Stuff:Votorola/p/validity seeking

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This page describes a practice of validity seeking for the purpose of public autonomy. One's autonomy in a social world that regulates itself by laws and other norms of action (public autonomy) hinges on being able to understand and agree with those norms that one is affected by.2 This criterion is generalized in the discourse principle, which Habermas formulates as:3

  1. Just those action norms are valid to which all possibly affected persons could agree as participants in rational discourses.

Principle D applies to polls of normative issue, not to official appointments such as elections. Usually the issue of the norm is still pending in the poll, which means the norm itself does not yet exist as intended. All that exists are incomplete drafts. None is expected to produce a valid norm in a single step, but rather through a series of editorial changes that bring the overall text incrementally closer to the goal of validity. To continually guide it along, therefore, D is incrementally applied through a series of validity questions:

  1. Is the proposed change valid? Is it one to which all possibly affected persons could agree as participants in rational discourses?

The preliminary practice consists in posing question V in public for each substantive change to a candidate norm; eliciting reasons for any negative replies; and attaching a record of these to the change proposal. The applicable changes include patches, consensus bridges and other branch shifts that alter the text, thereby changing the meaning of the would-be norm.4 Each such change is presented to the members of a public forum before being formally proposed. Question V is raised. Each negative answer that is more-or-less successfully defended with reasons is remarked. A record of the remark and the surrounding argument is then attached to the change proposal. These preliminary actions may be conducted by the individual proposer of the change, or by the pipe minder of the proposing group (left of figure). The change is then either amended and re-presented to the forum; or formally proposed for application in the tree as is; or left standing as a local variation for future consideration. Thus far, any public guidance is taken at the discretion of the formal, in-tree participants; they alone decide the issue of the proposed change.

[SV]Seeking validity. The pipe minder of a leaf group poses question V to a forum (top left), and attaches a record of the negative responses to the group's change proposal. Meanwhile members of the forum and the broader public join the effort as new formal participants (right). The effort expands over time to accommodate multiple groups working in parallel on variant consensus drafts (a to d). legend

The balance of the practice is conducted by new formal participants who enter the effort from the periphery (right of figure). They might be attracted by the prospect of working with others, or spurred by the necessity of opposing them, but in any case they see an opportunity to improve the overall text. Their effectiveness in guiding it toward the goal of validity will depend on a facility of both accommodating parallel activity and integrating it. This dual facility is the responsibility of other practices, particularly the practice of position space rationalization. The results of that practice are visible in the expanding "forest of agreement" in the bottom of the figure, which is also a population of draft norms interrelated by a mechanism of recombinant genetics. The evolutionary process that materially carries the effort forward is similar, in its iterative, branching pattern, to the argumentative process that ideally validates the goal.

... the idea of an unending process of argumentation striving toward a limit requires one to specify the conditions under which this process acquires a directional character and, at least in the long run, makes progress possible in a cumulative learning process. These pragmatic process conditions ideally ensure that all the relevant reasons and information available for a given issue at a particular time are in no way suppressed, that is, that they can develop their inherent force for rational motivation. ... The argumentative process of the cooperative search for truth ideally closes the rationality gap between, on the one hand, the individual substantial reasons set out in fundamentally incomplete sequences of argument that are at most plausible and, on the other, the unconditionality of the claim to the "single right" decision.5

Likewise the evolutionary process of consensus drafting tends to close the material gap between a tentative sequence of hopeful editorial changes and the single, Herculean change to which the answer to V is an unconditional "yes". Indeed, we may view the underlying formalizations of the practice as part of the supportive structure for the ideal discourses of D; as part, that is, of the tensile intermediation between facticity and validity, practice and principle, which is the institution of public autonomy.

Property settings


  1. ^ a b c Jürgen Habermas. 1992. Between facts and norms: contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy. Translated by William Rehg, 1996. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  2. ^ Hab921 p. 126. Although public and private autonomy are co-original in theory (pp. 103-4, 314), like two sides of the same coin, the coin tends to be at risk of vanishing on the public side. Principle D is not nearly so well respected as are human rights.
  3. ^ Hab921 p. 107. Habermas also distinguishes a "democratic principle", which he formulates as: "only those statutes may claim legitimacy that can meet with the assent (Zustimmung) of all citizens in a discursive process of legislation that in turn has been legally constituted." (p. 110) However this means only that the discourse principle D is being applied to norms that are legal in form (pp. 121, 455, 458). The practice of validity seeking is affected only in this regard, and principle D is entirely unaffected; it remains fully D.
  4. ^ Branch shifts that leave the text unaltered are not considered substantive. Nor are mere changes of grammar or text formatting. These do not require public critique.
  5. ^ Hab921 pp. 227-228.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Validity seeking is applicable to all normative issues. It is not necessarily text based as implied by the position drafts in figure SV.
  7. ^ In the case of an expense primary, validity seeking might be most applicable to primary delegates, such as those depicted atop figure BP.
  8. ^ Validity seeking depends on informal participation and occupies a considerable attention space within the public sphere.
  9. ^ Validity seeking depends on a relation between informal and formal guide-participants that is maintained across the gap between the public sphere and the formalized guide, as described here.
  10. ^ The specialized administrative practices of validity seeking, such as change proposals and recorded responses, are necessarily formalized in the guide. They do not belong to the lifeworld.
© 2013 Michael Allan, please do not copy