Habermas on Human Discourse

I am reading an interesting book on my iPad’s Kindle App at the moment: Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning Theorists…in their own words. A chapter by Jack Mezirov entitled An Overview on Transformative Learning caught my interest. In this, he outlines the concept of transformative learning using the work of practitioners, writers and theorists as diverse as Paulo Freire, Thomas Kuhn, Roger Gould, Harvey Siegal, Jurgen Habermas, and others.

In particular, I liked some words he took from Habermas in which the German philosopher set out what he considered to be the ideal conditions for human discourse. By doing so, he was attempting to define the ‘optimal conditions for adult learning and education’.

To freely and fully participate in discourse, learners must:

  • have accurate and complete information
  • be free from coercion, distorting self-deception or immobilizing anxiety
  • be open to alternative points of view – empathetic, caring about how others think and feel, withholding judgement
  • be able to understand, to weigh evidence and to assess arguments objectively
  • be able to become aware of the context of ideas and critically reflect on assumptions, including their own
  • have equal opportunity to participate in the various roles of discourse
  • have a test of validity until new perspectives, evidence or arguments are encountered and validated through discourse as yielding a better judgement

Of course, these could just as easily be applied to the ideal conditions for effective learning generally.

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