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Critical Theory

ISBN: 978-1-55786-173-3
292 pages
September 1994, Wiley-Blackwell
Critical Theory (1557861730) cover image


Philosophical controversies within contemporary critical theory arise largely from questions about the nature, scope and limits of human reason. As the linguistic turn in twentieth-century philosophy has increasingly given way to a sociocritical turn, traditional ideas of 'pure' reason have been left further and further behind. There is however considerable disagreement about what that shift entails for enlightenment ideals of self-consciousness, self-determination, and self-realization.

In this book two prominent philosophers bring these disagreements into focus around a set of familiar philosophical issues concerning reason and the rational subject, truth and representation, knowledge and objectivity, identity and difference, relativism and universalism, the right and the good. But these "perennial problems" are resituated within the context of critical theory as it has developed from the work of the Frankfurt School in the 1930's and 1940's to the multiplicity of contemporary approaches: genealogical, hermeneutic, neopragmatist, deconstructive, and reconstructive.

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Table of Contents


Part I: Philosophy and Critical Theory: A Reprise (Thomas McCarthy):.

1. On the Idea of a Critical Theory and It's Relation to philosophy.

1.1. Horkheimer on Historicism.

1.2. Traditional and Critical Theory.

1.3. The Aufhebung of Philosophy.

2. Reason in a Postmetaphysical Age.

2.1. Deconstructionist Critiques of Reason.

2.2. Communication and Idealization.

2.3. Accountability and Autonomy.

2.4. Discourse Ethics.

3. On the Pragmatics of Communicative Reason.

3.1. The Rational Properties of Practical Activities.

3.2. Pragmatizing Communicative Rationality.

3.3. On the Methodologies of Critical Social Theory.

3.4. Multicultural Cosmopolitanism.

Part II: Critical Theory and Critical History (David Couzens Hoy):.

4. A Deconstructive Reading of the Early Frankfurt School.

4.1. Tensions in Horkheimer.

4.2. Deferrals in Adorno.

4.3. Anticipations of Poststructuralism.

5. Conflicting Versions of Critique: Foucault verses Habermas.

5.1. Foucault and the Frankfurt School.

5.2. Naturalizing Philosophy with Evolutionary Stories.

5.3. From Hegel to Nietzsche.

5.4. Genealogy's Critique of Habermas.

5.5. The Critical Potential of History and of Theory.

6. The Contingency of Universality: Critical Theory as Genealogical Hermeneutics.

6.1. Genealogy For and Against.

6.2. Habermas's Universalism.

6.3. Gadamer's Hermeneutical Pluralism.

6.4. Genealogical Hermeneutics.

Part III: For and Against:.

7. Rejoinder to David Hoy (Thomas McCarthy).

7.1. Pragmatism.

7.2. Genealogy.

7.3. Hermeneutics.

7.4. Pluralism.

8. Rejoinder to Thomas McCarthy (David Couzens Hoy).

8.1. Rational Agents or Cultural Dopes.

8.2. Local Solidarity or Universal Audience?.

8.3. Pluralism or Concensus?.

8.4. Identity in Difference?.


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Author Information

David Couzens Hoy taught at Princeton Columbia, and Yale before going to the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he is Professor of Philosophy and of the History of Consiousness graduate program. He edited Foucault: A Critical Reader (Blackwell) and has authored, in addition to many essays on modern and postmodern European philosophers, a book on hermeneutics entitled The Critical Circle.

Thomas McCarthy is Professor of Philosophy and John Shaffer Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University. He is the author of The Critical Theory of Jurgen Habermas and Ideals and Illusions, and is the general editor of the series Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought.

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