Philosophy and Critical Theory

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Anastasia Marinopoulou

This chapter elaborates on more particular themes that comprise modernism as well as postmodernism in Michel Foucault's work, and deals with Jurgen Habermas' defence of modernity, which was concurrent with Foucault's negative critique towards modern science and rationality. It enquires into issues of normativity and modernity within a comparative perspective on modernism, postmodernism and critical theory. The modernism that Foucault presented opposed Immanuel Kant's idea of critique, and in the overall assessment served as a meta-narrative of modernity or as the formative idea of postmodernism. The dialectical element, for the postmodernists, provides a moment of legitimation by composing a mechanism of arguments and proofs. Foucault's modernism finds itself much closer to the idea of dialectics dealing or being occupied with the negative or the 'other' in science and society than with the postmodern exclusion of reason and the potential of a rational modernity.

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Anastasia Marinopoulou

Critical theory's epistemological arguments were marshalled in a vehement critique of positivism, which marked its claims as a reaction against rational normativity, or as the new empiricist epistemology safeguarding scientific orthodoxy. This chapter explores the relevant exchange of arguments between critical theorists and positivists. It discusses the analysis of the three major thinkers of the Frankfurt School, Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno and Herbert Marcuse. The critical theory of the Frankfurt School challenged instrumentality whereby human beings become mere instruments along the lines set out by modern science. In order to deal with what constitutes science, epistemologically speaking, critical theory tackles the problem of scientific laws. The answer remains straightforward: whereas natural sciences facilitate the formation of scientific laws, it is rather unfeasible to expect the same degree of certainty in the humanities and social sciences. This chapter also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book.

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Critical theory and epistemology

The politics of modern thought and science

Anastasia Marinopoulou

Epistemology should be the axe that breaks the ice of a traditionalism that covers and obstructs scientific enlightenment. This book explores the arguments between critical theory and epistemology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Focusing on the first and second generations of critical theorists and Luhmann's systems theory, it examines how each approaches epistemology. The book offers a critique of the Kantian base of critical theory's epistemology in conjunction with the latter's endeavour to define political potential through the social function of science. The concept of dialectics is explored as the negation of the irrational and, furthermore, as the open field of epistemological conflict between rationality and irrationality. The book traces the course of arguments that begin with Dilthey's philosophy of a rigorous science, develop with Husserl's phenomenology, Simmel's and Weber's interest in the scientific element within the social concerns of scientific advance. In structuralism, the fear of dialogue prevails. The book discusses the epistemological thought of Pierre Bourdieu and Gilles Deleuze in terms of their persistence in constructing an epistemological understanding of social practice free from the burdens of dialectics, reason and rationality. It also enquires into issues of normativity and modernity within a comparative perspective on modernism, postmodernism and critical theory. Whether in relation to communication deriving from the threefold schema of utterance- information- understanding or in relation to self- reflexivity, systems theory fails to define the bearer or the actor of the previous structural processes. Critical realism attempted to ground dialectics in realism.

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Anastasia Marinopoulou

This chapter explores and analyses critical realism as formed and explained by Roy Bhaskar, and criticizes his conception of dialectics as being reduced to the achievement of scientific totality. Without opposing critical theory to critical realism, the epistemological prospects of dialectics is developed in the chapter as providing an open field of opposing or inter-negating arguments. The chapter elucidates that the eclipse of any normativity criterion, along with the concern for applicability of the sciences, signifies a pre-critical judgement on the part of Bhaskar's critical realism. The focus of epistemological and scientific critique in Bhaskar's critical realism remains on dialectics, for it appears to provide the exit from the methodological as well as the social monovalence. Bhaskar's conception of science is based on perceptual data. It identifies causal laws in science that involve noticing mechanisms and tendencies for their development, where such tendencies are internal to the scientific structure.

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Anastasia Marinopoulou

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. This book examines dialectics in modern epistemology and compares it with critical theory, not 'in order to' but 'because' the latter can offer innovative means of dialectical theorizing. In this way, critical theory has the potential to advance twenty-first-century epistemology. The book attempts to present and ground the argument that a retreat to de-theorization for the sake of the partiality of empiricism, as well as the postmodern approach. In order to avoid social and scientific instrumentality and pre-modern positions, the construction of scientific politics has to be criticized under the perspective of a political epistemology. Such an epistemology negates the determinism of the arguments of social structures and scientific systems, and replaces the postmodern with a dialectics of modernity that reaches all strata of scientific progress.

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Philip Nanton

The concept of the frontier is examined through the study of rhetoric, reading the frontier into a variety of written texts by both ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’ to St. Vincent society. The journal of John Anderson, a nineteenth century stipendiary magistrate and ‘Bodily Harm’ a twentieth century thriller by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood are discussed as ‘outsider’ texts that dramatise difficulties of personal dislocation in a context where what constitutes civilization in the society encountered is opaque. By contrast three insider texts are offered in the form of memoirs of local ‘pioneering heroes’ in which frontier retentions are implicit in the stories of their political lives.

Open Access (free)

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Philip Nanton

This chapter again moves between macro narrative and micro detail to flesh out the various dimensions of wilderness/civilization relationship. It offers two case studies, one examining the history of the Shaker Baptists of St. Vincent and the second focusing on marijuana production and distribution. They illustrate how once ‘wild’ rural practices have gradually been ‘civilized’ into mainstream and urban society. Portrait sketches of three individuals from different walks of life illustrate urban frontier styles of living.

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Pirates of the Caribbean

Frontier patterns old and new

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Philip Nanton

This chapter examines the context for studying the frontier in the Caribbean. It challenges the notion that the Caribbean frontier featured for only a brief period in the region’s history. It argues that historically the Caribbean has had and continues to have identifiable frontier features. Shifting state boundaries, strong privatization, weak state regulation and patterns of religious and social withdrawal are explored as underlying features of the continuing Caribbean frontier.

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Philip Nanton

This chapter argues that the notion of the frontier in small multi-island states is a complex affair. As physical boundary the notion of frontier also encompasses administrative, territorial and cultural island to island distinctions, all complicated by a notion of ‘islandness’. Beyond the conventional notion of physical boundary, the frontier is also a site of balance between imagined ‘civilization’ and ‘wilderness’. It is marked by outpost status, inconsistent or sporadic commitment to local infrastructure, including government institutions, prevalent violence and a rough and ready society that centres men and those who excel at improvisation. However, the attractiveness of the frontier concept in an island situation like SVG is its double edged potential - it is ‘liminal’ open and closed simultaneously and also its key elements of ‘civilization’ and ‘wilderness’ are always incomplete.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Philip Nanton