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Critique, Practice, Power

  • Module code: PH7901
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 7
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

A historical and philosophical introduction to the two main 20th-century traditions of Critical Theory: the Frankfurt School and French anti-humanism. After several works devoted to Kant's conception of freedom and practical philosophy, the module focuses on competing conceptions of critique, practice and empowerment, in, for example, Marx, Lukács, Adorno and Horkheimer, Althusser, Foucault, and one or two more recent thinkers (e.g. Badiou or Rancière).

Aims

The aims of this module are to:

  • Provide students with an understanding of the main features of the German and French traditions of critical theory and of the role of Kantian philosophy and Marxist theory in their formation, informed by critical awareness of current debates in the field;
  • Provide students with an understanding of various Marxist and post-Marxist concepts of critique and enlightenment and the problems associated with them.
  • Enable students to assess the philosophical claims at issue in competing conceptions of critical theory.
  • Enable students to assess recent attempts to appropriate the legacy of a 'critical' conception of philosophy.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Understand several main features of the German and French traditions of critical theory and the role of Kantian philosophy and Marxist theory in their formation.
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of various Marxist and post-Marxist concepts of critique and enlightenment and the problems associated with them.
  • Assess the philosophical claims at issue in competing conceptions of critical theory.
  • Undertake the work of close textual analysis of demanding philosophical texts.
  • Comprehend, reconstruct and interpret philosophical arguments, and situate these arguments in the context of the history of philosophy.

Curriculum content

The module includes the following components:

  • Discussion of Kant's critical and practical conception of philosophy
  • Discussion of Marx's critique of philosophy
  • Assessment of competing interpretations of the concepts of critique and enlightenment in Lukács, Horkheimer and Adorno, Althusser, Foucault, and one or two other more recent thinkers.

Teaching and learning strategy

This module will be taught by means of a mix of lectures and seminars, supplemented by individual tutorials and private study. Emphasis is placed on seminar-based discussion.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Seminars/lectures: 10 taught sessions (2.5 hours each) 25
Scheduled learning and teaching Group and individual tutorials (two scheduled hours plus office hours) 2
Scheduled learning and teaching Directed and Independent Learning 273
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to test a student's ability to meet the module's learning outcomes. Summative assessment involves two pieces of written work:

  • A 1,500-word exercise, normally submitted at or before the mid-way point of the module, worth 20% of the final mark.
  • A 3,500 to 4,000 word essay, worth 80% of the final mark.

The skills required to prepare these assessed elements will be developed in a variety of formative activities throughout the module, notably through class discussion, feedback on in-class presentations, and individual tutorials. Preparation of the final essay normally includes a scheduled tutorial with the module tutor.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Understand several main features of the German and French traditions of critical theory and the role of Kantian philosophy and Marxist theory in their formation. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work.
Demonstrate a critical understanding of various Marxist and post-Marxist concepts of critique and enlightenment and the problems associated with them. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work.
Assess the philosophical claims at issue in competing conceptions of critical theory. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work.
Undertake the work of close textual analysis of demanding philosophical texts. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work.
Comprehend, reconstruct and interpret philosophical arguments, and situate these arguments in the context of the history of philosophy. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work.

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK Exercises 1500 words 20
CWK Essay 3500 to 4000 words 80
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Theodor W. Adorno, 'Critique', in Critical Models (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).

Louis Althusser, 'Contradiction and Overdetermination', in For Marx (London: Verso, 1990).

'The Humanist Controversy' (1967), in The Humanist Controversy and Other Writings (1966–67), Verso, 2005.

Michel Foucault, 'What is Critique'?, in Sylvère Lotringer and Lysa Hochroth eds., The Politics of Truth (New York: Semiotext(e), 1997).

'What is Enlightenment' in Paul Rabinow ed., The Foucault Reader (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984).

??, Psychiatric Power: Lectures at the Collège de France 1973-1974 (London: Palgrave, 2006).

Max Horkheimer, 'Traditional and Critical Theory', in Critical Theory (NY: Herder &Herder, 1972).

Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002).

Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals,  trans. Mary Gregor (Cambridge: CUP, 1998)

Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Mary Gregor (Cambridge: CUP, 1997).

'What is Enlightenment'? in his Perpetual Peace and Other Essays (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983).

Georg Lukács, 'Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat', in History and Class Consciousness (London: Merlin Press, 1971.

Karl Marx, Selected Writings, ed. David McLellan (Oxford: OUP, 2000, 2nd ed.).

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