The Foundations and Benefits of Dialogic Consensus

  • Paul WalkerEmail author
  • Terence Lovat
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Ethics book series (BRIEFSETHIC)


This chapter considers what makes our contemporary era, herein termed post-modern, different from earlier eras, and why we therefore need to move from appeal to a substantive ethical framework, to an active process of moral decision making. Thus, the move is from ego to alterity (otherness) in the notion of dialogic consensus. Dialogic consensus is derived from Jürgen Habermas’ notions of discourse theory of morality and communicative action. Recognition of our inter-connectedness is important for Habermas because of its contribution to normativity, in that it serves as a motivator to act, consequent upon a sense of oughtness or shouldness. His discourse theory of morality requires that the consequences for all persons affected must be considered, while his principles of communicative action imply that the discourse is based upon consensus, subsequent to inclusive, non-coercive and reflective dialogue. Intersubjective consensus after dialogue within the relevant community imbues the decision with normative force that, in turn, renders the process one which is action-guiding. Habermas’ discourse theory of morality generalises and expands the Kantian categorical imperative, as determined by ethical monologue, to a wider consensus-seeking dialogue. Thus, consensual agreement is reached about what constitutes morally-correct action. Relocating decision making from a monological space, into one characterised by dialogue within the stakeholder community, is especially appropriate to the clinical encounter. This form of moral decision making is at the heart of the notion of dialogic consensus.


Communicative action Consensus Dialogue Discourse Dialogic consensus Discourse morality Jürgen habermas Moral pluralism Post-modernity Value pluralism 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Medicine and Public HealthThe University of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia
  2. 2.School of Humanities and Social ScienceThe University of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia
  3. 3.University of OxfordOxfordUK

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