Singer argues that thinking on the Left insufficiently appropriates the broader insights about life and human nature made possible by Darwin. I think Singer has it backwards: the problem is not that Darwin has insufficiently been allowed to influence thinking on the Left, but, rather, that the meaning of “Darwinism” has been distorted by the wider scientific and intellectual communities broadly as a support for Right-wing views including patriarchy and racism since its early days. That Darwin’s theories have so often (...) been made to serve and support such views marks the power of ideology. The problem is not what bad scientists Leftists are, but why Singer thinks they bear the primary responsibility for explaining Darwinism to a world that still doesn’t get it. Even scientists have tended to associate Darwinism with a caricature of Hobbes’ “perpetual warre,”—in which only the activities of males in battle over resources, females, and territory, seem to matter. Yet, Darwinism is a theory of survival, not death. In contrast with the “Hobbesian” view of Darwinism, it is better understood as a theory that sees organisms as embedded within contexts of life-sustaining activities that define a form of life for their species’ within definite local environments. Their activities, understood as natural history, within the horizon of the life of a species in the midst of others, complete our picture of the lives of organisms. This view of life coordinates better with Leftist goals and attitudes than those typical on the Right, and it is not surprising that it has tended to be suppressed in popular and conventional scientific thinking. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to engage in three interrelated tasks. First, I want to take a sweeping look at the historical vicissitudes of the concept of critique—in a style similar to the way in which Marcuse treated key concepts in the 1930s and 1940s, for example, in his famous essay “The Concept of Essence.” Second, my sketch of the history of critique is oriented to exploring Marcuse’s famous essay “Philosophy and Critical Theory.” I believe that in this 1937 (...) essay, Marcuse put his finger on the central problem of critical theory—a problem that concerned him for the rest of this life. Third, I want to explore the critical legacy of Marcuse—a critical legacy that is revealed in the way in which it treated and constantly returned to this central problem. (shrink)
In an attempt to clarify our present-day postmodern context and to ascertain the critical consciousness of our time, I study a number of main lines of thought in the work of the postmodernist thinkers Wolfgang Welsch, Jean-François Lyotard and Richard Rorty. Afterwards, I elaborate on the position of Jürgen Habermas in the postmodern debate. In the second section I present a schematic overview of this postmodern panorama, pointing out the main similarities and differences of the theorists under consideration. A critical (...) discussion of and with these authors, in the third section, yields the model of the “open narrative” as a possible form of contemporary critical consciousness. This model will help me to recontextualize the Christian narrative in our postmodern context. In the conclusion I shed some light upon this recontextualization. (shrink)
In its essence, Critical Theory is Western Marxist thought with the emphasis moved from the liberation of the working class to broader issues of individual agency. Critical Theory emerged in the 1920s from the work of the Frankfurt School, the circle of German-Jewish academics who sought to diagnose--and, if at all possible, cure--the ills of society, particularly fascism and capitalism. In this book, Stephen Eric Bronner provides sketches of famous and less famous representatives of the critical tradition (such as George (...) Lukács and Ernst Bloch, Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse and Jurgen Habermas) as well as many of its seminal texts and empirical investigations. -/- Though they shared a Marxist bent, the Frankfurt School's scholars came from a variety of fields--philosophy, economics, psychoanalysis, and even music--and they initially sought not only to do interdisciplinary work but also to combine theory with practice, criticism with empirical data. Forced by the rise of Hitler to flee to the United States, by the late 1930s the Frankfurt School left behind the emphasis on empiricism, beginning instead to specialize in philosophical inquiry into the nature of social control, which combined the work of Hegel, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche. This VSI is ultimately organized around the cluster of concepts and themes that set critical theory apart from its more traditional philosophical competitors. Bronner explains and discusses concepts such as method and agency, alienation and reification, the culture industry and repressive tolerance, non-identity and utopia. He argues for the introduction of new categories and perspectives for illuminating the obstacles to progressive change and focusing upon hidden transformative possibilities. Only a critique of critical theory can render it salient for a new age. That is precisely what this very short introduction seeks to provide. (shrink)
This essay stages a dialectical confrontation between Adorno?Horkheimer on one hand and Benjamin?Badiou on the other against the background of the former's reductive portrait of Ulysses in Dialectic of the Enlightenment, which depicts him as a proto-bourgeois archetype of profit-seeking and acquisitive ethos. In sharp contrast, Walter Benjamin's allegorical materialism foregrounds, by dialectical illumination, hieroglyphic traces of Homeric virtues. These, I argue, are sustained and further amplified by Alain Badiou's topological ethics and loop-politics.
