27 thoughts on “Critical Theory and Philosophy”

    1. Thanks! I posted the essay.

      I have (or am) writing a paper the submit that generally argues the opposite. But more specifically, I distinguish philosophy and critical theory by the usual ordination where philosophy is often understood as a kind of process that the mind is able to occupy itself with, in which or by critical thinking is a kind of mode or approach, a way that the philosophical process occurs. My point will be in what happens when we apply critical thinking to philosophy as opposed to philosophy as being unapproachable. What happens if we apply the philosophical mode of thinking critically to philosophy itself?

  1. Philosophy is simply the fundamental study of reality/nature.

    Critical Theory is a very specific school of philosophy, influenced by existentialism, Marxism/Post-Marxism, psychoanalytic, and general anti-liberal sentiments. Even more specifically, CT aims at “understanding” the world of “social construction” to expose, generally speaking, the power dynamics of how relationships work and operate. Like materialism or liberalism, like conservatism or spiritualism, like empiricism or idealism, CT makes a very specific claim to the nature of reality with its canonical thinkers and exponents.

    So philosophy is more comprehensive and would expect you to know “the philosophy of science,” the philosophy of literature, the philosophy of history, the philosophy of religion, the history of philosophy, etc. And as I’ve said before, the benefit of a proper philosophical education is its comprehensive nature. CT is a very specific sub-disciple and school of philosophy. Like “philosophy”, it gives its answer to the fundamental nature of reality. Whether one accepts its articulations is another matter.

    1. What is a history of philosophy, say? Or an existence of philosophy ? Or the nature of philosophy ?

      How do we tell which one is more basic or primary?

      1. The history of philosophy is an academic practice that deals with the arguments of historically well-known philosophers. So a university course in “the history of philosophy” would deal with, say, Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas, Descartes, or Leibniz. So in a course on, say, Plato, the students might use some English translation of (a part of) the Republic to try to understand Plato’s original arguments and intentions.

        So the history of philosophy is about understanding and reconstructing the arguments of historical figures, and also to set these in historical context, whereby one then can identify “chains” of arguments and objections and replies by other philosophers and schools of thought (Plato – Platonists – Neoplatonists – Cambridge Platonists, etc.). And the history of philosophy (esp. in the graduate arena) is also filled with lots of language learning. For to reconstruct Plato’s or Aristotle’s original arguments may require strong skills in Classical Greek (Attic variant). The history of philosophy is thus heavily dependent on good translations.

        The history of philosophy, as I see it, is therefore not primarily thought of as a practice in doing “real” philosophy. “Real” philosophy, IMO, is about finding out the TRUTH about what the world IS, or is NOT, and our own position within it. Or it may focus more on one’s own position in the world, and care less about “the external world”. In “real” philosophy, done privately, one is more free to think whatever one wants (thus philosophy is not reduced to “analytic philosophy” as in the current academic world). As I see it, modern academic philosophy is not free enough to do “real” philosophy. It is mostly too materialistic and too politically motivated (and too politically correct) to be anywhere near the truth.

      2. I suppose I had been conflating “critical theory” with “critical thinking”. And then also asking where philosophy fits in.

        I like your summation, though, of philosophy and academics.

        Academic philosophers, I feel, must occupy a space in the world which inherently limits thier expression of thinking critically. Becuase they are pulling a pay check from thier philosophical work, they have to write within or upon that intensional truth. Perhaps even so far as to say that they are unable to see things that are not informed by the fact of thier making a living upon the thoughts/discourse they produce.
        Without that motivation, I think philosophy would appear quite differently as a discipline.

      3. Thank you for your comment.

        Well, that may be true, for some. But, as a whole, I don’t really think it is a function of “thinking about paychecks” when doing their daily philosophizing (if that was your thinking); rather, as I see it, there are three other factors.

        One factor is that most professors in philosophy already have, at an early stage in their (undergraduate) studies, accepted the basic premises of the particular field of philosophy that they are planning to work in. For example, the professor of philosophy of biology didn’t question the role, or importance, of Darwin’s “evolution” ideas; the professor of philosophy of mind didn’t question the “correctness” of physicalistic neuroscience; etc. Therefore, since they already accepted the MAIN premises early on, they were then much more likely to survive in their respective academic environments. In other words, they were sufficiently “brainwashed” by society, and by their own thinking, long before their university studies even began.

