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The 154th ON Tao Forum was held in School of Public Administration

At 9:30 am on June 5th, the 154th On Tao Forum of the School of Public Administration of Nanjing Normal University was held as scheduled in the meeting room 634-A of Xingmin Building. The topic of this forum is The New Development of Critical Theory in the Post-Habermas Era. Professor Wang Fengcai who from the School of Philosophy of Fudan University is specially invited as the speaker, Professor Xu Qiang from the Department of Philosophy as the host, and Professor Wu Jing, the deputy director of the Department of Philosophy as the interviewer with Professor Li Zhixiang.

The first part of the lecture is Recognition-Justice-Ethics: From Recognition Theory to Democratic Ethics. Professor Wang firstly started by analyzing the term post-Habermas era and pointed out that the third generation of Frankfurt school represented by Alex Honneth emphasized the combination of norms and facts, anthropological experience elements and total criticism. In the field of political philosophy, there is a tendency to merge Anglo-American individualism and Hegelian communitarianism. Then, Professor Wang analyzed the relational structure in Honneth’s theory of recognition in detail in the form of diagrams, and believed that Honneth’s ethical theory based on recognition had its shortcomings, but he integrated Kantian individual moralism with Hegelian community ethics. This ideological thinking has broad prospects for development.

The second part of the lecture is Tolerance-Defense-Norm: Justice Theory as Defense.  Professor Wang pointed out that the fourth generation of Frankfurt school scholars represented by Rainer Forst emphasized the importance and significance of tolerance in a pluralistic society. Tolerance is one of the virtues of justice, and its non-normative nature leads to the ambiguity of concepts. For example, tolerance in historical context has various forms of argumentation. Tolerance theory needs to be defended, because defense is a way to prove the rationality of norms or values, and justice itself is a practice of defense. The primary concern of the justification theory is the legitimacy of social relations, and it considers the relationship between power and power argument.

The third part of the lecture is Compromise-Harmony-Symbiosis: The Conception of Critical Compromise Theory. Professor Wang went back to the three phases of the development of critical theory, and pointed out that the development process of critical theory is a process in which the criticality is constantly weakened and the reality is constantly enhanced. The key word of contemporary critical theory should be defense + compromise. Since Honneth’s struggle for recognition has actually failed today, a more comprehensive approach should be to adhere to principles and learn to compromise. Both struggle for recognition and compromise for survival.  Compromise is necessary because the relationship between human and nature, human and society, and between individual and others has broken down in contemporary society, which has produced a series of crises, and severe crises call for compromise. Besides, Compromise is not about surrendering or showing weakness, but an effort by both parties who have conflicts of benefits to adhere their own principles and try their best to reach a consensus on the basis of mutual equality and respect. There is no shortage of ideological resources for compromise in the long history of mankind. Today, we must be good at compromise and give full play to the wisdom of compromise so that society can develop in a sound and orderly manner.

At the end of the lecture, the two interviewers put forward questions like what is the enlightenment of Frankfurt School on Chinese ethics, why the dualistic thinking should be surpassed, whether the micro-politics and political ethics turn are consistent, does the impossibility of social recognition caused the structural reasons for Neijuan? Interviewers had conducted wonderful academic exchanges with Professor Wang in the form of dialogue on these issues. Furthermore, students at the scene also enthusiastically asked questions, and Professor Wang gave patient and meticulous answers one by one.

 This lecture inspired the students to explore the possibility of the future development of critical theory according to different ideas, and expanded the students’ philosophical vision.