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Step 12: The Social Sphere and Communicative Action

How we kick ourselves out of the public sphere

What are the limits of your rights in a society? What is Communicative Rationality (or Communicative Action) and how can that help our democracy? And, of course, since the breakdown of the public sphere and extreme personal behavior championed by social media, how has this contributed to the bizarre, contradictory COVID-19 behavior in Texas and the United States?

all music courtesy of Ryder’s mouth

Part I:

Isaiah Berlin’s notion of Freedom From/Freedom To and how that relates to the social contract in a way that shows you really are not all that free. Your body and life actually belong to the state, so they can mandate your behavior for the common good. 

Part II:

Jurgen Habermas syas that many of the Ends/Means problems with Enlightenment Rationality are not considering the balancing effect of the Public Sphere where people follow principles of Communicative Rationality (and Action) to reach agreements. A key tenant is that the person speaking must believe what they say and use rational logic, otherwise the conversation is not worth having. 

Part III:

 Jonathan Haidt discusses how since 2007 (the advent of the like and retweet) that social media became performative public display, not authentic conversations. If this is the new public sphere, then it has been instrumentalized. When presented with new information we have started asking “Do I have to believe this?” with the answer being “no.”  Thus, there is no longer an agreed upon source for truth.

Part IV:

The contradictions inherent to politicized beliefs. When does your Freedom To not wear a mask impinge on someone else’s Freedom From disease? Why does belief in God, politics, or your rights as a citizen allow you to harm others? It seems a small thing to ask strong people to moderate their behavior.


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REFERENCES/RESOURCES

Jurgen Habermas, Public Sphere and Communicative Action [link]

Isaiah Berlin, Positive and Negative Freedom [link]

Many, many thanks to Stephen West, “Philosophize This!” episode #143 and episode #141 [link]

“North Texas family shaken after 18 relatives test positive for COVID-19 following family gathering” Three were hospitalized, including two elderly family members and one woman battling breast cancer. [link] WFAA-TV

NY Times Opinion “Death and Texas” [link]

NY Times Opinion “How Texas Swaggered into a Coronavirus Disaster” [link ]

JP Sears “How to stay safe in 2020” [link]

NY Times Covid Numbers in the US, balanced for population: the administration making false claims again.

Timothy Snyder “The Road to Unfreedom” [link]

Letter from an American, Heather Cox Richardson, June 27, Russian bounties on American soldiers, and the Trump administrations continued favorable treatment. [link]

Sam Harris “Making Sense, episode #204,” with Jonathan Haidt

CDC mask guidelines [link]

Caveat on mask wearing: I have read that they limit the spread of COVID by a relatively low amount, and many people are using the wrong type of mask or using them incorrectly. I would suggest that any minimization of spread is preferable to none, and that the tendency to focus on and deconstruct state issued health precautions (such as 6 foot distancing and masks) is mistaking the forest for the trees. My hope would be that this tendency towards focus and deconstruction leads people out of arguing for a return to normalcy, and into the hard work of changing your behavior and learning to be more generous and kind. (Why is it we spend more energy arguing how we can continue our poor behavior than we do working to change for the better?)

By Ryder Richards

Ryder is an artist based in Texas who happens to do other things, like reading, writing, and woodworking.

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