Originally posted by lucifershammer
I think the Rawls vs. Habermas reference was useful.
I guess I was looking at a more fundamental view of the differences between the two - metaphysical, epistemological, method, focus, ethics etc.
My basic background is engineering, but I read a little philosophy in my spare time.
There is a metaphysical disagreement between the two.
I am not sure of your level of familiarity but here goes:
Rawls uses an heuristic device which he terms 'the veil of ignorance', it's basically a revamped idea of Kant's Categorical Imperative. The basic idea is that you have to choose what principles of Justice should a society a follow, the only thing is that you do not know which member of society you are. You could be a millionaire as easily as be a pauper; you could be black as easily as white etc.
Rawls goes on to suggest what prinicples of justice this type of society would have but it's here that he incurs Habermas' wrath since Habermas argues that Rawls cannot go ahead and suggest which prinicples this society would follow. Further Habermas argues from a metaphysical point of view that it is impossible for us to not know who we are, we cannot forgot or put our life experience to one side. Habermas's alternative is an inclusive society which facilitates democratic participation backed by the legal realm.
Rawls' rejoinder is that the 'veil of ignorance' is little but an heuristic device, that metaphysics plays no part. I think that these two thinkers encapsulate two of the dominant Philosophical approaches in a number of ways.
Rawls is rational, liberal and to a certain extent Laissez-faire. His work can be viewed as an extension of the contract tradition from Hobbes to Rousseau. Rawls, for me, is the best representative of the anglo-American view point.
Habermas has a very empirical basis to his Philosophy, a social-democratic perspective with the emphasis on democratic participation at all levels, whilst side-stepping some of the weaknesses of Marxism [Habermas had concerns relating to people's freedom under Marxist approaches]. Habermas takes on some of the philosophy of Kant but he engages with sociological thought represented by Weber, and some Marxist thought.
It should be pointed out that both thinkers have a unique vision and we should remember the words of Kierkegaard [i think!!] "if you label me you negate me"