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Post Postmodern

November 27, 1994

The question of whether justice exists and reason can benefit society is all a matter of values, commitment and belief. Jurgen Habermas ("The Theologian of Talk," by Mitchell Stephens, Oct. 23) is not being idealistic when he argues that open, rational dialogue can lead to profound change in attitude and conduct. Look to education for the best example of this.

Whatever happened to Camus' point that man's only hope is to gain insight for a better life in spite of all the darkness around him? If we lose hope in the art of the possible, then the values we have fought for lose meaning.

Samuel J. Hasson



Your article on Habermas exposed postmodernism as a silly sham. The deconstructionists say that no one can ever explain what they mean by using words. And the philosophers of the movement look at the atrocities of the 1930s-1940s and conclude that the use of reason is a delusion.

People do share a common desire and hope. We are social animals and desire the acceptance and approval of others in our group. That group at times might want some strange things, but that in no way negates the idea that we share common aspirations.

David J. Simmons



As a professor who for years has taught a course on the conflict between modern and postmodern political theorists, it was delightful to see the piece on Habermas. I did have one major objection that I felt compelled to voice, and that concerns the title itself.

The term theologian implies, and the piece itself does little to dispel, the image of Habermas' work as ephemeral, groundless and abstract in the vulgar sense of those words. In fact, Habermas' theories are firmly based in the works of some of the key figures of modern social science, including Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Max Weber.

Habermas is a dedicated researcher in the human sciences. His theory of communication is not the outcome of his innate beliefs but is the result of his theoretical analysis.

Edwin A. Roberts

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Cal State Long Beach


The article on philosopher Jurgen Habermas was a welcome and timely surprise. One point seems worth adding to Stephens' excellent account: There are historical links between the Nazi past and the postmodernist present against which Habermas has battled. The late Paul de Mann, a leading postmodernist, wrote pro-Nazi propaganda during World War II under another name, while Derrida himself studied under Heidegger, who publicly supported the Nazis during their "purification" of German academia.

The striking, flashy insights of postmodernist analysis can easily blind its practitioners to the simple question: Where does all this lead? Habermas forces the more thoughtful postmodernist practitioners to confront this question.

Paul Rosenberg

Long Beach


Will someone please explain to me what exactly it is that philosophers do for a living? Exactly who are Habermas, Jacques Derrida and Michael Foucault trying to reach? These ivory tower bores need a reality check: Their publish-or-perish nonsense is as "important" as the latest clothing fads.

At least Habermas doesn't try to tell others what they really mean, unlike the deconstructionists, who are so busy trying to be intellectual emperors that they haven't noticed how naked they are.

Tom Burnes

Mesa, Ariz.


I want to express my appreciation for the transformation of the L.A. Times Magazine over the years. The magazine is consistently the best place to look for political, cultural, and social analysis.

What confirmed my belief in the quality of your work was the article on Habermas. I would never have expected an article on a person with so little popular appeal in this country.

Michael S. Brown

Santa Barbara

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