1. Communication is central to Habermas' theory of social life. Why is agreement about the meaning of a "speech act" so important? Explain the concept of "definition of the situation," and how this relates to communication between actors.
Habermas defines the world of communication within three types of worlds. A speaker can be talking about something within the objective world where absolute and objective truths and statements are possible. There is also a social world dictated by interpersonal relations. Finally there is the subjective world, which is the experience to which the speaker has access and can express it to the public. These worlds don't operate independently, but cooperate with and directly cause each other. The operation of these three worlds requires agreement between the speaker and the hearer. "Coming to an understanding means that participants in communication reach an agreement concerning the validity of an utterance; agreement is the intersubjective recognition of the validity claim the speaker raises for it." (p. 371). What this means is that for anything said to be considered valid, both the speaker and the hearer must come into agreement and to do so, use the three worlds of communication. All three worlds are necessary. Habermas says, for example, as a hearer, you can't accept something as truth but at the same doubt the sincerity of the speaker or their social context. Just the same, one can't doubt the subjectivity of the speaker and still consider them to be speaking the truth. "...participants are always expressing themselves in common so far as they are acting with an orientation to mutual understanding." (p. 372). The functioning of the speaker-hearer situation is also dependant on the definition of the situation. There are many ways in which you can define the situation. You have the normative framework, or social stratification of the situation. The situation also has a spatial location, which is where it is taking place physically. There is also the temporal location or where the situation is taking place in time. These dimensions form the background of what is said and along with what is actually said and the implied overlapping worlds, the hearer is able to comprehend and come to an agreement with the speaker. "If this commonality cannon be presupposed, the actors have to draw upon a mutual understanding, so as to bring about a common definition of the situation or to negotiate one directly..." (p. 372). The first utterance relies on the background of the situation, but this is sometimes based on assumption. If the assumption is wrong, the situation changes and must be redefined. It is in a constant state of definition and redefinition. Changes in definition also correlate with changes in the worlds, which also adapt and change as necessary. This constant negotiation of boundaries means that the boundaries between the speaker and hearer are also in flux. All of the shifts in this speaker-hearer interaction are contained within the lifeworld.