Foucault, Habermas, and the Debate That Never Was

Persistent Enlightenment

For the last thirty years my filing cabinet has contained two letters dating from the fall of 1983: one from Jürgen Habermas, the other from Michel Foucault. They were written in response to my attempt to see if they would be interested in presenting talks at Boston University (which, thanks to the efforts of Tom McCarthy, I’d joined two years before) to mark the two-hundredth anniversary of Kant’s response to the question “What is Enlightenment?”

Foucault LetterHabermas expressed interest in the topic, but declined, explaining that he didn’t think he would have to time to write an adequate paper on the subject. But he indicated that he would be in the Boston area (where he would deliver the lectures that would eventually become The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity) during the autumn of 1984 and would be able to serve as a commentator or discussant. Foucault thanked me for the invitation…

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