Category talk:Critical theory

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Is a workable definition impossible?[edit]

I only conclude, that you're as much at a loss as I am (and Walden, etc..) to make a workable category definition with the present category name. Yes, a short category name is preferable but that would still not make possible to abbreviate Octopuses to Fish.
See also present CfD discussion w.r.t. category:Marxist theory
--Francis Schonken 22:48, 20 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I would like to respond to your points, but they seem so beyond any engagement with any of the academic work I encounter in my day-to-day life that I am forced to suspect you do not actually know what you are talking about. Snowspinner 23:09, Oct 20, 2004 (UTC)
I'll also point out that [1], the editor of one of the most prominant journals in the humanities, lists one of his academic specialties as critical theory. Likewise, the English Department at UIC has three people listed as specializing in Critical Theory. Snowspinner 23:21, Oct 20, 2004 (UTC)
What's your point, Snowspinner? A definition is not made clearer by the number of academics associating themselves with it (though the academics themselves might make it clearer). Mr. Jones 15:50, 4 Nov 2004 (UTC)
  1. Don't start usurping the theme: Wikipedia official policy is that this is a sign of NPOV going bad.
  2. Rather make the Wikipedia content on this topic clearer, so that I would understand what you mean, and would be helped in making a workable category definition, if that is still something you believe possible.
  3. Re. the references you give, like said repeatedly:
    1. It would be nice to find a workable definition of Critical theory somewhere;
    2. I think it would be needed that outside the context of humanities, in normal English speech, if someone mentioned the term Critical theory it would be generally understood that a reference is made to this theme in humanities. I mean this in wikipedia categorisation context: if someone wants to categorise all critical theories in architecture: would these yes or no be a part of what you mean by critical theory?

Another attempt at defining the category[edit]

Snowspinner, as one who is interested in a satisfactory first sentence for the topic, may I try again?:

In the humanities and social sciences, critical theory is commentary on new theoretical developments in a variety of fields, informed by structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, Marxist theory, feminist theory, psychoanalysis, in virtually every direction of the human compass -- inward, outward, upward and downward. Outwardly, critical theory looks at, and comments upon, the mechanics of the process of privilege and marginalization of groups of people in the larger society; inward, we encounter, among others, the psychoanalytical work of Lacan.

My motivation is that I need a place of reference for the political process which is often an unacknowledged part of the scientific method, and I found a section of the critical theory article which accurately describes this process. What I was hoping for was an article that an interested reader can view after reading the article on scientific method. Since political training or political skill is not part of the curriculum for people who study science and technology, the most such people can hope for in their careers is to become minions, which is not the fate they aspired to when they started. As an example, Enrico Fermi, besides being a world-class physicist, was also a competent auto mechanic and skilled politician, which probably aided him in physics as well. My point is that Fermi had brain power in unacknowledged fields which this theory seems to span. BTW, sorry to miss you at the meetup. Regards, Ancheta Wis 11:02, 14 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Is the field of architecture encompassed by Critical theory?[edit]

Critical theory is perfectly valid in architecture, so at that point a critical theory category should not be so awkard from the point of view of architectural theory that it couldn't be used.

--Francis Schonken 23:32, 20 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Critical theory in architecture, if I'm understanding you correctly, is largely a reference to the application of a Frankfurt school style of thought to architecture. This does not seem to me to be an invalidation of this category. For one thing, the humanities, since the rise of cultural studies, have been quite interested in architecture. Fredric Jameson's (A professor of English at Duke) most famous essay is on architecture. And the Frankfurt school is certainly one part of what we generally call critical theory. Snowspinner 00:32, Oct 21, 2004 (UTC)
It's not an invalidation, but it might make the explanation given wrong. Mr. Jones 15:50, 4 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Hi Snowspinner,
Now you're limiting the definition of "critical theory" to Frankfurt School again. For me that's OK, if this leads to a workable definition of the category. Could you please try to construct such definition, and also indicate which should be the supercategories for the "critical theory" category, and I think we are were we all want to be.

