"Sometimes resentment would cross our faces, sometimes wildness would fill our eyes, but we were tame apes, and we dreamt not of the savannah, but of the books we would write in imitation of others."
Like Derrida, Habermas believes in cosmopolitanism but also notes its flaws: "the ontologization of the friend-foe relation suggests that attempts at a cosmopolitan juridification of the relations between the belligerent subjects of international law are fated to serve the masking of particular interests in universalistic disguise" (38). Habermas sees cosmopolitanism as useful, but only if the concept involves rational communication and what he calls "mutual perspective-taking": "in the course of mutual perspective-taking there can develop a common horizon of background assumptions in which both sides accomplish an interpretation that is not ethnocentrically adopted or converted but, rather, intersubjectively shared" (37). Habermas's ideal vision, like Derrida's, invites readers to consider a world in which citizens share an equal opportunity to live how they wish to live, speak how they wish to speak, feel how they wish to feel. Although both share a somewhat utopian vision, it is Derrida who hits upon a crucial critique of such a world. He understands that equitable communication as Habermas describes it would involve universal access to the same type of reason. Derrida questions universal reason, but he also considers the possibility of such reason necessary when addressing issues of international law, global terrorism, and globalization in general.
This implicit debate between Habermas and Derrida is, in fact, most direct--and most lively--in their discussion of the notions of tolerance and hospitality. Habermas emphasizes the notion of tolerance, despite certain limitations. He understands that tolerance is problematic in that the concept "possesses [in] itself the kernel of intolerance" (41). This is so because tolerance involves setting boundaries that one allows others to cross. In short, tolerance suggests that a stronger person or nation allows a weaker person or nation to act as he, she, or it pleases in relation to a certain limit. Beyond that limit, tolerance devolves into intolerance. Habermas counters this scenario by explaining how a constitutional democracy does not involve a single person or group tolerating another: "On the basis of the citizens' equal rights and reciprocal respect for each other, nobody possesses the privilege of setting the boundaries of tolerance from the viewpoint of their own preferences and value-orientations" (41). Anticipating Derrida's critique of tolerance, Habermas notes, "straight deconstruction of the concept of tolerance falls into a trap, since the constitutional state contradicts precisely the premise from which the paternalistic sense of the traditional concept of 'tolerance' derives" (41).
Derrida picks up where Habermas leaves off, criticizing tolerance while endorsing his own notion of hospitality: "Tolerance remains a scrutinized hospitality, always under surveillance, parsimonious and protective of its sovereignty" (128). As Derrida suggests, tolerance does more to protect the hegemony of the person or state that tolerates than it does to achieve equality. Opposed to this necessarily limited tolerance is Derrida's hospitality: "Pure and unconditional hospitality, hospitality itself, opens or is in advance open to someone who is neither expected nor invited, to whomever arrives as an absolutely foreign visitor, as a new arrival, nonidentifiable and unforeseeable, in short, wholly other" (128-29). Given this definition of hospitality, it seems as if Derrida chooses to ignore the concept's applicability. Not so. As he writes, "an unconditional hospitality is, to be sure, practically impossible to live; one cannot in any case, and by definition, organize it" (129). This is not to say that hospitality is impractical, even if it is "practically impossible to live"; rather, it may be that the realization of the concept lies in the ability or willingness of individuals, not nation-states, to embrace it. Put another way, hospitality may be realized in practice by individuals even if it may be unrealistic at this historical moment for nation-states to do the same. In this sense, hospitality at once resists unified organization by a nation-state as it encourages unified understanding among individuals who would accept it as a way of relating to others in the world. (Chad Wickman)