Concepts of Critique: Kant and After module (PI32025)

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Credits

30

Module code

PI32025

What does it mean to be ‘critical’? What are the criteria of a ‘good critic’? What is the relationship between critique and ‘crisis’? Is critique good for us, or is it part of a ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ that is inadequate to meet the challenges of the contemporary world? What, ultimately, is the difference between a critique and a conspiracy theory?  

This module will engage these contentious questions by exploring the genealogy of our concepts of ‘critique’. It will begin with a close reading of one of the most famous and influential texts in the history of philosophy: Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781/87).   

For Kant, the highest human faculty – reason – was in danger of permanent degradation as long as its impulses towards speculation weren’t curbed. Kant demonstrates that the only way in which reason can be curbed is by means of immanent critique. While demarcating what is beyond reason’s capacity to know Kant also develops a radically new account of what human beings are capable of knowing. Kant believes that the subject (the rational human being) constructs the formal properties of the world in which it has experiences and which it attempts to know. By laying out not only the elements of knowledge but also their mechanics, i.e., how they interact, Kant demonstrates how the so-called ‘conditions of possibility of experience’ produce all objective experience.  

The first half of this module will be devoted to coming to terms with the Critique of Pure Reason, and exploring it in detail. From here, the module will branch out into a consideration of diverse fields and thinkers strongly influenced by Kant’s concept of critique. Some fields to be philosophically explored include: critical realism, critical race studies, critical gender studies, and critical legal theory. Some figures who will help us get there include: Bruno Latour, Roy Bhaskar, Peter Strawson, W.V.O. Quine, Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Judith Butler, Robert Bernasconi, Lewis Gordon, Quentin Meillassoux.    

Schools, universities and employers valorise ‘critical thinking’ today, and concepts of ‘criticism’, ‘crisis’ and ‘critique’ are ubiquitous throughout the wider culture. The aim of this module will be to explore what this entails philosophically, submitting concepts of ‘critique’ emerging after Kant to exploration and clarification in the process. 

Assessment

  • The summative assessment will be 100%