Reflection on Critical Theory

Contemporary Critical Theory
Social Philosophy and Continental Philosophy
• What is contemporary critical theory and what methods does it employ? What is the relationship between philosophy and the society of its time? What is the relationship between philosophy and the human and social sciences?
The term Critical Theory (which was developed at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, hence the short hand name “Frankfurt School”) comes from a famous article by one of the founders of the tradition Max Horkheimer, “Traditional and Critical Theory” (1937). In it, Horkheimer criticizes a “traditional” conception of “theory” (by which he means any theoretical endeavor, from pure physics, to experimental natural sciences to social sciences to philosophy) that would consider the work of the theorist in isolation from the society in which the theorist lives.

Essential Reading:
Jürgen Habermas, “The Relationship between Theory and Practice Revisited”, in Truth and Justification, MIT Press, 2003, pp. 277-292
Further Readings:
Max Horkeimer: ‘Traditional and Critical Theory’, in Critical Theory: Selected Essays (NY: Continuum, 2002), pp. 188-243.

Tutorial discussion
-Should philosophers engage beyond the academy? Can you think of examples of philosophers who do this well?

-Do philosophers have a role as public intellectuals? If so, what should this entail?

-Does philosophy develop according to its own logic or is it influenced or even determined by its broader social context?