Presentazione del curatore italiano (C.Corradetti): È possibile conciliare il pluralismo culturale con la dimensione pubblica della deliberazione? Partendo dall’analisi critica di Rawls e Habermas, James Bohman offre una risposta innovativa alla questione dell’accordo democratico. In tale proposta, parallelamente al rigetto di soluzioni meramente strategiche, viene riabilitata la nozione di compromesso morale nel quadro di un accordo normativo. Mantenendo fede ad una prospettiva composta da elementi normativi e fattuali, l’autore si propone di ampliare le opportunità democratiche nella riconciliazione tra conflitti culturali (...) profondi propri delle società contemporanee. L’elemento civico partecipativo risulta essere dunque una componente essenziale per la produzione di una sfera pubblica vibrante. Ne emerge una ricostruzione convincente volta non solo a respingere le critiche degli scettici sulle reali possibilità d’inclusività democratica, ma diretta soprattutto a suggerire un più efficace modello deliberativo per la garanzia della stabilità sociale. Questo testo è diventato ormai un riferimento internazionale classico nella discussione sul tema della deliberazione pubblica. L’autore ha inoltre sviluppato in ambito post-nazionale il suo modello deliberativo senza tuttavia ridiscutere i fondamenti concettuali della sua proposta teorica qui enunciati.Vista la rilevanza del tema e considerata la centralità del testo proposto, sembrerebbe dunque auspicabile rendere il testo disponibile anche al lettore italiano. (shrink)
‘Recognition’ is a normative concept denoting the ascription of positive status to a group or an individual by (an) other(s). In its larger meaning, it carries the implication that when a group or an individual can justifiably expect such a positive status-ascription, its denial (misrecognition) is unjustified and unethical. I discuss the role that the concept of recognition can play at the intersection of two philosophies, pragmatism and contemporary critical theory. My perspective is one that embraces the ‘pragmatic turn’ in (...) critical theory and sees the possibility of reciprocal benefit for pragmatism in how critical theory handles issues of material culture, alienation and networks of power. I argue that a critical social theory incorporating pragmatist presuppositions ought to bring the concept of recognition to bear in how it isolates and treats the ‘real interests’ of groups and individuals who have suffered and continue to suffer from broad social ascriptions of negative status, or who, through lack of voice and access to the public sphere, remain paralysed to participation in a thriving liberal democracy. In doing so, I do not construe recognition primarily as ‘positive tolerance’ or understanding of cultural, ethnic, or gender identity, but as a minimally substantive tool for understanding, and potentially correcting, how misrecognition impacts the collective and individual agency of the historically oppressed. (shrink)
The origins of Axel Honneth's theory of recognition lie in his earlier project to correct the conceptual confusions and empirical shortcomings of historical materialism for the purpose of an adequate post-Habermasian critical social theory. Honneth proposed to accomplish this project, most strikingly, by reconnecting critical social theory with one of its repressed philosophical sources, namely anthropological materialism. In its mature shape, however, recognition theory operates on a narrow concept of interaction, which seems to lose sight of the material mediations with (...) which intersubjective relations are imbricated. The paper argues that a circumspect return to this twofold materialist heritage could substantively correct and enrich contemporary critical theory. The paper provides an illustration of this with the paradigmatic example of work. (shrink)
This paper revisits Giorgio Agamben’s text The Time That Remains and through a comparative analysis contrasts the author’s reading of St Paul’s Romans to relevant Derridean thematics prevalent in the text. Specific themes include language, the law, and the subject. I illustrate how Agamben attempts to revitalise the idea of philosophical anthropology by breaking away from the deconstructive approach. Agamben argues that language is an experience but is currently in a state of nihilism. Consequently, the subject has become lost; or, (...) more specifically, the subject and its object have not disappeared in language but through language. The resuscitation of experience is thus required to defeat this condition: only in language does the subject have its site and origin. Unlike deconstruction, which highlights an inherent paradox within a situation unearthing a questionable foundation, Agamben argues that, by investigating the “exception,” one finds neither a norm nor an inherent truth of the situation, but the confusion which surrounds them both. (shrink)
This article examines the return of love in contemporary critical theory. While recent attempts to make sense of a politicized concept of love have focused on its reconciliatory promise for our age, this article considers love as a discourse of edification for a frustrated political subject, one whose radical hopes have been forged in waiting. Those who want to resist the idea that the revolutionary horizon has for ever receded can be easily tempted and sometimes blindly seduced by the force (...) of love. As an upbuilding discourse, the political appeal to love betrays a profound religiosity and a frustrated longing for transcendence, but it functions, also, to feminize political subjectivity, rendering it passive and wholly derivative of the dominant order. Marx’s attack on communist lovesickness and Beauvoir’s portrait of the grande amoureuse provide touchstones for a feminist critique of love, one that refuses its seductions without wholly dispensing with its critical and utopian dimension. Other critical theorists, notably Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, intimate how love furnishes, not the affective grounds for political practice, but the recollection of a poetics of thinking. (shrink)
