Philosophy and Social Criticism 37 (9):1043-1051 (2011)
Nikolas Kompridis' Critique and Disclosure is a sustained argument for the proposition that critical social theory in the tradition of the Frankfurt School is best carried forward by rejecting central aspects of Habermas' neo-Kantian version of it. The most promising future direction for critical theory according to Kompridis involves a reconsideration of the resources of hermeneutic phenomenology, especially renewed attention to the Heideggerian concept ‘disclosure’. To this end, Kompridis develops a distinctive dialectical version of this concept. I agree that Kantian versions of critical theory are philosophically suspect, and that critical theory is most conceptually vital and politically trenchant when turned away from ‘discourse ethics' and the like. I am a bit less sanguine than is Kompridis with a turn to Heidegger, however, and raise several issues having to do with that aspect of Kompridis' account. This caution is not rooted simply in the historical fact that critical theory from its inception has attempted to immunize itself against phenomenology; it is rather a conceptual matter. In my judgment, Kompridis does not need to develop, as he does, an intricate account of overlap between what he holds best about critical theory and Heidegger’s ontology. If one were looking for historical antecedents that do not come freighted with what Horkheimer derided as ‘irrationalism’, one would do better to investigate early German Romanticism, in which there is an explicitly interpretive yet dialectical methodology on offer. Moreover, the central doctrines of Jena Romanticism exhibit more positive points of contact with the earlier, more skeptical forms of critical theory that Kompridis might favor, e.g. Adorno’s
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