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Lifeworld: Comparison of Habermas and Dooyeweerd

The phenomenonologists developed the notion of lifeworld in an attempt to account for intersubjectivity (i.e. how it is that we seem to understand what each other means). Habermas developed a more sophisticated notion of the lifeworld (to which he opposed system) from the insights not only of phenomenonology but also from various other sources or streams of thinking, including Weber, Parsons, Austin, etc. Independently of this, Dooyeweerd developed a sophisticated notion of na´ve, everyday living and thinking that seems very similar to Habermas' notion of lifeworld. This page compares them, showing on the one hand how close the two notions are to each other, and on the other, how Dooyeweerd's notion could enrich Habermas' and overcome a few problems therein.

In the left hand column is part of Habermas' notion of lifeworld. In the next column is an example of how this works itself out in our experience of information technology or information systems. In the third column are some issues that arise from applying Habermas' view to I.S. and challenges to his view. In the fourth column is a brief list of portions of Dooyeweerdian thought that either supports Habermas' view or addresses the issues.

The speculative proposal of this is that if we augment Habermas' view with the Dooyeweerdian one, then we obtain an enriched notion of lifeworld.

See also new page on Dooyeweerd's approach to everyday experience (lifeworld and attitude).
Lifeworld concept Relevance to I.S. Issues that need addressing Dooyeweerd
Lifeworld versus System
(This row merely shows and compares overall notions.)
Lifeworld as multi-aspectual functioning; system as functioning in which one aspect is given overriding importance, and in the end is absolutized.
Lifeworld is a perspective on life
(rather than a separate part of life from system)
IS use or development may be studied or guided by rationalized (system) or unrestricted (lifeworld) criteria. But How to differentiate types of meaning in lifeworld? Aspects are a spectrum of meaning.
Perspectives we take may either centre on single aspect, or be multi-aspectual (LW).
Lifeworld as participation
System involves distancing
Proximal versus distal software Account for proximal engagement with software yet distance from topic of software. Engage. Aspectual functioning; 'proximal' aspectual knowing
Distancing occurs from analytical functioning, esp. Gegenstand.
Lifeworld as tacit assumptions
System as involving formalized knowledge.
Difficulty of articulating lifeworld makes knowledge elicitation difficult and affirms significance of the issue of tacit knowledge.
  • Need to understand why it dissolves, and then we can perhaps articulatiion may be easier
  • Belief that lifeworld is inarticulable can stifle research into acquisition or representation of tacit knowledge
  • Note also: Possible tension between Habermas' view of inarticulatability of lifeworld and his counterfactual proposal of ideal dialogue.
Aspectual knowing.
Note: Dooyeweerd did not work out a theory of dialogue or discourse, so perhaps Habermas' theory could enrich Dooyeweerd here; but the idea that dialogue is itself multi-aspectual functioning could enrich Habermas' view and overcome the tension. To Dooyeweerd, no dialogue, however ideal, can be an absolute basis for social action in the way Habermas seems to hope.
Lifeworld as stock of shared understandings
(the view from phenomenonology: account for intersubjectivity.)
Draws attention to the social nature of IS usage, even personal usage. Gives a more satisfying account than does phenomenology; acknowledges generation of shared assumptions. But generation of shared assumptions can occur without Communicative Action. We needs framework that accounts for different types of shared understanding found in IS. View of intersubjectivity as shared understanding does not seem quite appropriate for IS. LW must bear undue philosophical burden of accounting for intersubjectivity because of the divorcing of language from reality. Intersubjectivity based on aspectual law side r.t. stock of experiences; this emancipates lifeworld from philosophical burden of accounting for intersubjectivity. Aspectual knowing.
Lifeworld involves communicative rationality and action
System invovles instrumental.
(Habermas' criticism of Weber)
Paradigms in three areas of I.S. have moved from instrumental to communicative view. But lifeworld is more than communicative action and rationality; e.g. aesthetics, vision. Habermas seems keen to reduce all to C.A. Dependency of post-social aspects on social and social on lingual. Distinct aspectual rationalities. Irreducibility and diversity suggest there are more types of action and rationality than Habermas admits.
Vision of who we are
(an important content of lifeworld)
Habermas draws attention to the social, not just personal, nature of vision of who we are users, developers of I.T. Better account of virtual identity than given by Turkle and a postmodern stance.
  • Vision reduced to communicative action
  • Habermas offers only weak grounds for differentiating types of ICT.
Dooyeweerd's aspects: kernel meaning of pistic is 'vision of who we are'. It is a post-social aspect and hence involves social.
  • difference between reducibility and dependency to ensure vision is not reduced to CA;
  • types of I.T. may be aligned with aspects
Meaningful, normed lifeworld
Loss of meaning in system
Can account for difference between large IS and IS used in lifeworld. Does not presuppose instrumental use of IS Draws attention to importance of under-researched issues of ceasing to use IS, and of legacy software, seeing the latter as lifeworld. But conflates two types of meaning: meaningfulness and signification But we need to account for diversity of meaningfulness Curious finding in legacy I.T. systems: Lifeworld colonizes system! Meaningfulness as 'referring beyond'; loss of meaning in system seen as severance of 'referring beyond'.
  • Aspectual normativity differs from social norms and is never fully lost.
  • Lingual functioning enables signification: difference from meaningfulness
  • Multi-aspectual functioning implies that IS usage need not be instrumental, and explains why 'lifeworld colonizes system' in legacy IS.
Steering media of lifeworld and system: A,G,I,L
(From Parsons)
In IS usage, IS output may be seen as steering media. In ISD, deliverables may be seen as the steering media. Habermas' [1987:274] Figure 37 of steering media could be useful in informing IS research. But four media are not sufficient. Habermas seems overkeen to reduce all action types to communicative.
  • New steering media (beyond AGIL) suggested by aspects
  • Factors that characterise steering media relate to philosophical roles of aspects


This page is part of a collection of pages that compares Dooyeweerd with Habermas, which is within a subsite that links to various thinkers, in The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

Copyright (c) 2010 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

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Created: 2005? Last updated: 22 April 2005 link to everyday.html. 17 June 2010 new .end.