
    succeeds insofar as the actors achieve their individual goals,
    communicative action succeeds insofar as the actors freely agree
    that their goal (or goals) is reasonable, that it merits cooperative
    behavior. Communicative action is thus an inherently consensual form
    of social coordination in which actors “mobilize the potential for
    rationality” given with ordinary language and its telos of
    rationally motivated agreement. -- Stanford Encyclopedia of
    Philosophy: Habermas <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/habermas/>

For those who agree that democracy and communicative action are a good 
match, choosing between voting and rational discourse as the better 
decision method becomes a question of deciding (or, preferably, 
observing) which of the two methods more reliably manifests 
communicative action.


On 6/23/2013 9:27 AM, Stephen Coffman wrote:
> On Jun 22, 2013, at 4:44 PM, Ned Conner wrote:
>> So, just to make sure I understand: Your view is that it will be better for we-the-network to use voting rather than rational discourse as our method of decision making, because the voting method is more....
>   I think I am the one who doesn't understand. It seems you may be pointing at something more specific in using the term "rational discourse" as a method of decision making?

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