Critical theory is a poor name for this category[edit]

Critical theory is probably not going to work as a category name in Wikipedia, as there appears no uniform understanding of the concept: is it limited to the Frankfurt School? Are Anglo-Saxons incapacitated for making any kind of critical theory, and are all continental theories by definition critical theories? Is critical theory a generally accepted term for a mixed bag of philophies and other theories that had their peak from the 1960s on (and not earlier?)? Is critical theory limited to social sciences (and if yes, how come science studies is a subcategory to this category?)? Does Marxism yes or no belong in this category (note: about one century of the mark of "roughly since the 1960s")? (by Francis Schonken)

Other possible names[edit]

However, before listing this category for deletion, with the suggestion to rename it to Late 20th century theories or, alternatively, Theories using materialist dialectics (with considerable, but different, reworking of the sub- and supercategorisation also suggested depending on the choice of new category name), the opportunity is left to those who created and/or used this category and/or find it useful, to find, without change of the category name, a more "workable" definition for this category than the present first paragraph of the critical theory article, which gives few unambiguous indications of what belongs here and what doesn't. In the event such definition is found it can replace these first two paragraphs.

(by Francis Schonken)

I think that either of the proposed names are appallingly bad ideas. Critical theory goes back to the 19th and even the late 18th centuries with little effort, and materialist dialectics only identify the Marxist strain of it.

Critical theory is a Marxist term as employed by the Frankfurt school, yes, but it has, at this point, come to be a default term for any of the theoretical work done in the humanities, particularly in English departments. Other names include literary and interpretive theory, but these names have their own set of flaws, suggesting that the primary application is in the interpretation of texts, which is increasingly untrue.

What is your problem here, exactly? That a field without clear deliniations is defined in such a way as to not try to impose clear deliniations on it? How do you propose to clasify a field that ranges from linguistics to psychoanalysis to history/social science?

Critical Theory is an umbrella term for an interdisciplinary tendency that is rife with internal debates. It is not easy to categorize for this reason. But I do not think a better solution is available, or, at least, that one has been proposed. Snowspinner 23:06, Oct 18, 2004 (UTC)

See my talk with Walden. Walden sees nothing interdisciplinary, only social philosophy: Q.E.D....
"Any theoretical work done in the humanities": is all of this Marxist? And if it is not all Marxist, should it all be labeled by a term you read as an exclusively Marxist term?
(also:) "Any theoretical work done in the humanities": is all of this Critical -- so I have to understand this like anybody doing theoretical work in humanities is by definition Critical? Are there no conformists in a single English humanities department? This is all so ...I don't know what... anyway, not suitable for Wikipedia categorisation.

The Frankfurt School's use of the term "Kritische Theorie"[edit]

I don't think Frankfurt School ever used the term Critical theory: they used Kritische Theorie, which is probably so connotation-ridden that
  1. it is not exactly translatable;
  2. is not Marxist but neomarxist;
  3. goes as a term with a (neo)marxist connotation not further back than the middle of the 20th century
  4. qualifies the English translation as unusable for a category name because it has too many other meanings in common English, the same way I can't make a wikipedia category definition for cars, saying that the category is only for THREE-wheeled motorised vehicles. Theoretically this would be possible, but practically it would not.

Critical theory as a series of articles, not a category?[edit]

Note that I also mentioned on Walden's page that I think excellent to make Critical Theory a series again. Categorisation is another matter.

About delineation: the category definition I found for the Critical theory category was an enumeration, i.e. a list of things that belong there, without making it clear why other things would not belong in the group. Well if grouping things without being able to make clear which is the concept why these things are grouped, except with an broad term like critical theory, which even those closely involved seem to have completely different ideas about, then categorisation is the least appropriate of the three available techniques to do the grouping.

Robert Pippin's view of CT[edit]

