Liberation theology as critical theory: The notion of the 'privileged perspective'

Philosophy and Social Criticism 22 (5):85-102 (1996)
One of the central issues in political philosophy is the problem of perspective: if there is a dispute as to how justice is to be defined, or a dispute as to whether a particular situation is unjust, how do we determine who is right? I reject the claim that an idealized speech situation or a transcendental perspective can legitimately be invoked to resolve such disputes. In their place, I discuss critical theory's commitment to the position that all perspectives are ideo logical, partial, and rooted in interests. I then discuss Lukács's notion that, given that ideology and interests are ineluctable, certain per spectives are epistemologically privileged (though not transcenden tal). I discuss the notion of the preferential option for the poor in liberation theology, as an instance of such a claim of epistemological privilege. I argue that this has implications for the concept of alterity, and specifically for the role of the Other in a community of discourse. Finally, I discuss Lyotard's notion of incommensurable phrase regi mens, and the particular kind of harm which is done by exclusion from a discursive community. Key Words: critical theory • epistemological privilege • liberation theology • Lukács • Lyotard.
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DOI 10.1177/019145379602200505
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