Meaning Negotiation and Communicative Rationality

Roger A. Young

Settling disputes, even disputes about meaning, by third party arbitration is different from settling them by negotiation. Moreover, disputes can be settled by a procedure in which the disputing parties follow a protocol that prohibits them from simply following their original aims. They can collectively constitute an arbitrator. This provides an alternative model for resolving differences in meaning from simple negotiation. In his theory of communicative rationality, Habermas has a model in which human languages, in effect, invariably provide a system of collective arbitration. Indeed human agents may be best understood by treating their aims as derivative and their needs as fundamental. Arbitration can operate by respecting needs but not necessarily aims. In communicative rationality, needs may come to be recognised which an agent did not originally understand itself to have, so the agent’s aims may change. Thus it is distinct from strategic (game-theoretical) or instrumental (means-end) rationality, because these presuppose fixed aims for each agent. Artificial agents may be constructible on this model, but it is suggested that they would be complex, and no blueprint is proposed. However, a formal account of the model is sket


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