In dialogue with his interlocutor, Axel Honneth summarizes the way his work on recognition has unfolded over the past two decades. While he has retained his principal insights, some important parts of his theory have changed. He comments that if he were to rewrite The Struggle for Recognition today, he would focus more on institutions and the historicization of recognition patterns. He clarifies his stance on some contemporary controversial issues, including the crisis of capitalism, gay marriage, and his quarrel with (...) Peter Sloterdijk. Finally, he sheds some light on topics much discussed within Critical Theory, such as the relation between theory and praxis and the possibility of politicizing recognition, and on lesser-known aspects of his theory, namely, the relationship between his work and literature. (shrink)
Axel Honneth has outlined a critical social theory in terms of recognition. He has recently argued that his theory is superior to the communications framework ofHabermas in that it better achieves the goals of providing normative criticism of society's ability to foster genuine and full sell-realization and explaining how emancipatory social movements can emerge within existing society. After exploring these arguments and their implications for critical theory, this paper concludes that Honneth's criticisms of Habermas fail and that the former's recognition (...) theory cannot provide an adequate free-standing alternative critical framework. lnstead, it is argued that recognition theory is best seen as a complement of a critical theory for which the normative basis remains Habermasian discourse ethics. (shrink)
Nikolas Kompridis has recently argued that the future of critical theory depends upon a critical appropriation of Heidegger’s concept of ‘world disclosure’, and hence on a transformation of critical theory into a form of ‘world-disclosing critique’ oriented towards the future. This article engages in a critical dialogue with Kompridis' account of world-disclosing critique, arguing that critical theory should embrace it as an innovative way of retrieving the forgotten tradition of aesthetic critique of modernity.
In this article I intend to show the strict relation between the notions of “second nature” and “recognition”. To do so I begin with a problem (circularity) proper to the theory of Hegelian and post- Hegelian Anerkennung. The solution strategy I propose is signifi cant also in terms of bringing into focus the problems connected with a notion of “space of reasons” that stems from the Hegelian concept of “Spirit”. I thus broach the notion of “second nature” as a bridgeconcept (...) that can play a key role both for a renewal of the theory of Anerkennung and for a rethinking of the “space of reasons” within the debate between Robert Brandom and John McDowell. Against this background I illustrate the novelties introduced by the dialectical conception of the relation between fi rst and second nature developed by Hegel and the contribution this idea can make to a revisited theory of recognition as a phenomenon articulated on two levels. I then return to the question of the space of reasons to show the contribution the renewed conception of recognition as second nature makes to the definition of its intrinsic sociality as something that is not in principle opposed to a sense of naturalness. (shrink)
I tackle the definition of the relation between first and second nature while examining some problems with McDowell's conception. This, in the first place, will bring out the need to extend the notion of second nature to the social dimension, understanding it not just as `inner' second nature — individual mind — but also as `outer' second nature — objective spirit. In the second place the dialectical connection between these two notions of second nature will point the way to a (...) critical use of the concept itself, which will link up with a theory of reification. Furthermore, I shall endeavor to fit my reflection into the problematic constellation of critical theory : my analysis in fact rests on the question whether, within a critical theory, the philosophy of nature can be recaptured today, in such a way as to give meaning to the very notion of socio-philosophical criticism of reality. Key Words: Theodor Adorno • critical theory • dialectics • Jürgen • Habermas • G. W. F. Hegel • John McDowell • mind naturalism • nature • quietism • reification • second nature • world. (shrink)
The topic of recognition has come to occupy a central place in contemporary debates in social and political theory. Rooted in Hegel's work, developed by George Herbert Mead and Charles Taylor, it has been given renewed expression in the recent program for Critical Theory developed by Axel Honneth in his book The Struggle for Recognition. Honneth's research program offers an empirically insightful way of reflecting on emancipatory struggles for greater justice and a powerful theoretical tool for generating a conception of (...) justice and the good that enables the normative evaluation of such struggles. (shrink)