Critique in German Philosophy

From Kant to Critical Theory

Edited by María del Rosario Acosta López & J. Colin McQuillan

Subjects: Philosophy, German Studies, German Idealism, Aesthetics, Ethics
Series: SUNY series, Intersections: Philosophy and Critical Theory
Paperback : 9781438480268, 446 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438480275, 446 pages, November 2020

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Table of contents


María del Rosario Acosta López and J. Colin McQuillan

1. The Struggle between Dogmatism and Skepticism in the Prussian Academy: A Precedent for Kantian Critique
Catalina González

2. Pure Sensibility as a Source of Corruption: Kant's Critique of Metaphysics in the Inaugural Dissertation and Critique of Pure Reason
Karin de Boer

3. Critique in Kant's Critique of Practical Reason: Why This Critique Is Not a Critique of Pure Practical Reason
Avery Goldman

4. On an Aesthetic Dimension of Critique: The Time of the Beautiful in Schiller's Aesthetic Letters
María del Rosario Acosta López

5. Not Yet a System, Not Yet a Science: Reinhold and Fichte on Kant's Critique
J. Colin McQuillan

6. Schelling's Philosophical Letters on Doctrine and Critique
G. Anthony Bruno

7. Critique With a Small C: Herder's Critical Philosophical Practice and Anticritical Polemics
Rachel Zuckert

8. Irony and the Possibility of Romantic Criticism: Friedrich Schlegel as Poet-Critic
Karolin Mirzakhan

9. Alexander von Humboldt: A Critic of Nature
Elizabeth Millán Brusslan

10. Critique, Refutation, Appropriation: Strategies of Hegel's Dialectic
Angelica Nuzzo

11. Abstraction and Critique in Marx: The Case of Debt
Rocío Zambrana

12. Nietzsche's Project of Reevaluation: What Kind of Critique?
Daniel R. Rodríguez-Navas

13. Kantian Critique, Its Ethical Purification by Hermann Cohen, and Its Reflective Transformation by Wilhelm Dilthey
Rudolf A. Makkreel

14. Transcendental Phenomenology as Radical Immanent Critique: Subversions and Matrices of Intelligibility
Andreea Smaranda Aldea

15. From the Metaphysics of Law to the Critique of Violence
Peter Fenves

16. Is There Critique in Critical Theory? The Claim of Happiness on Theory
Richard A. Lee Jr.

17. Critique as Melancholy Science
Amy Allen

18. Reality and Resistance: Habermas and Haslanger on Objectivity, Social Critique, and the Possibility of Change
Federica Gregoratto

19. The Critique of Law and the Law of Critique
Christoph Menke

Works Cited

Traces a conceptual history of critique in German philosophy from the eighteenth century to the present.


Critique has been a central theme in the German philosophical tradition since the eighteenth century. The main goal of this book is to provide a history of this concept from its Kantian inception to contemporary critical theory. Focusing on both canonical and previously overlooked texts and thinkers, the contributors bring to light alternative conceptions of critique within nineteenth- and twentieth-century German philosophy, which have profound implications for contemporary philosophy. By offering a critical revision of the history of modern European philosophy, this book raises new questions about what it means for philosophy to be "critical" today.

María del Rosario Acosta López is Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She has published several books, including Aesthetic Reason and Imaginative Freedom: Friedrich Schiller and Philosophy (coedited with Jeffrey L. Powell), also published by SUNY Press. J. Colin McQuillan is Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. Mary's University. His previously published books include Immanuel Kant: The Very Idea of a Critique of Pure Reason.


"The contributors assembled in this very thorough and fascinating collection ably capture not only the complexity of aims and influences at work in Kant's seminal formulation of critique, but just how contested and dynamic that formulation proved to be in the hands of his successors. It makes the case that the notion of critique—its point, object, method, and relationship to the field of philosophy—has been perhaps the perennial concern of the German philosophical tradition since Kant, and the thread that unifies most of the major figures in this tradition. " — Todd Hedrick, author of Reconciliation and Reification: Freedom's Semblance and Actuality from Hegel to Contemporary Critical Theory

"In this splendidly comprehensive, challenging, and sometimes urgent collection, the great tradition of modern German philosophy is reconstructed from the perspective of critique, where critique is taken to be philosophy's self-consciousness as simultaneously bound by the demands of reason and the claims of human need.

"While Kant's philosophy incongruously but emphatically joined the critique of metaphysics with Enlightenment rationalism, beginning with Schiller, critique becomes the recurrent procedure and signature of a philosophical tradition committed to undoing the cruel rationalities that underlie and succor modern forms of domination; critique is the self-critique of reason as domination. Critique, steering a difficult course between dogmatic rationalism and skepticism, is the practice of philosophy as always self-critique for the sake of the emancipation of self and other. Critique means to expose hidden bias, challenge illusory authority, unsettle accepted meanings, destroy shibboleths, and defy power masked as reason. In critique, philosophy again and again seeks to forge the ties connecting reason to destitute humanity. This volume belongs on the bookshelf of every student of German philosophy. " — J. M. Bernstein, New School for Social Research