        Another factor is the role of the philosophy departments themselves. They are the “gatekeepers”. The departments decide who gets admitted to graduate school, who gets the graduate assistant “gigs” and scholarships, and whose PhD dissertation ideas are “good” or “bad”, etc. And then they also, of course, decide who gets hired as a professor in their department. So no-one will ultimately get hired as a professor without having produced (politically and “scientifically”) acceptable work (PhD dissertation, articles, books). The work must be “in the right overall direction”, i.e. not too controversial.

        Yet another factor is the whole publishing thing. There is a very real requirement to get published in “serious” journals for a professional (academic) philosopher. And peer-reviewing is (part of) the “academic police”. “Serious” journals are extremely rigorous and nitpicky not only in terms of copy editing and notes and references etc., but about the FOCUS of the content of each article. So many (“average”, less brilliant) professors may very well choose to focus on MINOR issues, and continue topics, threads and discussions that already are “up and running”, so to speak, instead of taking the risk that their paper will be rejected by the referees, preventing it from being published.

        Ultimately, “academic philosophy” is an academic field. And as such, it is heavily guarded, from an ideological standpoint. So the “discipline” of philosophy is what the universities themselves decide it to be. And it IS, indeed, a place where paychecks are paid out, to philosophers and others.

        So what I am saying is this: There wouldn’t BE a discipline of “academic” philosophy without the universities; so there seems to be little room for academic philosophy, as you say, to “appear quite differently” in some OTHER scenario. I mean, either there IS an academic system (in which case the situation is approximately as it is right now, with paychecks), or there is NO academic system (in which case there are no academic philosophers, and no paychecks).

        Best wishes!
        CB

      4. You spell it out much more gracefully than me. Yeah! 😄. And, I would add, the impetus to make a living encompasses all your points. The ‘brainwashing’ has already occurred, many have already been ‘ideologues’ or better, ‘made religious’. In the same way that you cannot argue with a Christian about whether God exists, because they already know that God does and because what they take is proof of the existence of God is already colored by their belief and knowledge of the truth of gods existence. They are not able to see north think outside of that paradigm by the very fact that what is self evident to them cannot be overcome through any sort of argument, because of the argumentation itself verifies the discourse and the meaning that is associated with it so far as their religious theology goes . I would say that this goes with academia as well: The purpose of academia is to support an ideology. But that is why I call it “conventional” philosophy. I am not saying it is wrong or incorrect in what it is, I’m merely saying that the view it has upon things, upon discourse, upon existence upon reality etc., is already dictated within the confines of what it is “to think”.

      5. …oh; and so like wise an ability or capacity to think critically is hindered by that ideological reflexivity. This doesn’t mean they cannot produce useful ideas, but it does mean that the ideas produced are ideological and missing or guiding what it is to be human in the world along a specific agenda. And so inherently fall short of seeing the truths many say never exist; lol and the irony that accompanies the theology the whole way. 🌈

  2. Philosophy is not only critical thinking because one can do this without being a philosopher or studying philosophy. However conceptualisation is the distinguishing trait of philosophy that other disciplines don’t have.

      1. It depends on the base of the critical thinking: do we need scientific evidence for asserting a concept? Then we are crossing over to a scientific approach. That’s 1 example among others. But the problem is with the definition of the concept: it is an abstract idea that synthesises something practical.. u take freedom as a concept: it is synthesis of so many forms of free things that we encounter daily and their representations. Science will explain these things in a certain way, art will represent them, politics will act upon them and so on

      2. SoML. Are you saying that philosophy is not something that extends into every other manner of thinking (philosophy ofcomputer programming; philosophy of icebergs; philosophy of writing papers) but is a particular kind of activity ?

      3. I am not saying philosophy doesn’t extend to other disciplines. I am saying that conceptualisation is a proper philosophical experience

      4. I think I took that to heart some how. Maybe then: Philosophy is the disclosure of Being (conceptualization). And critical theory is the closure (closing by ruling out, as in deconstruction, being-critical is a manner not of opening to possibility as much as closing the options of conceptualization through which Being is available) .

        What you think ?

      5. This seems to have some resonance in me, from lived experience.

        “I think I took that to heart some how. Maybe then: Philosophy is the disclosure of Being (conceptualization). And critical theory is the closure (closing by ruling out, as in deconstruction, being-critical is a manner not of opening to possibility as much as closing the options of conceptualization through which Being is available) .

        What you think ?”

      6. …and am I not thinking critically. Or enacting critical theory when I move to find out what hidden meanings might be in a social activity or presentation, such as getting on a ski lift, or walking my dog around the neighborhood while videoing it on you tube?

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