On the other hand I followed some links, starting from the Mitchell link you suggested above, I came to the website of the Critical Inquirer (magazine), and via the 2003 symposium of this magazine on critical theory related issues I found these paragraphs as the nearest of a definition of critical theory (note you that I am far from having read it all, I only try to take paces as much as I can):
What is sought [in Critcal theory] is some sense of the falseness not merely of contemporary philosophical positions but of everyday life itself: the falseness, deceptiveness, thoughtlessness, and forgetfulness of the ordinary itself. And all this without a reinstallation of traditional reality-appearance distinctions. [...] I only mean that I think critical theory still needs an account of what isn’t in the what is and still needs to understand the dimensions of this problem as an interconnected problem from Kant on appearance, Hegel on dialectic (and teleology), Marx on contradiction, Kierkegaard on despair, Nietzsche on the nihil in nihilism, Adorno on negative dialectics, and Heidegger on Nichts. In fact, I would say that the level of discussion and awareness of this issue, in its historical dimensions (with respect both to the history of critical theory and the history of modernization) has regressed. Habermas’s attempt to revive a Kantian view of implicit (“quasi” transcendental) conditions of linguistic meaning and even an implied teleological commitment to an ideal speech situation, while understandable in its motivations and interesting in its details, seems to me a pretty clear failure. My own view is that this problem is not theorized well in Foucault. It is quite well known and on the surface among the deconstructionists, but more played with than addressed and is, in the rather thin theoretical dimensions of postcolonial theory and new historicism, mostly neglected. So it is now possible to say that the problem with contemporary critical theory is that it has become insufficiently critical.
The quote comes from, and so represents the point of view of Robert Pippin
--Francis Schonken 09:08, 21 Oct 2004 (UTC)
We generally refer to academic periodicals as journals, not magazines, and the one you're referring to is called Critical Inquiry. And I was not limiting the definition to the Frankfurt school. However, nobody seriously denies that the Frankfurt School is a part of critical theory. I apologize if the inclusion of something that self-identified as critical theory in a larger and totally different project called critical theory confuses you, but I am unable to see how this justifies renaming the category scheme. As for the definition of critical theory, sure, I'd love to explain it better. Some time when I have time, I will. In the meantime, this should not be deleted and this should not be listed for deletion. When I have time to take on the frankly very difficult task of coming up with a clear and approachable definition for a wildly disparate and often very complicated field of theory, I will. Snowspinner 14:41, Oct 21, 2004 (UTC)
This highlights one of the flaws in the categorisation scheme. If these were articles, this would be a disambiguation page. There is no provision for such things (or for multiple names) in the category scheme. As for the ability to grasp the concept, hasn't everyone been at a loss to grasp something simple at one time or another? Why make it harder, save for the creation of mystery (surely the antithesis of the original intended purpose of critical theory :-) )? Mr. Jones 15:50, 4 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Sorry for the errors and typo's, that seem to form an obstacle for contributing to the content (e.g. letting me know what your idea was regarding the Pippin definition?).
Anyway I wanted to remove those horrible two paragraphs I wrote some days ago from the category page (I moved them to the top of this discussion page), so what I'm going to do now is to attempt to write a category definition more or less based on the Pippin definition. I suppose this is a better starting point if you want to contribute to that definition once you have time, than the original criticism I moved to the top of this page.
Don't worry, I won't CfD just for now since I started to view how this might work. BTW, I'll also categorise this category in a new category ("human sciences"), which I'll make subcategory to the "interdisciplinary fields" category (trying to give a neat category definition to that category too).
--Francis Schonken 21:23, 21 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Pippin's view is not sufficiently impartial[edit]

The Pippin quote was part of a large symposium on the question of what theory is. Since it excludes psychoanalytic theory almost entirely, and since it is in no way uncontroversial, I don't think it's better than what we had. Furthermore, you used Pippins exact words in places without quoting, which is no good. I've reverted to the old version and restored the original subcategorizations off of philosophy, which still make the most sense. (Especially since philosophy is among the fields affected by theory, to the point where a great number of theorists are sometimes simply classified as philosophers). But Pippin's quote is very much POV, and does not come close to representing the whole of what theory is doing (As is clearly illustrated, among other places, by the comments in that issue of CI by W.J.T. Mitchell, Bill Brown, Stanley Fish, Lauren Berlant, and, well, most of the rest of the symposium). I've restored the general definition that describes what critical theory encompasses, instead of the much thornier question of what it seeks to do, which is something that is hotly debated within theory. Snowspinner 22:34, Oct 21, 2004 (UTC)

Shortened definition?[edit]

I'm going to attempt to shorten the length of the definition, so please look over the changes after I'm finished to make sure I didn't leave anything important out. *Cremepuff222* 00:50, 11 June 2007 (UTC)

Done! Please review my work to make sure it's okay. *Cremepuff222* 00:55, 11 June 2007 (UTC)