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Philosophy as Critique of the Mind

The Doctrinal Evolution of Critical Theory

Stanisław Czerniak and Rafał Michalski

The authors trace the essential aspects of the evolution of critical theory from its classics Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno to its leading second- and third generation propagators Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth. They defend the thesis about the «meandering», dialectical character of this evolution. In their polemic with Habermas, both Honneth and Gernot Böhme (who is close to critical theory) refer to the classics, and specially their mimesis concept. The author of the first part of this book argues in favour of this interpretative approach. The author of the second part adds a confrontation between critical theory, Michel Foucault’s philosophy of power and Arnold Gehlen’s philosophical anthropology.
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Bi – vocal Introduction

Extract

1

I.

It is important to begin with an explanation of the historical-philosophical term “critical theory” which appears in the title of this book, which – in my mind – refers to the so-called Frankfurt School related to an interesting political and geographical history of The Institute for Social Research, established in 1923 in Frankfurt am Main. The term, however, could be, according to R. Michalski, understood in a much broader sense, and constitute a reference to an entire spectrum of stands stemming from the critical as well as the Kantian and Marxian philosophical tradition. In such an expanded context, also the social philosophy of M. Foucault2 becomes a legitimate object of comparative analysis.

I limit my remarks only to that narrowed interpretation which, in its initial point, includes some striking ambivalences in meaning. To begin with, what does the term “meander” mean? According to dictionaries, it refers to river turns appearing in large numbers in a particular area. Such a river does not flow straight to the sea, but “meanders.”3 It is, however, independently from the sheer number of its turns, “the same” river, and its meanders represent phases, or embodiments of certain homogenous, natural phenomena. But how does it look from the perspective of ideological coherence in the case of the Frankfurt School, or its terminological equivalent – “critical theory”? What is more, is the use of the term “equivalent” in any way legitimized in that context?

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