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critical theory


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


In the strict sense, critical theory is the interdisciplinary project announced by Max H orkheimer and practiced by members of the F rankfurt school and their successors, whereby the E nlightenment ideal of a C ivil society might be achieved by bringing scientific research to bear on M arx's theory of social change. In a looser sense, critical theory is now a more general term, under which research projects in the social sciences and/or humanities attempt to bring truth and political engagement into alignment. In both senses, critical theory is an offspring of the Kantian tradition of thought that prizes self-knowledge (see K ant and N eo -K antianism ). The most useful, succinct elaboration of these definitions of critical theory has been proposed by Raymond Geuss (1981 , pp. 1–1): 1. Critical theories have special standing as guides for human action in that: (a) they are aimed at producing enlightenment in the agents who hold them, i.e. at enabling those agents to determine what their true interests are; (b) they are inherently emancipatory, i.e. they free agents from a kind of coercion which is at least partly selfimposed… . 2. Critical theories have cognitive content, i.e. they are forms of knowledge. 3. Critical theories differ epistemologically in essential ways from theories in the natural sciences. Theories in natural science are objectifying; critical theories ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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